When the smell of carcass invades your home, days can seem like years. This morning I couldn’t even eat breakfast at home. Nowhere was safe from the sickening sweet, bitter odor of rotting flesh. The critter catchers came out today, opened up a bit of wall in the laundry room, and dragged out a dead vole. A vole. A freaking vole. One of the smallest mammals in North America created one of the worst smells I’ve ever encountered—and I’m a physician, rather used to unpleasant smells.
Now that the little varmint is gone, I’m hoping a little airing-out will go a long way. It’s harder though to scrub my brain clean of the strong olfactory memory.
I saw an older woman the other day, not in my capacity as a physician. She was walking up a pedestrian ramp to a garage. She must have weighed 400 lbs., looked unkempt, and probably didn’t smell very good. She was moving one small shuffling step at a time, pushing her walker forward with an insensible slowness. Inside I reacted with a bit of disgust: how could she let this happen to herself? It’s a natural defensive reaction, but I was ashamed. I watched her moving, each step taking several seconds, moving her a couple of inches. And I realized each step was also a small victory. She wasn’t succumbing to her clearly disastrous health problems—she was fighting back one tiny step at a time.
In other news, Retraction Watch is reporting on an interesting case of delusional parasitosis (h/t @PharmacistScott). In 1951 a journal published a self-report of an arthropod infestation of the scalp. These mites were reported to be undetectable to all but the victim. Retraction Watch discusses some of the ethics involved in publishing a case study with, by definition, irreproducible results. (It does seem crazy, unless it’s published in a journal that specializes in this, such as the intentionally-hilarious Journal of Irreproducible Results or the unintentionally-hilarious Medical Hypotheses). In the 1950s, the editors of a non-medical journal may not have been cognizant of what today we would see as signs of obvious mental illness (and bad science). I like to think that today we might do better, but even the CDC is being pulled down this rabbit hole.
I just hope that wherever the rabbit leads them, they don’t end up stuck in my laundry room wall.