The smell was almost indescribable. Decaying flesh, infected pus, oozing nastiness. The patient was in a room with glass doors, in an area with no other rooms with doors, that was the first sign. The nurse looked at us and asked, "Have you ever taken this patient before?" When we said no, her face kinda fell, that was the second sign.
Brief report from her included that the patient had a bandage on his face because he was missing a large area and a little information about his cancer, but nothing about the smell. She opened the door to let us in and before anyone moved, the smell hit like a tidal wave. At first, I couldn't quite figure out what it was, but when I saw the wound there was no question. I honestly don't know whether there was anything he could've done about it, but I have to think he's grateful that most of his nose is gone because it probably doesn't bother him much.
In the ambulance, we have an exhaust vent to try to eliminate the smells, but there was no way it was going to keep up. We had the heat fan blasting, the windows open in the front, but still it was thick enough you could almost see it. I made the 17 miles without retching and eventually we dropped him off. We did as much covert decontamination as we could in front of his place, and when we drove back to the hospital we continued cleaning and by the end of the day you almost couldn't tell (or so I was told). I had that smell in my nose the entire day and just the memory of it now makes my stomach flip-flop a little.