I left hospital incontinent, infertile, on a restricted diet, fitted with a catheter that was too short, more holes in me than I had the day before and without any of my medication. With all that in mind, this was likely to be the best day ever to go and purchase a couple of lottery tickets as something had to balance out in my favour but I resisted.
The plan was that I was going to stay at my mum’s house while the catheter was in. She is at home the majority of the time so if anything went wrong or I needed help she would be there. The kids had not been told what was really happening, we knew that using the big C word to either of them would be disastrous but we had to tell them something to explain my absence. We had decided at the last minute to just tell them that I needed to have a small operation.
“I am going to have a small operation so I will be staying at nannies. It’s only because she will be in all day so if anything happens or I need anything she will be there whereas your mum will be at work”. I announced to them both a couple of days before the operation. Our youngest, Ayanna, ran to my leg and gripped it tight for the duration of my talk. That was her entire contribution to the proceedings.
“What is the operation for?” Amaris asked. I looked at Annette and she looked at me. We didn’t anticipate questions.
“it’s a minor operation on my stomach” I answered.
“Where in your stomach” Amaris asked. Sometimes just too smart for her own good.
“In my bowel” I said. That was the first organ I could think of.
“What does the bowel do?” she asked. Now I was stumped.
“Ask your mum” I shot back at her and looking at Annette. Not to be outdone Annette shot right back at me.
“I don’t know, ask your dad”, eyes were back on me, the dear in the headlight.
“it separates food waste into poo and pee” I wasn’t sure but it was my best guess. She looked at me like she was going to have a date with Google first thing in the morning. Thankfully she didn’t.
I tried not to get too happy and comfortable at my mums, after all it was only temporary. There was little fear of that as I was treated so badly. I mean mum couldn’t do enough, when did I want breakfast? What would I like for breakfast? Did I want a newspaper? When did I want lunch? What did I want for dinner? My glass was empty, would I like a refill? No, I will bring it up to you, Did I have enough pillows? Yes, it was quite tough being back there. This was the Hilton without the name on the towels.
I had finally received my missing medication the day after I left, Annette had picked it up but they still couldn’t resist messing her about to the very end. The main part of this medication was the supply of blood thinners that I would have to inject myself daily with for the next twenty eight days. As needles go I have to say it’s the thinnest needle I have seen yet, similar to what I have seen used on television for Botox injections. The injections need to be administered in either your triceps or the fat in your thighs, at the same time each day. I don’t personally have a problem with needles and found it very easy to inject myself but I could see how it would be difficult for someone who didn’t like needles.
About three days in and Annette and the kids paid their first visit. We sat in the living room as my bedroom resembled a field hospital and it would generate too many questions and wondering fingers from smaller and nosey minds. Joel being an excitable little soul was very pleased to see me. So pleased in fact he had devised a surprise game and he thought he would share with his daddy. This game was to charge into my leg with the delicate catheter bag attached as fast as he could and he enthusiastically did so. The look of absolute horror on my face and rapid brushing him off did nothing but spur him on even more. On the second run he went back even further and slammed into my leg even harder. Annette had now seen this second collision and was horrified and rescued me from further toddler brutality. It was just that fact that the catheter was on the inside of my leg and not the front that saved dear little Joel from a shower he would not forget.
No doubt the catheter is a wonderful invention that provides a valuable function. In the case of the prostectomy operation the catheter gives the newly reattached urethra the required time to heal. Now everyone will have a different and unique experience with their catheter. Mine were centred around four main problems,
- The gauge of tubing used
- They need to be measured accurately
- They leak
- They leak some more
Someone somewhere in that hospital has a job lot of industrial plastic tubing that they have decided that they need to get rid of. I have come to that conclusion because the diameter of this tubing coming out of me is both enormous and ridiculous. Now the Kings eye is this sweet tiny little thing, yet the catheter tube is as thick as a McDonalds straw – how does this make sense? Does the pee really need to be turbo charged out of me? I mean was B&Q just closed on the day it was fitted so they couldn’t get any thicker? Maybe someone could have lobbed a portion off the garden sprinkler hose downstairs while the gardener was on his lunch break? I made a point of not looking down too often as I was convinced the Kings eye was going to be permanently disfigured.
Luckily or maybe unluckily each one of the catheter problems I experienced trumped the preceding one.
Some bright spark measured how long this thing should be and got it wrong, it was about four inches too short. It would make perfect sense if the person who measured it had recognised me as one of their childhood tormentors and wanted to get even. Or better still maybe the Count from Sesame Street measured the catheter length, he only has four flipping fingers on each hand. Yes, that now makes perfect sense. I bet the length of the tube, whatever it was, was exactly divisible by four.
What the catheter shortness means in practical terms is that instead of sitting snugly on my calf muscle I have one strap above my knee and the other around my calf. This then restricts my walking to one leg with a firm footing while the other one has become a half bend and rotate leg movement. With my normal walking now ruined I have the indignity of seeing all these old birds with their trollies speeding past me. What also occurred to me was forget tagging criminals – fit one of these bags of fun on their legs and watch the crime rate plummet. No self-respecting criminal is going to be robbing a house with a warm bag on the side of their calf.
At night the catheter needs to attach to the ‘mothership’. The ‘mothership’ is a larger catheter bag that has about three times the capacity of a normal leg catheter bag. It just sits on the floor, wobbles a lot and feeds directly from the leg bag as during the night you generate lots more pee even if you stop drinking a good couple of hours beforehand. Now the catheter length issues I had and not being able to move the bed to the other wall meant that I had to sleep on the bed diagonally. Sleeping like this was to ensure I was as close to the edge as possible so I didn’t put any strain on the catheter push tube connections. What really kept me awake though was the thought of sleepwalking onto this liquid minefield or the worry of the simple catheter connections coming apart in the night and having to rely on the strength of a mother’s love for her son after he accidentally fertilises her newly carpeted bedroom floor. Happily, I never had to find out.
The nearest I got to having a mishap was when I had just waddled off the bus and after only a minute’s worth of walking the bag was beginning to feel like it was slipping. I really, really didn’t want to find out what the pulling effect of a free hanging, three quarter full catheter bag would feel like. To say I was worried, still a good ten minute walk from my mums, was an understatement. At the traffic lights I was about to try and adjust it by trying to pull it up from the outside of my jeans. Out of absolutely nowhere about ten to fifteen school girls just appeared with two of their teachers. I froze as I could see the headline in the local paper,
‘Local pervert flashes catheter bag at impressionable school girls’.
I slowly, oh so very slowly, I ‘crab legged’ it back to my mums and thankfully it held in place.
That experience was enough to turn me into the catheter version of Howard Hughes but I knew that was not my best idea as I would soon get stir crazy. As they always say however, the best was yet to come.