Anyone who has ever had a serious injury or illness that has left them bed ridden in a hospital, knows there is no place for shame or modesty. Prior to my car accident at the age of 31, I had never experienced such a stay. For the first week, I was in ICU, dosed up on meds and fed through a tube. Once I was moved out of the intensive care unit, I began to be more aware of what was going on around me. The dosage of pain medicine was reduced and the feeding tube removed. I could finally eat, though it wasn't much. When the Doctors decided I was ready to begin rehabilitation, it was then, I realized I could not move my legs. I had paralysis from the waist down as a result of spinal and peripheral nerve damage. Rather than get down about it, I put in a lot of hard work, day in and day out, over the following 3 months of my hospitalization.
My inability to walk, meant I would have to use a bed pan. I had a catheter for about a month, so I didn't have to worry about that for a while, but the first time I had to make a number two, I almost panicked. I called for a nurse and explained I needed to use the restroom. She called for an assistant, they rolled me over, stuck the pan on the bed and rolled me back on top of it. This was such a strange feeling, but one I would unfortunately get used to. I would now be sponged and wiped by 19 year old girls, 60 year old women and........Dudes!
I was repeatedly advised that I needed to be mindful of what I consumed, but I grew tired of the plain bland hospital foods they continued to serve each day. My sister, who was pregnant at the time, visited me each day, and always with a bag of Taco Bell or whatever fast food craving she had at the time. Strangely, I never really had a desire to eat any of it. Then it happened....several ladies from work offered to buy me a steak with all the delicious sides. Anything I wanted, and it was all I could think about. I could not wait for that NY strip, loaded baked potato and the buttery rolls. The salad went straight to the trash, I didn't have time or stomach space to waist on rabbit food. I waited for everyone to leave before I began to indulge. I conquered and devoured every last bite. It was absolutely amazing and I was completely stuffed. Less than 20 minutes passed before my stomach began pressing the "call for help" button. We needed a bed pan "stat"! It's always the time when you need a nurse the most, that they become the busiest. Unfortunately, my belly decided it could no longer wait. There is no worse feeling than erupting like a volcano without the ability to move, while the hot lava spills up your back. By the time the nurse arrived, I didn't have to say a word, the stench told her all she needed to know.
My Mom stayed in my room most nights. I was at the point in my recovery, where I could use a sliding board to slide out of bed and on to a portable toilet as long as I had assistance. Over the course of this particular night, I destroyed about 3 pair of shorts as I was unable to make the transfer in time. My Mom was there for each uncomfortable moment. There were times when friends would give her a break and stay with me, so I was thankful it was her there and not a friend.
The day my catheter was removed, a couple of my buddies came to visit. They sat with me in my room and watched the Cardinals game on tv. The nurse gave me a coke and told me to let her know when I felt the need to urinate. Thirty minutes or so went by, and I felt nothing. I was laying in bed with a sheet covering my gown and we were talking and joking around. One of my buddies pointed towards me and just gave me a strange look. If you've ever been to Vegas and walked by the Bellagio as Celine Dion began blaring and water shot into the sky, you'd understand what was happening to me in this moment. Out of nowhere, a huge stream with a reddish tinted fluid, came shooting out from under the sheet. I had no idea I was doing it, I didn't feel it at all. In normal everyday life, this would be embarrassing, but this kind of thing had become my norm.
I went through about three hours a day of physical, occupational and speech therapy. Many times during physical therapy, as my body was pushed and strained, it was normal for me to crop dust the therapist. It's not something I wanted to do, but it just happens. Sometimes they were odorless booty bombs, and many times they were rich, full-bodied explosions, with notes of sulfur and a hint of Cheddar cheese. Again, normally, an embarrassing moment, yet in the Hospital, just another day.
During Occupational therapy, I had to learn to use the bathroom and how to get in and out of the bathtub. I had to undress myself while in my wheelchair, use a sliding board to transfer to the tub and clean myself. While doing all of this, a young female therapist had to be there watching me. Between stage fright and the lack of manscaping, this was probably the most uncomfortable I had felt during my three month visit at Hotel Mercy.
I was released in October and left with the ability to take steps with the use of a walker. I also left with a better understanding of how to deal with life's embarrassing moments, and there would be many to come.