Sunday, July 8, 2007

Olfactory memories

The nose is an amazing thing. It's like a little tunnel into the brain. Smell a particular thing, and all of a sudden you're awash in the memories of the first time you smelled that smell.

Sometimes it's good.

Every time I smell frying bacon, I think of my Grandma Jo's thick cut, burned to a crisp bacon that is the measuring stick by which I judge all bacon. (No, it never measures up.)

Beef stew in the crock pot reminds me of when I was a kid coming home from church on Sunday afternoon to the same smell, though it was usually pot roast then. (Yes, they smell the same.)

Fresh baked brownies always remind me of making brownie sundaes with my best friend and her mom, a long, long time ago, in a place far, far, away. (Both literally and figuratively.)

One of the Psych guys I work with smokes a pipe. Every time I smell pipe tobacco, I think of my Grandpa. He died when I was 11.

Sometimes it's not so good.

Every time I take a patient up to the ICU, the smell reminds me of visiting my grandma in the hospital. (Though that was also long ago and far away.) Believe it or not, in my brain, ICUs smell like Black Cherry Soda. No, I don't know why.

When I was driving across the country a couple of years ago, I passed a tractor trailer on the side of the road with the cab completely engulfed in flames. The smell of burning insulation and smoke, and the heat from the flames launched me into a flashback to when my house burned down, and I literally had to pull over at the next exit to calm down. (Panic attack while driving = bad)

When someone comes in reeking of marijuana, I always remember the time I was in line for Space Mountain at Disneyland with my friends and some guys behind us were smoking pot. Best Space Mountain ride ever. (The memory is good. The freaks that trigger it never are.)

When someone comes in with a bad GI Bleed, I remember the time I ran a call on the ambulance as a new EMT in the middle of the summer in a tiny mobile home without air conditioning, and discovered that Vicks is your friend.

Whenever I smell Cetacaine, I remember my root canal that I couldn't get done for two weeks, and when the pain got so bad it was making me puke, I would numb it with Cetacaine for a short reprieve. The smell of Cetacaine now makes me puke.

And sometimes, when I roll the LOL from the nursing home to clean up her poo, I flash back to the first time I smelled C-Diff. It's as good as any lab test. (Some of you know what I'm talking about, don't you? You wish you didn't, but you do.)

6 comments:

Loving Annie said...

I knew a lol who had c-diff --- and didn't tell anyone about it becasue she didn't want people to stop visiting her. Grrrrrr.

Smells trigger so many things, good and bad... Paul Sebastian for men drives me crazy. I'd follow the Hunchback of Notre Dame if he wore it...
Apple pie baking makes me feel loved...
Vanilla extract smells sexy to me, comforting and alluring at the same time somehow...
Cinnamon is good too...

I'm not into floral scents at all...

Cat litter ranks up there on my 'uck' list. As does garbage not taken out every night.

mielikki said...

I wish I could burn my smell center out sometimes. And yes, that C-diff does tend to linger in the memory, along with Pseudomonas. . .

AtYourCervix said...

I work in L&D, but I can still tell ya when I smell c-diff.

And yes, for the record, we occasionally have a patient with c-diff on L&D. Blech.

alex said...

the smell of the alcohol hand gel at my first (nursing) job ended up linked in my mind with the smell of poo.

Ambulance Driver said...

My sniffer was non-functional for years after the Chicken Guts Call.

You could literally hold a skunk under my nose and I could barely detect a sense of something acrid.

It's coming back, though. Sometimes I wonder if that's a good thing.

Emma said...

The smell of coffee (especially hazelnut or vanilla flavoured) reminds me of chemo and the resultant projectile vomiting. I guess I have the the hospital designer to thank for preventing me from ever getting hooked with that particular addiction...