Pheew! Move Over, I Can’t Breathe!

I really can’t tolerate bad smell. I feel asphyxiated. It’s as if the air that I breathe was suddenly blocked by a terrible smell so bad I feel like dying. I’d get anxious. I’d try to hold my breath but then realized it to be a mistake because then I’d have to breathe longer, which means I’d have to inhale what I’ve been avoiding to smell.

One time I had to empty the colostomy bag of my patient. I have a thick layer of face mask on with my hanky sprayed with perfume in between the masks so I won’t be able to smell the feces. In the middle of squeezing the feces out of the colostomy bag, I didn’t realize I was holding my breath. I can feel the bitter taste of saliva collecting in my mouth; tears were slowly forming under my lids that turned my eyes rather glassy.  I can feel my face turn green and I couldn’t help myself gag in front of the patient. I quickly dropped the plastic containing the feces and ran outside the room towards the bathroom and vomited nonstop. I was too shy to go back after what happened.

I guess my sense of smell is just overly sensitive or I just hate bad smell.

Most Filipinos, if not all, are very hygienic. We take a bath every day, sometimes even twice or thrice a day depending on how hot the weather is or how heavy our activities are. But there are just some Filipinos, very few, if I may add, who have a body odor. I have one colleague from my previous job, whom I never thought had one. I know I could smell someone with the body odor in our nurse’s station but it never occurred to me that it was her. Well not until some of my other colleagues pointed out that it was actually her. And I guess nobody ever talked about it because it was too awkward.

Now that I’m here in UAE, I realized that my former colleague smells better than most of the people here.

Once I entered a patient’s room and I thought they were eating salad that some vinegar spilled on the floor so I called the cleaner to clean up the spilled vinegar. The cleaner said: “Ma’am, there’s no vinegar and they’re not eating salad. It’s just the way they smell.” I almost puked and I couldn’t stand going inside that room.

Then in the hospital corridor, I thought I can smell a Filipino delicacy, Sinigang na Bangus, a kind dish where they cook milk fish in a Tamarind-based soup. I was always saying, “Hmmm…I wonder where they cook that Sinigang na Bangus, it smells good…”

When I found out later that it wasn’t food that I smelt but the smell of the people around, I wanted to vomit.

I swear it’s only here in UAE that I can smell different kinds of body odor. How they got that smell I have no idea.

Then there’s this Indian colleague who smells so bad no one would dare stay in the Nurses’ station when she’s around, I swear. Just a whiff of her would make you faint. And she even has the guts to remove her shoes you’d think a thousand mice just died.

Whenever I ride the hospital bus early in the morning, this Sri Lankan guy would suffocate the bus with his smell so powerful you’d choose to die inside a gas chamber rather than take a bus ride with him.

You know I can’t tolerate bad smell and I couldn’t hide it either. Call me rude but I don’t want my 20-minute ride to my hospital become like an emergency ambulance sending a patient for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. So I blatantly sprayed the bus with perfume, to the delight of some of the Filipino passengers, and then covered my face with a hanky, but to no avail. After some time, the bad smell would still linger inside the air-conditioned bus leaving us all suffocated. But I guess he just doesn’t take a hint. If I were him, I would take a bath the very next day.  But no, lo and behold, his odor just seems to get much stronger everyday that my perfume loses its power that it cannot even mask his bad odor.

Haahh! What to do?

Fresh air surely is expensive in this country.

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