It is now three weeks since the removal of my accursed catheter so it’s way beyond time for a progress report. Blame the hiatus of Christmas which was, most unusually, a white Christmas in the UK. Cue Bing Crosby … [Ed: Worry not, I haven’t attached a sound file to anything.] Actually, as inconvenient as the white, slippery stuff may be, I much prefer cold, crisp, clear blue skies above dazzling snow to our more usual damp, grey, muddy, drab nothingness. But I digress, this was not intended as a weather report. I need to return to mid-December …
Throughout this radical prostatectomy process, I’d been made aware that I’d suffer a period of incontinence following the operation and catheter removal. In my mind, I connected the term “incontinence” with what I’d heard about ladies suffering after childbirth and, reasonably frequently, in later life. That is, I had been thinking, “a leak when I sneeze, cough, laugh, etc.” I now know that such symptoms are referred to as stress incontinence.
The “trial without catheter” day at the hospital fixed that impression but quickly. Once upright, I was leaking, be it taking a step or just standing there. Having anything remaining in my bladder on the way to the facilities seemed to be merely a function of original content, rate of leaking, distance to said facilities and speed of walking with various muscles clenched. I’ll leave it to the reader to come up with a mathematical formula. I couldn’t even stop my leak to get on the facilities. This, I believe, is what is called total incontinence due to loss of sphincter control. Fortunately things were OK sitting down. I suspect this was simply due to the physical arrangement of my relevant anatomical components – bladder below urethra would be my guess. After saturating no less than three large pads during my seven hours at the hospital, this is how Carol, bless her, drove me home.
At home, I could do little more than sit as still as possible moving only when necessary to leak my way the 30ft or so to our loo. Due to the leaking as I prepared to use the loo, I was fretting about carpets, etc. We started improvising pedestal mats as some form of protection. A little earlier in the year we’d taken delivery of two new leather sofas which Mr. Leaky was now having to spend all his time sitting on. Just in case, I covered my chosen seat with a towel.
Eventually the clock ticked round to bedtime. After our stressful day, it didn’t have to tick very far, either. I’d elected to use our second bedroom to avoid disturbing poor Carol with who-knew-what lying ahead. Still wearing underwear to hold my pad in place, I climbed nervously into bed. I read a while but, actually, as I lay there, I realized I was scared almost witless of going to sleep. With all this leaking every time I stood up, what on earth was going to happen when I fell asleep? I don’t usually sleep on my back, though I’d had to in hospital for the three days following my operation courtesy of all the tubes pinning me down. Could I lie on my side safely? I tend to toss and turn a lot; could I turn over without leaking? Was I going to leak almost constantly and would my fresh pad last through the night?
Now I was convinced I’d be ruining the mattress. I was never going to sleep like this. My mind was racing trying to think of ways to protect the mattress. All I could come up with was a pack-away waterproof jacket designed for hiking. At about 1:00 AM, I went in search of my waterproof, unfolded it and spread it out over the mattress beneath the bottom sheet in what I estimated to be the most suitable position.
I felt a little more relaxed. The night was still an unknown quantity but I’d done all I could. Eventually I slept. I awoke at 4:00 AM in need of the loo. No accidents so far. I slept fitfully for another couple of hours when Carol-the-carer arrived with tea. I’d made it through the first night and so had the bed. Phew!
My mother, bless her too (she’s 92 going on 93), told us that she still had some pads specifically designed to go underneath sheets and protect mattresses in such situations. These dated from 43 years ago when she was looking after her own mother in her final year. It’s amazing what people hoard in their severely restricted living space. Nonetheless, I was very glad to put them to good use while I was getting accustomed to my latest medical difficulty.
One mattress protector went under my towel on the leather sofa, too. 😉