Sunday, June 27, 2010


Sitting in Starbucks this afternoon, salivating over inspiring pictures on wedding and fashion blogs, my daydream of bow-ties and peonies was interrupted when Dr. D (who is a hostage of Step 1 Boards cramming--but more on that later) leaned over with his pathology textbook and pointed at a diagram.

Here comes another lesson in med cred, I thought, preparing myself for something either very bizarre or very gross. It was the latter:

Today I learned that when a person has cirrhosis (or severe scarring) of the liver, one of the signs is fetor hepaticus. What might that be, you ask? Well, according to the textbook's description, fetor hepaticus--which already doesn't sound too good--is a particular odor on the patient's breath. Oh, but not just any odor...

"The smell of a freshly opened corpse."


First of all, bummer for whoever already knows what that smells like and is consequently capable of identifying that smell on someone's breath. Second of all, why are we talking about corpses like they're a can of caviar? Freshly opened, seriously? Third of all, what unfortunate soul has been dealt the extremely ill-fated hand of being the person who decides how to categorize the odors of sick people's breaths? "Ah yes, in this one I get notes of sweetness, perhaps honey-like... this one has more of an acidic hint... and thi---OH EM GEE YOUR BREATH SMELLS LIKE DEATH. THE FRESHLY DECAPITATED KIND."

I think I'll be less self-conscious about garlic breath from now on... at least now I know it can always be worse.


S said...

Could you imagine "Fear Factor" for doctors and nurses? Granted, we don't typically eat the gross things we see/smell/hear, but we've already started building our tolerance for some nasty business.

Here's something to ponder: Peyronie's Disease.

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