Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Grossing still stinks

This would be a follow up to an entry I wrote even before I started grad school.

In the two plus years since the bar for what I consider the worst thing I've ever smelled has risen. Considerably. The worst still goes to a case that involved multiple rectovaginal fistulae that had been present for some time. Veterans in pathology were taken aback by the smell and it is where I realized that my body opts for the "flight" coping mechanism when faced with overwhelming stench. One moment I was standing and observing one of the staff PAs working and the next I was standing outside of the room without ever having made the conscious decision to move. I'm not entirely sure but in an effort to escape the rolling tide of scent I may have spontaneously developed the ability to transport. Decomposed bodies at the medical examers office (in varying states of freshness), countless colons, gangrenous amputated limbs, and multiple autopsies later the things that I consider to be particularly pungent are, trust me, significantly unpleasant to be around.

Today, we got a specimen in and I started my day off by triaging it. It was an awful smell, to the point where I had to go into histology several times to get air I could breathe. I finished triaging, I hosed everything down, scrubbed the grossing bench down, surface cleaned the outside of the specimen container, and put all the trash that had come in contact with it in a sealed container. The lab tech came in to the gross room to print a few blocks a few minutes later and dry heaved. One of the histotechs was at lunch during the triaging and has a notoriously easy gag reflex, so as a practical joke the other histotech sent him into the gross room on a made up errand. He walked in ten minutes after everything had been cleaned, took one breath, then turned around and headed back out to histology where he dry heaved for a while. As I told my boss, the smell was so bad that my eyes watered and I seriously started regretting the professional choices I had made that led me to that moment.

So there was that... and it was awful, but the worst part came later in the day. I knew the specimen was thin enough to be fixed by the end of day and I would have to gross it in. And I lived all afternoon in dread, knowing that I was going to have to open that bucket again and knowing that it would still smell as bad as it had earlier. I would say that the anticipation was the worst part, but it wasn't. The anticipation didn't help, but having it out on the cutting board, enduring the smell again was the worst part. Seriously, the worst part by a long shot. But now it is done, and I know that things that are truly repulsive are greatly out numbered by the things that have long since become familiar from repetition and once again, I'm quite content with the career path I've chosen. 

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