What's That Smell? The Missing Diaper

I work as an RN in a busy Pediatric ICU. We take care of all kinds of patients, ranging from tiny babies to bulky teens. Several years back, I was assigned a little baby girl who had chronic diarrhea and failure to thrive due to a congenital defect that left her with no intestinal villi.


What's That Smell? The Missing Diaper

Every hour or two, I would have to change her diaper. One diaper change was particularly messy. She had a blow-out bowel movement, out the diaper and all over the crib, so I had to change all the linen and clean everything up. Her parents were not there at the time, so another nurse, Rachel, came in and helped me. She held the baby while I cleaned up the crib and put new linen on. She handed her back to me when the crib was ready and went out to the nurse's station, where she sat at the counter next to a large vase of flowers.

I continued swaddling the baby and getting her vitals and assessment complete. I turned around to look for the diaper I had changed to weigh it. Pediatric nurses like to know how much our patient's pee and poop, something about fluid balance or unusual interest in bodily fluids, I'm not sure which. I was sure I had placed the diaper on top of the dirty linen cart, but it was not there. I checked the room, looking all over. I checked the scale, the crib, and even went dumpster diving in the trash can, hoping to find the diaper so I could measure output.

No luck.

Meanwhile, I could hear Rachel out at the nurse's station talking with Brad, another colleague. She was talking about how bad the flowers smelled, saying they must be a particularly rancid-smelling type. Brad couldn't smell anything amiss and said so.

When I came out of the patient room, she asked me if I thought the flowers smelled bad. I smelled the flowers and said that, while they certainly did not smell fresh, they didn't smell bad. Rachel kept wondering what smelled so bad, and trying to figure it out while she continued sitting at the nurse's station.

I went back into my patient's room to feed her. She finished her bottle, burped, and I rocked her to sleep.

When I came back out of her room, Rachel was walking in to see if I needed help with anything else.

I noticed something about her looked strange.

I realized that her badge, worn on a lanyard around her neck, seemed to be hanging awfully low. I looked again and saw a little diaper hanging from her badge, stuck by the adhesive strip. I asked her if there was a particular reason she was wearing a diaper on her badge, or if it was merely for decoration.

She exclaimed, "That's what I smelled! I thought it was the flowers!"

Then I realized she was wearing the missing diaper, and it had apparently affixed itself to her badge when she leaned over the dirty linen cart. While I laughed so hard that I had tears running down my face, she snatched the diaper from her badge and threw it in the trash can in the hallway.

I said, "Wait a minute, I haven't weighed that yet!" She told me I didn't need to weigh it because she had been wearing it for so long and estimated it to be about 60 grams. Not willing to guess on my documented output, I grabbed the diaper from the trash and weighed it. Sure enough, it weighed 60 grams. Now I know that if the scales aren't working right, all I have to do is hang my patients' diapers from Rachel's badge and she can tell me the weight.

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20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 26 years experience.

VERY cute story! thank you.


19 Posts

LOL, how embarrassed would I be if that happened to me? lol

Flowers? Diaper? How could you mistake one for another??


317 Posts

Specializes in dialysis (mostly) some L&D, Rehab/LTC.

OMG!!! I laughed so hard!!!!!!!:lol2:

Specializes in L&D, PACU.

OMG, how could she not notice the diaper!?!?! LOLOL


2,452 Posts

Specializes in ortho, hospice volunteer, psych,. Has 20 years experience.

:omy:that's really funny and kind of appalling at the same time. reminds me of the time i went in with a giant sized hairball stuck to the waist of my uniform...:uhoh3: so much for looking polished and professional.

jschut, BSN, RN

2,743 Posts

Has 20 years experience.

Hahahahahaha! Cute!


16 Posts

:yeah::heartbeatvery funny indeed....it's a great stress reliever...that's sometimes one of the funny life nurses had....:D


7 Posts

Specializes in OB, Peds, Primary care, pain management. Has 10 years experience.

Thanks for sharing! Very funny I needed this laugh....


10 Posts

Specializes in ICU, PACU, cath lab, ER. Has 14 years experience.

that story was hilarious!!! thanks for sharing, and putting a smile on my face!!!! ;)

Has 40 years experience.

OMG--How clueless! Makes one wonder how observant the nurses were working that shift. Guess cross contamination didn't seem to enter into your thought processes, except to think this was cute, etc. Tsk! Tsk! :uhoh3:


42 Posts

Specializes in ACUTE, GERIATRICS. Has 6 years experience.

omg !!! lol !!! i was laughing so hard alone in my room. i can't imagine how she looked like wearing a soiled diaper. thanks !!! :nmbrn: