I expected to complete this story earlier, but events overtook its rambly journey. Consequently, I’ll trim it down because time’s growing short and my [abilty to precess the words to the keburd hs suddly abut collasped. It has thaken me an abut fe minute to write thag three sentece] ability to process the words to the keyboard has suddenly all but collapsed. It has taken me about fifteen minutes to write these three sentences.
This isn't getting the story finished. I thought I was about to face one of the things I dreaded about being in hospital, something that was not necessary when I was in hospital twelve weeks ago. I would be getting ferried by mobile potty-type chair – minus the potty – to a position which seemed high above the toilet bowl. When I and the toilet had completed our assignation there would be what I had previously regarded as the greatest possible attack on my dignity.
You know what I'm talking about. To put it very delicately, it’s having your adult arse wiped by by another human being.
You know what? As many adults have discovered, long before I did, this procedure turns out be nix, nada, nothing. The nurses have done it a thousand times and to them it’s just another minor but vital task.
For more than sixty years I couldn’t imagine myself needing this help, except perhaps as a frail old man in some distant future. I didn't think that I might become ill in a very short time. After all, Tracey and I had been playing squash three times a week up to the day before I got that first seizure.
I suspect women are not so squeamish about medical things to do with their bodies as men, especially men of ahem... mature years – men used to being in positions of power and authority.
You feel awfully vulnerable that first time with a nurse of any age standing behind or beside your bare buttocks with a wad of loo paper in hand. You don't have your protective CEO suit on hospital.
But here I was, last Friday, not a CEO of anything, facing the prospect of being ferried to the toilet.
To backtrack a little, I was going to call a nurse, get myself shovelled on to the portable commode chair and deal with the stomach pains in the bathroom – immediately.
But then I had my doubts that I was going to make it to my destination unscathed. Or maybe the carpet wasn’t.
I passed this calculation of time and motion on to the nurse as soon as she arrived. It was a busy night and I wasn’t the only customer in the shop. As unflustered as professionals always are in these circumstances, she bid me stay right there (like I was going to flee the country right?) while she got a bed-pan. She did this with alacrity.
Usually it's not hard for a person to turn on their side in bed, so that the pan can be placed in the right spot, then both the person and the pan can be turned upright so that the person is neatly on the pan and good old gravity can do its thing when needed. The problem was that my right side was weak and things seemed no longer Code Red but a marginally Whiter Shade of Pale. [That is so disgustingly bad a piece of purple prose I’ve got to keep it. Bulwer Lytton Awards, we have a winner.]
I decided that it was safe for me to attempt the marathon journey of five metres to the toilet. The effort of getting me up on to the pan had temporarily quelled the desire. The bed-pan was abandoned.
We negotiated the terrain to the bathroom without incident.
After several trips to the toilet bowl now with my private chauffeur and my privates exposed, I think I’ll be ready for the bed-pan now, should the need arise. I don't say I like the idea, but I’ll cope.
You're all just dying to know if the visit to the loo was a success, right? Well, no, it wasn’t. I was still too freaked by the bed-pan it seems. But you'll be happy to know it was only a temporary setback and a few hours later with another visit to the bathroom, it all came out just fine.
This post is dedicated to the many like me who have looked after their bodily functions from childhood but now face handing that jealously guarded care over to someone else. My message is, don't be afraid. Nothing bad is going to happen. On the contrary, you are going to learn a spectacular lesson in humility. If you accept with good grace what can't be changed – and with humour if you can – what would seem a blow to dignity soon ceases to become so.
You can see how quickly I got over those first feelings of horror.
Oh Dennis, i wept when i read this - not feeling sorry for for you - but with delight at the rubicon you have crossed and the safer place it brings you to.ReplyDelete
I think the word "habituation" might work here. What we have become used to simply works, becomes normal. .The way we used to look at these things - being in a wheelchair, having our bottoms wiped, using a walking stick, being fitted with a catheter, whatever it is - that frame of mind is lost to us. Yes, we have become habituated.
I have a younger friend in a wheelchair whose life is somewhat (perhaps mildly) dominated by finding her way, often with much effort, to pee in the next disabled toilet. As a habituated catheter wearer I so want to urge her to take the plunge. "I haven't had to wee since November 2010" is what I would say were it not for the rubicon in front of her. At the same time she has crossed a bridge I have not - she wears her red safety link button all the time as a proud bracelet.
Dear, dear Den,ReplyDelete
You've arrived at the pointy end of being cared for. Your description here is part of our daily lives and so familiar, that I hardly remember a time when to wipe my Beloved's bottom, every single day, was not "normal".
David is at this very minute writing in response to this blog post. It'll be interesting to see how our responses match and differ - Carer/Care-Recipient. Though our lives are tightly entwined, still we view the world through different and unique lenses.
I remember, vaguely, about 15 years ago, Dave saying to me, sternly (and he is rarely stern), "You will NEVER be my Carer. You won't wipe my bottom. I don't want to put you through that."
