I had a terrible day Thursday. I was in physical therapy in my wheelchair and I needed to pee. Usually I get a bed pan an hour before therapy and deal with all that at once. Doctors say being regular is important. Thursday somehow I got it wrong. Nothing daunted I asked Eddy for help and he pushed me into a closet gave me a bottle and left me to it. Trouble was I couldn’t sort out pointing in the neck of the urinal while holding the bottle and letting go of the flow at the right moment. I peed on myself, my clean shorts my wheelchair my thighs. I broke down in tears. 60 years old I wailed and I can’t fumbling pee without help. My outburst of self pity shocked my therapists. I am their star cheerful patient. The scene of the crime:
I lost 45 minutes of therapy getting cleaned up as everything takes forever when you are on wheels. The next day being Friday, Ketty my nurse’s aide put two diapers on me and told me to just shut up and let ‘er rip when the time came. No messing with bottles were her orders. The peeing problem never came up at the gym. Friday therefore was a good day. I got an extra hour PT and I worked my body like I really do want to walk again. It’s easy for me to say as I have no neural damage to spine or brain and all I have to do is let my pelvis mend which it will and then my legs will carry my weight. Meanwhile I preserve the muscles I built during years of Broga and TRX.
It is truly weird how life in a hospital setting changes your sense of self. Everyone around you has a medical understanding of your condition so what to you or me is disgusting, to them is a barometer of your state of health. Any bodily function or lack thereof expresses a statement about how you are. A smelly bowel movement to you or me is absolutely nothing to write home about but to them it says your gut is working (hooray!) or a liter bottle full of pee is something to be tossed pronto if you found yourself holding it. Not for them: they note it in the ledger of your life and measure the amount with satisfaction. Cenat another of my favorite aides croons with her Creole accent about my full bottles of pee like I’d just won a foot race. She sees a strong bladder while I see gloop that needs to be flushed away as quickly as possible.
While you are out living a full life, inside these walls we live by different rules. So yesterday my Occupational Therapist Elias walks into my room (after knocking - they all knock) and finds me in a riot of laughter with Ketty my statuesque Haitian nurse’s aide. Cenat (pronounced: senn -at) and Ketty do a fabulous job of looking after me but Ketty has additionally a dry sense of humor that kills me. She recoiled one day as she walked into my room to empty my bed pan and started berating me for the smell. Then she collapsed laughing when she saw my look of horrified embarrassment. At the point Elias arrived yesterday to Hoyer Lift me he walked into a hailstorm of laughter as I realized that Ketty had fooled me. She was doubled up laughing at me and I was laughing at myself for getting embarrassed. I threatened to elope with her and she looked at me. It would be great I said a statuesque Haitian woman holding hands with a scrubby little homunculus. They’d all look at me wondering what I’ve got. That cracked her up again especially as she is rather fond of her husband. Elias didn’t stand a chance. That’s Ketty to the left delicately attending to my leg.
As he pushed me to the Occupational (upper body) Therapy Gym Elias told me what a terrible morning he’d had working with unresponsive patients, people that fill you with pity but who don’t feed your desire for connection. Then he said he came into Room 508 and there we all were laughing like idiots. He felt recharged. That’s Elias with the beard getting photobombed in Comedy Central- my room.
The therapy is hard work no doubt but it is brilliantly building me back to who I was and every day I am grateful. I wriggle around in bed and pull myself up and feel my chest muscles rippling with effort. Every day here is a fresh start. We laugh to erase so much sadness. A patient down the hall lost consciousness and they called 911 to transport him to the ER. Life goes on. I keep lifting weights. It’s my job, be they ever so light those weights they make me sweat.
I used to be fearful of ending up in the hospital but I’m here to tell you there is nothing to fear. It’s just a place and pretty soon you learn the rules and parameters and you find yourself absorbed in your oxygenation levels and all that abstruse stuff. Needle phobia vanishes and acceptance takes its place. And the nurses and aides prove their love for you, their unconditional non judgmental respect for you their patient and you feel you can get through anything together. It’s a powerful feeling. And joyful too. Even if you feel the need to fart a lot.