Saturday, August 21, 2004


The air conditioning system at Charity Hospital is woefully inadequate. It is especially noticeable in the operating rooms, where the average temperature is around 80 degrees. As a consequence, I find that I am in a constant state of perspiration, and subsequent dehydration.

It would not be far fetched to think that a person would develop some degree of body odor from being sweaty all day. Being of no exception, I probably have some amount of stench as well.

When a trauma patient comes in to the trauma bay, the team, which consists of Surgery residents and Emergency medicine residents, rush into the room to resuscitate the patient. Everybody has an assigned role and place, and we all work like clockwork to make sure nothing gets overlooked and that the patient is treated appropriately for his injuries.

Being a midlevel resident, my role is to oversee the function of the two lower level surgical residents and keep an eye out for the Emergency medicine residents (who are not theoretically my responsibility, but may fuck up my patient if I don't keep tabs on them.) So we all have our place to stand and work, and my place is at the foot of the bed, overseeing the initial management.

And one of the first things to be done after assessing the patients airway and ability to breath, is to remove all of the patient's clothing so that no injury will go unnoticed.

So last night, as I stood there running one of the many trauma resuscitations of the night, I noticed a particularly offensive odor emanating from myself. Seeing that it was now 10pm and that I've been awake, working (and sweating) at Charity for the past 18 hours, I knew that I was the source of the smell. Next thing I know, I'm blushing and perspiring lightly because I'm embarrassed, which isn't helping matters much.

I slyly sniffed various parts of my body while directing the trauma, trying to isolate the source while attempting to be inconspicuous about it. Who wants to draw attention to themselves to declare that they stink? So I slyly sniff my right armpit... not the source. Slyly sniff the left armpit... nope. Pull my shirt out in front of me slightly, waff the shirt slightly, stick my chin down to my chest and sniff inside... not the source. Now I was getting confused. Was is my fingers? I sniff my hands, and it wasn't it... Could my feet smell so horrendously that it is seeping up through my shoes?! I guess I've been wearing the same socks since this ...hey, wait a minute!

I looked down and noticed that the patient, like the majority of the trauma patients that arrive at Charity, was semi-intoxicated with no evidence of proper hygiene. I also noticed that standing at the foot of the bed meant I was standing directly over this patient's bare feet, which appeared to have last seen a pair of nail clippers at around 1989, and have not left the confines of his soiled tube socks in about as many years.

A strange feeling of elation came over me as I realized that I didn't stink and I definitely wasn't the source. However, this quickly passed as nausea set in after realizing that I've been inhaling feet fumes for the past 10 minutes.