A shower ranks right in there with your broom and dustpan. Lather, rinse, repeat. EVery morning, and sometimes in the afternoon following sweaty work or exercise. Boring. Repetitive.
Showering and getting presentable is part of a normal morning ritual, almost overlooked in its sameness. Regular. That makes you all the more curious why I’m writing about it. Glad you asked. I remember what it was like to wish I could take one.
I got up this morning, checked on a bruised rib from moving furniture two days ago. I did a light workout with weights, followed by stretching, then took a warm, soapy, full-body shower.
In 2001, I could do none of those things. I’d had four abdominal surgeries, three of them emergent small-bowel resects in a desperate attempt to outrun the speed at which my diseased small gut kept dying. I was infusing thick, nutrition-and-vitamin/mineral-rich food through a large-bore IV Hickman catheter, surgically-inserted through my upper chest into my subclavian artery. Though infusing this total parenteral nutrition around the clock, my weight-loss plan was working: I kept losing a few ounces every day or so.
It was working too well.
I was starving to death.
Catheters, IVs, and NG tubes make for lousy hygiene. The routine of medical care creates stains and strange, unpleasant odors. If you can’t get out of bed, it’s impossible to do a decent job even of combing your hair. A shower? Don’t make me laugh! In fact, don’t make me put strain on my 8-inch-long wound at all! And to add insult to stay sutures? Women I didn’t know – aides – kept promising me they’d be back after doctor’s rounds to give me a sponge bath.
I’m pretty sure they scoured the entire hospital, looking for the uglie—ah, least attractive CNAs they could find. Although, cutting them some slack, if I’d been forced to bathe a patient looking like I did, I wouldn’t have blamed them for drawing straws to see who’d be the loser today.
Even after I went home and was under home health care, showering was an ordeal. I couldn’t get the wound wet, but the wide, spandex-elastic girdles I had to wear whenever not showering needed laundering. You guessed it.
“So, I can’t get the wound wet.” Definite shake of the head.
“But I can’t stand this funky hair and — well, you know. What am I s’posed to do?”
I think we kept Saran Wrap in business for about 6 months. Every time I’d take a shower, I first had to carefully remove the armor – which in itself was a little frightening – and then wrap myself in clingy plastic wrap. What takes a normal biped a few minutes will take a patient recovering from major gut surgery the better part of an hour. For months after being released from the hospital that last time, I had a hard time even looking at a QuikTrip burrito.
“Pssh. Wouldn’t take me that long to wrap MYself.” You haven’t walked this journey. I wasn’t doing it to slim down–I’d already lost the weight and was trying everything imaginable to maintain the 165 pounds I had left. Did I mention the chronic fatigue that goes along with losing all but a few inches of your small intestine caused me to need to sit down once or twice while getting the shower?
That was then. Though years in the past, the memories and experiences live vividly in my mind and in my nervous system.
So, this morning? I awoke normally, clicked on my coffeemaker which is always prepped the night before, checked on a bruised rib from moving furniture two days ago. I did a light workout with weights, followed by stretching, then took a warm, soapy, full-body shower. Other than being sore and working through that, it took me about 5-6 minutes.
No Saran Wrap.
And you know? A burrito sounds kind of good right now. And tacos. A LOT of tacos. Supreme. With sour cream . . .
What? How can I eat so much? That’s another story for another time.
© D. Dean Boone, March 2019