I was devastated. Having had a mum with MS, and my Dad her Carer for 28 years, I knew what was ahead. And I knew I would be up for the task. Dave imagined back then, paid Carers doing the job. I get $75 per week to care for Dave. Thank you tax-payers. I appreciate it. Truly. To have professionals come into our home and do what is required for Dave just to be toiletted, showered and dressed, would, I believe, cost quite a few thousand dollars a week.
Now that we're at the stage of not only bottom-wiping, but of 3x per week warm-water enemas, the contents of which don't just land in the loo, but all over the commode chair, the bathroom floor, and me....those distance days long past when one only had one's own private ablutions to be concerned about, seem a very dim memory indeed.
Thank you for writing this post, Den. I am aware of the effort, the energy, the time and care it has taken to reach the last fullstop.
Never mind the marathon journey of five metres to the toilet, Denis, this was a marathon typing effort. And your 'un-edited' example shows just how hard it must have been.ReplyDelete
In a minor way, I can understand the situation. I once had both wrists and several fingers operated on, at the same time, for carpal tunnels. Day surgery. Not a good idea! Then off home with both hands bandaged - and completely enclosed - from forearms to fingertips ... "come back in a week".
I wish I had thought ahead. No nice nurse with a wad of loo-paper, and Julie was not about to begin a new career.
Did I manage? And how? I leave that to your imagination.
Your determination leaves me speechless. I check your blog regularly for updates. If your fingers fail your impeccable command of the English language, we will still be able to 'precess the words you type on the keburd'.
Love to you both.
Having lost my sister to GBM I can't tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtful reports of this journey.ReplyDelete
I have looked after my husband for six months when he was bedridden with spondilytis and my grown up son for more than a month following a leg surgery when both of them refused to allow professional male nurses take care of their such specific needs because of the indignity of it. I also looked after my mother dying from cancer while she was coma in a hospital. Though the difference mainly concerns attitude, I have never told anyone about this to spare my husband, son and mum any possible indignity. And here you are writing about yourself with so much frankness...just to make the way easier for those who may walk the path in the future. Your respect for life and concern for others never ceases to amaze me.ReplyDelete
It's a delight to read another fabulous posting, Denis. You can turn anything into a work of literature :). And it's not "crap", either, to quote a recent PM of ours.ReplyDelete
You might remember a few years ago I told you about a friend of mine with liver cancer. His treatment worked temporarily and the cancer returned. While in hospital, very close to death, I mentioned your blog. At the 11th hour and 59th minute, a suitable liver appeared, and he's alive and writing about his experience. This is what he said to me today:
"I remember the chap you mentioned--you sent me his blog and I read quite a bit of it. He could write and it came straight through like an arrow, along with both his pain and his patience.
If you speak to him, tell him when I read it I was also in great pain, very weak, and pretty much thought I was finished. Tell him it helped me in many ways. And I admired his courage, his clarity, and his writing skills."
Denis, I am so relieved that you are finding this transition manageable, as I know how you dreaded the thought of coming to this. But as you say, the nurses are professionals. This is what they do for a living, decade after decade. For them, being a carer is something they have chosen to do with their lives, and goddess bless them for that choice.
Perhaps they secretly admire the softness of your bottom and talk about it over coffee during their break. But I suspect that your bottom and its functions are no different than the functions of the rest of your body and that they treat your whole being with the dignity and respect it deserves, for your body, compromised as it is, houses a noble and rare soul.
The dangling modifier strikes again. Since I can no longer edit my postings after they are posted, I must correct myself here: "While he was in hospital, very close to death, I..."Delete
I have been close to death, but not in hospital. Just in front of a generator in operation that had embedded itself in a plastic container of petrol. Obviously I separated the two in time.
Again I admire your wonderful humour and writing in dealing with such a difficult subject. Talking as a woman, who did some caring which, as caring does, involved this type of problem, I think those of us who have had children are inured forever to embarrassment about personal bodily functions so it becomes less of a problem! And I must say, like you, my late husband had a sense of humour. It can override many issues. I hope the next time goes more smoothly. (Perhaps I chose the wrong word there.). Anne PReplyDelete
Den, I am so inspired by your blogs. This latest one made me smile as one day in the future, I will be facing the same situation. I hope when that day comes I will think of you and smile with you. Love from Mick and I. XxReplyDelete
I'm finding with the onset of dysphasia and head seizures that my concentration has fallen to near zero. At the moment at least I’ll suspend one of my most enjoyable occupations - of responding to comments - in the hope of finding a time when I’ll get some back. Please be assured that I've read every one and thank you deeply for them.ReplyDelete
Oh Denis - remarkable man. Thank you for trying so hard for so long. xxxDelete
Firstly, I expect no reply - I'm always amazed when you do! :DReplyDelete
I took care of first my grandmother, then my mother. Both became bedbound due to the effects of Alzheimer's. I never thought I would be that "up close & personal" with either, but after a while I understood what the gynecologist's nurse meant when she said "we've seen hundreds, doesn't mean anything". Skin is skin, whether it's on the face, the leg, or the privates; after a while, it really doesn't mean anything. If that helps ease your mind at all. ;-)