I'm home now and I have a bag of urine strapped to my leg.
For the definitive description of what it feels like to have a bag of urine attached to your leg, Listen to David Sedaris' wonderful description of the "Stadium Pal". But bear in mind, David wore his under slacks.
I'm sure many of you are thinking "Dude! put some long pants on! Nobody wants to see that!" I can see your point. You probably didn't want to start your day looking at this. It's not really something one would strap to the outside of ones slacks (Say, wait a minute...).
No, credit for rockin' the catheter with shorts goes entirely to my father-in-law. His last experience with one began with it leaking on the way home, soaking his pants leg, and his announcing to his wife, and probably everyone else in earshot that he was wearing shorts until the damn thing came off.
My experience with a catheter began in the hospital where trained professionals drained mine regularly and I didn't venture too far from my bed. Yesterday morning a well intentioned but slightly demented nurse's aid tried to teach me how to change out and set up my catheter at home. The resulting lesson left me soaking wet as the nurse desperately tried to chase the aid away before she did any more damage. I plumbed my own bathroom, I could figure this out. The one thing we all missed was her failure to adequately secure the hose where it enters the bag. On the way home we stopped at the Mac Pharmacy to fill my prescriptions and as I stepped out of the car I felt something wet. I think this was the moment that I stopped caring if anyone saw my catheter or not. Indeed, the tube was draining straight on to my leg, soaking my sweat pants, socks, and creating a sizable puddle. I was, in essence, peeing on myself in a parking lot. I jammed the tube back into the receiver, grabbed some of the rags that my friend Vincent wisely suggested I keep handy and tried to blot the damage.
You know what happens next. It's one of those cosmic certainties like dropped toast landing butter side down. I look up and there's Rob, our sys admin at work coming over to say hi. Great. I'm soaked in my own urine and I'm having a conversation with a colleague. I'm just hoping he doesn't notice that at 1 pm on a hot, sunny day in a parking lot, I'm standing in a foul smelling puddle.
Rob's a good guy but I couldn't really bring myself to tell him about the small personal Hell into which I had just descended. So I made small talk for a bit trying not to make squishy sounds with my left sock. When he was on his way, I grabbed another pair of pants and more rags and step-squished next door to Harvest Fresh, the local organic grocery store and deli where I get lunch pretty regularly. The folks behind the counter knew I was getting the surgery and were really happy to see me. I made my best "I'm glad to see you too but really need to use your facilities because I just had surgery" expression as I made a dash for the restroom before they could figure out that I was a walking biohazard and my mere presence in the store would probably cause the FDA to shut them down.
Five minutes later I was presentable. Carolyn said I passed the smell test so I was able to fill my prescription and get home. Once safely back I locked myself in the bathroom and re-plumbed the whole catheter system, checking connections and making sure things were solid. I thought about shortening the hose and running the bag on my thigh but the extra length makes it easier to drain the bag. You have to dump the day bag every three hours or so. After considering other fashion options, I finally realized that Merle was right. Shorts make sense. If it leaks, you'll see it. Your clothes won't get soaked and the only way anyone is going to see me like this at home is if they have binoculars. I can throw sweat pants over everything if we have visitors.
Carolyn's not even slightly squeamish about these things. She watched with fascination as they pulled the drain from my abdomen yesterday. It's about 16" of rubber hose that exited my abdomen on my left side. The nurse said it wouldn't hurt but would feel like she was pulling out my intestines. Strangely, she was right. Carolyn actually gasped with excitement when she saw how much tubing came out. I love that woman...