It is mid-afternoon – my two-hour break between therapy – and I am sitting on the loo again, where I spend most of my free time. Balancing an iPad on my lap, I fixate on the YouTube video of a gushing waterfall and gently blow bubbles through a straw into a cup of water.
I wonder how far I’ll go with the ‘I can’t pee’ forum suggestions, and whether the person was joking when they suggested the bubble blowing method. If they would have suggested blinking one eye whilst wriggling my ears and signing the French national anthem backwards, I’d probably give it a good go.
It’s been a week now, and I am still not able to pee on my own. I have managed a small stream a few times – achieved by cocking my head to the side and staring at a specific corner of my shower chair while visualising myself peeing next to a stream – but celebrate too soon every time the dreaded bladder scanner reveals I am still 80% full. It’s like I have an overflow.
What makes it worse is that the nurses aren’t allowed to leave me on my own, so they wait silently behind the door and say ‘take your time’, while I fret over how many more patients they have to see before they’re allowed their own bathroom break. I also worry about the wasted water that gushes from the tap they leave on to help me go, calculating how many yogurt pots I will have to wash out to make up for this new assault on the environment.
At 2am sharp, my nurse wakes me up to ‘try and pee’. After the thirty-minute symphony of bed alarms going off, wheelchair seatbelts being unfastened and unfruitful toilet sitting, the bladder scanner shows the dreaded 450ml and I am transferred back into bed to be IC’d.
The nurse turns on the light overhead and pokes around for a few minutes before ending up in the wrong hole, as always.
“I’ll leave the tube in so I know where not to go next time,” she says, opening up another IC kit and taking out the various parts – iodine solution, two pairs of plastic gloves, swabs, tweezers for swabbing, bags, tubes and trays.
She tries again and hits the same hole.
“Still not it” I say, as she studies the bag, waiting for urine to miraculously appear from my womb.
“I’ll go and get help” she says, leaving me spread eagled on the bed with the two tubes still in place.
Another nurse enters, and decides the problem is that there isn’t enough light. He passes the original nurse his iPhone and instructs her to shine the torch between my legs.
After a long rustle around and a celebratory ‘got it’, we wait in vain for the third bag to fill.
“I still don’t think you’ve got it” I say, feeling bad about all the effort they are going to, but a bit beaten up by the fact that it’s now 2:47 and I have three tubes with bags on the end protruding from what were once my private parts.
They both disappear sheepishly, returning with a third nurse who carries an industrial sized flashlight.
Fun Fact No. 3 – Your Urethra is not where you think it is.
The following morning it is decided that I will be given ‘self-cathing’ lessons on account of my urethra being difficult to locate.
The Senior nurse enters with a large piece of contoured white plastic, complete with a mirror in the middle and leg holsters at the side. It looks like it belongs in a sex toy museum.
“This is to go between your thighs, so you can see what you are doing” she says of the bizarre contraption.
She takes me to the toilet and helps me balance the holsters between my legs, offering me a full view of my thoroughly beaten-up groin.
“Now,” she says, kneeling down beside me and pointing at the mirror, “do you know where your urethra is?”
“I think so,” I say, pointing under the hood at the top of my labia.
“Nope. Common misconception” she says. “It’s here”, she pulls the whole thing up and back towards me, like our childhood vet did when determining the sex of our baby guinea pigs.
“Do you see that little white star?” she says, pointing into the mirror at a tiny white rimmed hole, right by the entrance to my vagina.
It gleams at me like a magical winking eye.
“Wow” I say. “I had no idea it was there”.
She unwraps a small clear plastic straw, dips it into a sachet of lidocaine jelly and passes it to me.
“Now gently feel around and aim for that hole”.
I prod and poke around like a virginal teenager, searching for the now familiar sensation of a foreign object in my urethra.
Within a few moments the end of the straw finds a sensitive tunnel. Yowch. I push it in a little further and within half a second am rewarded with a gush of urine that travels through the straw and out the other end into the toilet.
I look back at the nurse, welling with pride as the pee drains from me.
“Well done!” she says, raising her eyebrows and nodding encouragingly. “It normally takes a lot longer the first time”.
Smashed it, I think to myself, feeling far more smug than a rational person should in this situation. Another skill to add to my LinkedIn profile.
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