|Bovie smoke carried olfactory nightmares into every |
nook and cranny
As lengthy night time trauma surgeries came to a close, nurses were often presented with a cafeteria-like assortment of wounds to dress. The deep stab wound on the medial thigh called out for iodoform packing which had a nice, sweet, iodine like scent. After the thigh wound was
ram rodded packed to the hilt with ribbons of iodoform, it was time to dress that monstrous midline abdominal wound. Tincture of benzoin would be applied to secure Montgomery strips in anticipation of frequent dressing changes. Montgomery strips spared the patient the pain of abrupt removal of adhesive tape; just loosen the ties to swap out ABDs.
This juxtapositioning of one scent (iodoform) on top of another (tincture of benzoin) often led to the creation of a completely new and frequently unsavory smell that I thought of as the third effect. Under this principle, when two smells are brought together, their individual effects are irreparably altered and potentiated into a novel, foul, lingering witch's brew completely unlike that of the initial contributors. I think the technical name of this newly created stink fest was compound smells.
The addition of residual Bovie smoke made the foul smell penetrate every nook and cranny of just about any object or person in it's path. Just as a syringe and needle transported medication to a site, the Bovie smoke delivered the stink as reliably as a mailman.
Underlying scrub attire reeked of the compound smell when our impermeable surgical gowns were removed. I always thought of this as the diaper principle, because as long as the gown was intact the smell was relatively contained. Removing the diaper...OOPS...I meant surgical gown was another story as the foul odor homed in on awaiting olfactory senses like a cobra strike.
The best part of a long night in the O.R. was the beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan as this usually signaled an end to the mayhem and the arrival of reinforcements in the form of day shift nurses. Fresh, kindly arriving nurses always stopped to help the worn out, bone tired trauma victims and I'm referring to personnel-not patients.
One July morning, my friend Janess, bounced into the room as a case came to a conclusion to act as cheerleader and help us off with our gowns. I noticed her eyes and jaw roll as her eyebrows popped toward the top of her head as she assisted. She looked distressed - to say the least.
The next day I thanked her for the moral support adding, "We must have looked pretty bad, Dr. Salmbow and I felt like we had been beaten to a pulp after that doozy of a case." I'll never forget her immediate response, "It wasn't how you looked. It was how you both smelled."