There are so many smells in a hospital. Most of them are not pleasant. Oh, there’s the occasional waft of baby powder from a newborn; A fleeting whiff of rich coffee from the Doctor’s lounge; or the rare aroma of something tasty from the cafeteria. But by and large, most odors in a hospital are repulsive.
Many of the normally loathsome smells of a hospital are exponentially magnified when your location is the hot and steamy jungles of Honduras. Tame odors have the opportunity to marinate, baste and bake in 90 degree temperatures with 95% humidity, thus aumgenting the original flavors to something truly memorable.
Take, for instance, the smell of last nights beans and tortillas, in the form of fresh, pungent, vomitus. This is particularly noxious when it has been spewed forth upon your personal garments.
Or what about the forgotten bedpan of urine that was haphazardly shuffled under the gurney 4 days ago? This form of distillation can really showcase the rich hints of mango, coffee, and ammonia.
I could go on, but I’ll spare you the details. On second thought, no I won’t. There’s the sickly sweet smell of rancid flesh, erupting with thick, purulent liquid that can be found in the wound care unit.
Moving on to the Obstetric Ward, we have the briny scent of amniotic fluid that invariably showers those of us lined up to catch a baby. And later, the sharp tang of iron as blood coagulates on the hard, tiled floor.
There are more subtle smells as well, such as earwax on a plastic speculum, halitosis, body odor, and wound cautery.
And of course, there is all manner of human excrement. I could really devote an entire blog post going over the finer points of this category.
As a Health Care Provider, you learn to immunize your nose to such unpleasantries, and over time nothing fazes you. But every once in awhile something special penetrates even the best fragrance defenses.
The other day, I wasn’t very surprised when an unattractive bouquet wafted up to my nose. “Nasty,” I thought to myself. “What is it this time?” Did someone leave something yucky in my office? Or did someone have an accident? Is there some bit of rotting food that’s been lingering in my garbage can for a hair too long? Did a gecko die in a cabinet, and is now becoming ripe? I searched for a short time, and quickly identified the culprit. I am slightly embarrassed to say (who are we kidding, no I’m not) that it was coming from me.
Now, my friends who really know me are going to be shocked, because I always smell really good— all the time. I mean, 40% of the time, I smell 100% awesome. There are no bad smells that ever emit from me. Everything that leaves my body smells fantastic. Even after I eat, say, a giant Pullman, Washington calzone full of garlic, I still smell good. But anyway, just this one time, it turned out that I was personally responsible for this egregiously bad odor.
You have to understand that most forms of leather, as it pertains to footwear, don’t fare too well down here (it molds). And canvas is not very durable, and soaks up blood and other fluids that happen to fall on it (see above). So rubber is really your best bet, and so most of the docs wear “Crocs” down here.
Rubber. 90 degrees. 95% humidity. Profuse sweating. Toe-jam. Fungus. Dirt and grime. More sweat. —these factors contribute to pure, unadulterated, audacious, foot stinkage. My feet. They were the source of the grossness. My feet stunk, to high heaven…
So I was forced to look myself in the mirror and say…
And so, yeah, my feet really stunk.
End of story…
As always, some photos…
Cave spider, luckily outside…
Above, Jack the monkey was pestering me.
And then, Jack was pestering Will.
One of the Honduran nurses loaned me her hair… I be Jammin’!!
I shot this Permit off our reef, with my good buddy Dr. Peter. So Tasty!!
Easter Sunday, sunrise service overlooking the Sea. It was a lovely morning remembering the reason for our hope.
Sunset, Caribbean Sea
Above, this is a great example of how gracious the Honduran people are. This sweet lady is not an employee, she is one of our patient’s relatives. As she was attending to her mother in the hospital, she wanted to help out. She is sitting at a desk making Gauze packets!
The following few pics are along the Rio Cangrejal, a beautiful river that spills into the Caribbean Sea. We swam and had adventures in the lush and humid jungle, one weekend.
missionary girls, heading to school in the truck. Remember when you could go somewhere in the back of a pickup?
That’s it for now…