After a short nap in my new bed, I respond to an unfamiliar sensation in my bladder and call the nurse in to help me work out how to empty it.
Pushing an elaborate system of buttons at the end of my bed, she successfully disables the alarm that sounds if I try and get up on my own, and wheels my chair up next to me. Yes, you read that right. I have an alarmed bed. And an alarmed wheel chair. Just in case I decide to unbuckle my seatbelt and make a run for it.
She spends the next ten minutes helping me to transfer into my wheelchair, fastening the seat belt around me, alarming the seat belt, wheeling me into the bathroom, disarming the seatbelt, unfastening the seatbelt, and helping me transfer onto the loo. Thank God I wasn’t desperate.
I hold onto the bar next to the toilet and steady myself, excited for my first pee in three months.
Fun Fact No 1: If you don’t perform a bodily function for a long time, your body can sometimes forget how to do it.
I focus on relaxing my muscles, close my eyes and wait for the pee to come.
But it doesn’t.
I wait some more.
It still doesn’t.
“Erm… I can’t pee”, I shout to the nurse outside my bathroom door. “It’s as if my body has forgotten how to do it. Is that a thing?”
“Oh it’s quite normal,” the nurse calls back. “Your body is remembering how to function properly, and the muscles around your bladder have probably atrophied too”. She leans her head back through the door and smiles at me. “It will come back again soon though, don’t worry”.
I do worry, and sit there for another twenty minutes trying to remember the sensation, sweat dripping down my neck brace as I narrow my eyes in deep concentration.
The nurse leans her head in again; “do you want me to try turning the tap on?”
After a swimming pool’s worth of wasted water, the nurse gives up, shuffles me back into my chair, fastens and alarms my seatbelt and wheels me back to my bedside. Once there, she disarms and unfastens the seatbelt and heaves me back into bed.
“But I still need to pee!” I protest, as the Alan Ayckbourne farce of beeps and clips plays out around me.
“We’ll just have to IC you for now”, she says, recovering her breath.
“What’s that?” I hold mine for the answer.
“Intermittent Cathetering” she says, as if this settles the matter.
I raise my eyebrows.
“We stick a small catheter in place to empty you once every few hours”, she says. “It helps reset your bladder into a routine of shrinking and growing again”.
I let the breath out in a whoosh.
Getting ‘sticked’ with a small catheter is as uncomfortable as it sounds, and the whole thing is made worse because I seemingly have a difficult to locate urethra, resulting in multiple “no, that’s in the wrong hole… again,” stabs. Once the tube is finally in its correct orifice, the nurse puts a blanket over the whole operation ‘to protect my modesty’ – LOL – and leaves me to drain into a bag while she tends to another patient.
“We’ll do it this way until your body remembers what it’s supposed to do,” she says ten minutes later, tugging the catheter out and tossing the whole set-up into the bin.
I cry my way through a restless night, until the ward starts to bustle at 7am. Turning on my favorite kids TV channel to distract myself from my full bladder, and what I know this will entail, a nurse enters and glances at the white board hanging next to my bed.
“Good morning Megatron” she says, without blinking.
The board is for the nurses to write up my program for the day and there is a section for ‘what I like to be called’. Apparently the nurses take it very seriously.
“That’s my fiancé trying to be funny”, I roll my eyes, “Lucy is fine”.
She smiles, confused, and plops a tray of egg-soaked bread and sausage links onto my side table. I wrinkle my nose at it.
“Can I just have a yogurt?” I ask.
She returns shortly after with a ‘monster flavoured’ yoghurt and a tray full of multi-colored pills, each wrapped in it’s own individual plastic packet.
“I need you to take all of these while I watch please”, she says, scanning the package of each pill into a machine before emptying it into a plastic pot.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven pills.
She scans a blood-thinning injection, removes it from it’s plastic packaging and searches for a pinch of flesh at my tummy, failing repeatedly before stabbing it into my abs.
Before I have time to eat my monster yogurt, she unwraps an IC’ing kit from its plastic packaging, each tube, bag, cotton swab, iodine pack, tray and a pair of tweezers wrapped individually in its own plastic shell. I watch the trash mountain building on top of the discarded pill packets, making my diligent tea bag composting feel somewhat redundant, and mouth a silent apology to the polar bears.
After a forty-minute saga of tube inserting and removing, the nurse wrestles me into my clothes, brushes my hair into a pony tail, ties my laces and wheels me to the Hunger Games gym for my first Physical Therapy session.
M&M meet me there, and we wait in silence for Allison to arrive, marvelling as we watch the enthusiastic therapists coax patients from their morning slump.
“OK Lucy,” Allison walks over to us and sits on the raised mat next to my chair, dissolving the sadness of the night with her infectious grin. “No more messing around. Today we’re going to get you up on your feet!”