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I was recently at a hospital emergency, to have my card stamped. I thought pneumonia, they thought COVID. We agreed to disagree and I’m self-isolating because I want a bed and bathroom to myself not because I’m wrong. (PS: the answer was no to both, thankfully. Just a run-of-the-mill, nothing-to-write-about-here, respiratory infection. In the middle of a respiratory infection pandemic I chose the path least chosen).
When hospital staff think you have COVID, they put you in an isolation room and sternly tell you to stay put. Then you are ignored for two hours at which time the giant glass of water you had at breakfast decided it had given all she could give, and was ready to spring free.
I had to pee.
I waited and waited. I didn’t want to miss the doctor coming in for my turn, but my bladder was not a patient patient.
After peeking around my curtain, I got the attention of a very angry staff member (not a doctor or nurse, but in full PPE (ha! sounds like peepee-e). She was angry with me for asking where the ladies room was. “You are not allowed out here!” I understood that and was masked up and had my body fully in my zone, but this was an urgent matter. I felt bad that I’d elicited that reaction and totally understood, but I had no way of flagging attention to my particular brand of problem unless I spoke with someone. She was that someone and she calmed down and offered to help as long as I got back. I sat in the far corner of my ‘room’ with my legs crossed and my hands in the prayer position, for no particular reason.
The staff person brought in a portable commode. It was better than the bedpan I was expecting. I’ve had a bedpan experience here, and thought that once I’d crossed something off my bucket list, I shouldn’t be greedy and cross it off twice.
My commode was branded, “Verna’s Chair.” If that doesn’t say everything it needs to in the name, I’m not sure you understand branding. The staff member (orderly maybe?) also provided me with heated incontinence wipes. I should have taken a picture of those and I was going to pocket the remaining five wipes because they were lovely, but I left them. All wiping materials should be heated I have determined. Knowing the remaining wipes were going in the yellow hazardous trash bag when I left had me feeling sad about that also feeling wrong somehow about taking them with me. Having something in my handbag with the word incontinence printed in large lettering (presumably because incontinent people are visually impaired or over 50) was aging me just thinking about it so I chose to leave the remaining wipes on the table and hope they wouldn’t be rubbish.
I knew this commode was my only chance to get comfortable so I used Verna’s Chair. I had a hard cardboard receptacle and I assumed that once it was used, it would start to absorb the liquid and get to a point where it would leak on the floor so, certainly, someone would come and remove Verna’s Chair which was now Kristine’s Chair, at some point. Right?!
It was more comfortable than expected–certainly better than the ‘pan’– and I didn’t get anxious about using it even though it was not a secure spot. Really, I was standing in the room with an open gown and no bra, and I’d taken to open mouth breathing into my mask, so what did I have to be shy about at this point?
Thankfully, I had not had asparagus recently because that commode stayed in the room as my constant companion for the remainder of my stay. The doctor came in and moved it out of the way to get to the stethoscope. The X-ray technician came in and had to move it to the middle of the room to place the portable X-ray at my back. He left it where he’d wheeled it. Come on! Put things away where you found them.
The nurse who needed to do the swab test moved it out of the way to get to my bedside but he put it right where ‘the door’ curtain was. When he left he scootched around it. Finally, the doctor came back in and just talked to me over the commode and handed me my discharge papers. If I’d dropped them, I was going to have to stay there forever because I know it is sterile, but I wouldn’t fish anything out of even my own urine. So I would never be discharged. At least I would have a Verna’s Chair to keep me company and give me a change of scenery every once and a while.
How are you coping? I hope you are all well and observing the social distancing rules. I wouldn’t want to hear of any of you taking on this virus as a martyr. You are just too important to be taking that on.