There have been many occasions where bad smells and gross happenings have caused my male clients to get green around the gills where I have stayed unphased. My husband is no exception. I can think of a very memorable instance where I was treating an outbreak of Salmonella at horse stables. Multiple horses in the stables had come down with this infection and were experiencing severe cases of colic. Unfortunately, this infection can be life-threatening, and we did loose several in this barn during this outbreak. One of the most common symptoms of this infection is gastric reflux. Horses cannot vomit and so any fluid that backs up from the intestines into the stomach has no where to go. The stomach continues to fill until it ultimately ruptures and horse dies a traumatic and painful death.

As veterinarians, the most effective tool we have to combat this problem is nasogastric intubation. In other words, we pass a very long tube down the nose and into the esophagus all the way to the stomach. We can then siphon the fluid off and into a bucket where the foul smelling, green noxious material can be disposed of and provide relief while we continue to treat the infection directly. Similar to siphoning gas from a car. On occasion it is also necessary to add some active suction to the tube to initiate the process. During this time it is critical that you maintain visual of the tube and what may be coming at you. Sometimes that fluid is under so much pressure inside the stomach that it races down the tube at a high rate of speed and you are unable to remove the tube from your third hand fast enough.

By now I feel like most of you understand that our third hand is in fact our mouth. I have on numerous occasions been the victim of a mouth full of equine reflux. This trip to the stables with the salmonella outbreak was one such occasion. Only difference is my husband was with me. Also the stables owner was similarly affected by what he witnessed that day. I removed the tube from my mouth as quickly as I could but not quick enough to avoid the mouth full of hot, retched liquid full of salmonella and other bacteria and toxins. I simply spit the contents on to the ground and kept on about my job. The two men shared horrified looks and proceeded to turn three shades of green and gag multiple times before regaining their composure. The smell alone from the liquid that was rapidly filling the bucket was enough to keep outside the stall and in the fresher areas of ventilation.

Needless to say, my husband did not allow me to give him kisses until I had brushed my teeth and rinsed with Listerine at least twice. He made the comment that he really did not want to know how many times this predicament had occurred, and I had come home and kissed him right away. He said, “Just, just don’t tell me. I’d rather not know.”

He also does not like me discuss certain topics at the dinner table while he is eating.

I credit this exposure and others like it with why my gastrointestinal fortitude is so strong. I rarely every get food poisoning or stomach bugs. If the world ends in a cholera outbreak, I think I will be one of the ones left standing….eating a peanut butter sandwich in one hand and treating the sick with the other.