On her way to an after school teachers’ meeting, Meg stopped me in the hall to set a time to discuss her health concerns for a student. We talked only a few minutes, but I was immediately aware of the strong odor of garlic coming from her breath. I thought perhaps she had enjoyed a nice Italian meal recently.
The next day Meg arrived in my office at the arranged time. As soon as she appeared in the doorway I again noticed the smell of garlic. We discussed her concerns about the student and made a decision for me to call his parent. The odor in my office lingered, even after she left the room. I thought perhaps she had enjoyed the left-overs!
The following day I made the call to the parent, decided on followup, and went to share the plan with Meg. A substitute teacher was there, so I decided to return the next morning before school.
On my way through the classroom door the next morning, I was greeted once more by an even stronger smell of garlic as I approached Meg’s desk. As we talked, I knew I just HAD to let her know about this. This was unusual for Meg.
Well . . . That afternoon I wrote a brief note to Meg. Yes, I truly was “chicken” about the whole thing. And, putting a bottle of SCOPE in a locker doesn’t work for a teacher! In my note I asked whether she might be having some digestive problems. I told her that as a nurse I had been trained to notice breath odors and I was detecting a “slight odor.” (Oh sure! What an understatement!) I delivered the note to her before her class the next day.
Meg walked into my office that afternoon laughing heartily as she thanked me for the note. “Oh, I am SO glad you said something. I have to confess to the nurse. You see, I have been taking several garlic tablets each day for a week or so, as I read they could help prevent colds. I thought I would get a good start on the winter season coming up. It says on the bottle that the brand does NOT cause garlic breath—but I guess it does.” I confirmed, as diplomatically as possible, that it definitely did.
Then she proceeded to tell me the worst of the situation. The day before she had traveled in a small car to and from Des Moines—with three colleagues. She suddenly realized what an ambience she had provided for them— and for others at the meeting. I tried to comfort her by saying, “well, it really is not THAT bad.”
Nurses always try to soften the bad news, you know.