Choosing My Recovery (part 2/3)
A nurse came in. A little Fijian lady. I don’t know if it was because I was high as a kite on drugs but I remember feeling happy to see her. Just before she wheeled me away someone gave her a little ziplock bag. “What's this?” She said. “What is this?” She held the bag up for everyone to see and I realised they were my undies. Apparently, the protocol is no undies before surgery, otherwise they get returned to you in a ziplock bag. Grace shook her head and put them on my bed - a disgusted look on her face.
I was in a shared room with five other patients, and we had a minimum of two nurses at all times. The foot twitching, I was experiencing was now developing into seizures while I was fully conscious. These were completely debilitating and humiliating. One of the night nurses was called Rueben. He was a Māori guy with tattoos on his arms. Really nice - terrible at putting a line in or taking blood - but easy on the eye. At night he would bring me sneaky eats, macaroni cheese and yoghurt.
All day my bladder had been full, there must be something wrong with the catheter. I waited as long as I could and then asked someone for help. Rueben came to the rescue and said he needed to have a look under the sheets to look at the catheter. Crikey. I hadn’t exactly been keeping the hedge trimmed - if you know what I mean. He looked under the sheets, as I closed my eyes trying to pretend none of this was happening. He changed some tubes and thankfully my bladder emptied. “Hell you really did need to pee the bag is almost full!” Thanks Rueben. Awesome.
Later that night, I had cramping in my lower abdomen and no way I was going to do that in a bedpan in a room with five others. I asked Rueben if I could go to the toilet and he helped me into a wheelchair. Looking back at the bed he said, “oh Mel you’ve got your period.” I wished I could disappear. He got a female nurse to take me to the toilet and I heard him say, “look the blood is dripping all over the floor.” I couldn’t look him in the eye after that.
The next day the nurse told me I had to have a wash. I said to her “I’m fine, I don’t need it,” but she was adamant. With a basin of warm water and a pile of rags, she proceeded to wash me… down there. I was still unable to move my left side. At one point, my right leg was up in the air while she was leaning in, face first, washing. Several rags in, she expressed concern at the amount of blood and clots. “Is this normal for you?” She asked. Yes, sadly it is. I looked up at the ceiling.
A day later, a large Fijian orderly wearing freezing worker gumboots came in. “It’s time for a shower.” Back on the wheelchair we went and she wheeled me into a cubicle the size of a disabled toilet where she put on a white plastic apron. She took off my gown and ripped off the mesh granny pants they make you wear like baby pull-ups. They were thrown straight in the bin. In both hands she turned on what reminded me of a fireman’s hose and literally hosed me down. This was the shower. I was sitting sloped to one side, in a wheelchair with no bum, dripping period blood on the floor. I was naked and being hosed off by a lady wearing gumboots and a plastic apron. So, I cried.
I let those tears flow, feeling totally ashamed at my uselessness. She talked to me kindly as I kept on crying and then she hosed me through the bum-less wheelchair. Tears ran down my face as I looked over to see the bag of urine hanging next to the chair. It felt to me, as the water washed down the drain that so did my self-respect. The tears didn’t stop until I was asleep.