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Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Caregiver's Christmas

Thursday was Christmas Day, and that morning, while other folks were gathering around the tree opening presents, my day started out as usual, with me leaping barefoot out of bed to catch the feeding pump before the pump alarm goes off, then, on my way, slipping and sliding in a pile of wet dog poop.

So I dashed to the kitchen to grab some paper towels, only to find that one of cats had left me a Christmas present on the counter -- a long, snaking tube of hairball puke.  Ho ho ho!

After cleaning up all that, and after disconnecting the feeding pump, flushing Bob's tube, giving Bob his morning meds, giving the dog his morning meds, feeding the cats and going for a long walk with the dog, I decided to treat myself to a frothy cup of cappuccino (the instant kind) and a couple of my mother's famous "ice box cookies" (great for dunking) that she sent in her annual Christmas care package and peruse the Sunday newspaper and, in that way, I prepared to spend a quiet, calm Christmas day watching sappy holiday specials on TV with Bob...

But alas, it was not meant to be, at least not yet. For not a half hour later, I hear a cry for "HELP!" from Bob's corner of the room.

And when I go to investigate, I find myself face-to-face with the mother-of-all-monsters and OMG, I nearly fainted straight away.  But let me back up a bit here --

Bob had been in the middle of his "morning powdering ritual". I must say, he developed this somewhat strange compulsion for baby powder since the stroke and has concocted a rather elaborate morning ritual which, on a good day, takes at least 15 minutes, but on a bad day, can take up to an hour or more.  This started after, in the early post-stroke days, Bob had trouble trying to one-handed sprinkle baby powder out of the bottle and his OT suggested I purchase an old fashion powder puff for him. So now he can powder himself one-handed using the puff and the powder jar and I can do other things whilst he completes his morning "toilet". And this is what Bob was doing when he called Help!

But I must back up again, to his Christmas morning meds, when he mentioned he was constipated and requested a laxative, which I dutifully gave to him.

Oh-kay. I think you'll begin to get the picture here, as when I arrived at Bob's bedside to find him butt naked (though still wearing socks), half powdered and sitting in the biggest pile of human feces I have ever laid eyes on. And I mean, this thing was HUGE! The size of an average well-fed, chocolate colored house cat.  And, I kid you not, it was ALIVE! I mean, the thing was moving, like some giant octopus, sending long tentacles of slurry sludge inching toward the edge of the bed pad.

And it was enough to make anyone faint, but of course, I couldn't faint, though I had the urge --- I pride myself in being able to efficiently handle catastrophes such as this, so I dashed back into the kitchen and grabbed my latex gloves, plastic garbage bag, roll of paper towels and set to work.

No small task, that. Because it was very wet and very sloppy and a bit like sludge and there was A LOT and my paper towels just disintegrated on contact. So I grabbed the next nearest thing, my Sunday paper, and pulled out the comics and tried to mop it up with that...

And I don't know what it was, perhaps the smell of newspaper combined with the smell of you-know-what combined with the creepy texture of the whole thing, but when I lifted the leaking newspaper up to plop it into the garbage bag, I lost it.

I tell you, cappuccino and ice box cookies taste much better going down, than coming up...

This took me by surprise (not that cappuccino and ice box cookies tasted better going down, but that I actually lost my cookies, quite literally.) You know, I pride myself in having developed an iron-clad stomach for this type of thing.  I mean, I was just bragging the other day to someone how this part of caregiving does not phase me one bit anymore, and, I have been known to be interrupted in the middle of dinner, put down my fork and knife, clean up a dirty Depends or whatnot and return, unrattled, to finish my meal...

Alas, my iron-clad stomach failed me, but at least I hit the garbage bag. And then I fled the room, to catch my breath.

It's moments like this, that one would like to flee not only the room, but the country as well. But I can't. Someone's got to confront the mess. And I'm afraid that I'm the only one here. (Someone should start an emergency poop clean-up service, I'll be the first customer!)

So I steal myself for a second attack on the mess. This time using a time proven method of "Whatever you do, DO NOT look at it!"

And, instead of trying to scoop the remaining poop, I decide to cover it. With the bed pad. Which, with averted eyes, I sort of carefully roll up and fold, enchilada style, around the whole shebang.  Then, quickly, I take the whole enchilada (so to speak) and run with it to the laundry room and deposit the sloppy mess, still folded, into the washing machine.  I turn on the HOT/HOT water and pour in a half gallon a bleach and some laundry soap, switch the Pre-Soak cycle on and pray.

An hour later, I check the washer and find that I've got an interesting brown soupy mess. But it looks like everything has dissolved to the point it should go down the drain. So I turn the wash cycle on.

And after the wash cycle, I find that now I have poop pellets sprayed all over the inside of the washer. But at least it's clean poop. And doesn't smell so bad. Another two laundry cycles, plus a wipe down with paper towels and life is back to normal.  Whatever normal is....

And Bob and I watch some sappy Christmas specials on TV. Which makes me think -- you know, where are the Christmas Specials for Caregivers? Something I can relate to? Really, most all these specials have the same old plot, you know the one, with the "scrooge" like character and a battle to do something like save the local animal shelter or Christmas parade or help Santa or what have you.  I think we need a Caregiver's Christmas, with a plot about a battle with a Scrooge called Christmas Constipation,  complete with Caregiver Carols sung by animated dancing Depends and singing suppositories. Something like:

On the twelfth day of Caregiving, my true love gave to me:

Twelve new prescriptions
Eleven diapers dripping
Ten tubes a leaking
Nine loads of laundry
Eight hours of mopping
Seven buckets of urine
Six bills for paying
Five clogg-ed peg tubes!!!
Four calls to the doctor
Three french tipped catheters
Two latex gloves
And a bowel movement in the middle of the bed!

Or maybe something like this sung by a choir of angels bearing gifts of laxatives and packages of Depends:

God rest ye harried caregiver,
let nothing you dismay!
Remember, constipation
can happen any day!
So arm yourself with laxatives
and do not go astray!

Tidings of comfort and Depends
Comfort and Depends
Ooooh, tidings of comfort and Depends!

And of course, the grande finale when the plucky Caregiver conquers the Scroogey Constipation and all the animated dancing Depends and singing suppositories enter, stage right, singing:

Joy to the World!
The Turd has come!!

Oh-kay, I think I've gone completely off my rocker, so I'll end here.


Mike Furr said...

Great songs! Good to have humor while your in the midst of a "shitty" day!

Anonymous said...

I just have no words for this post except to say you are more of a women than I could ever be and I LOVE your candor.


Joyce said...

I can soooo relate!! Love the songs. That thing about the washer happened to me one time too. Now rinse some of the stuff out in the toilet bowl. And use a disposable paper pad on laxative and suppository days. I really lucked out on Christmas. We made it to the commode on time.

Rebecca Dutton said...

I hope writing this post was therapeutic. Love your lyrics.

Anonymous said...

So glad you have a sense of humor after all of that s***. :) Having experienced that situation before (except loosing my cookies...though close a couple of times) I sure feel for you. As another wrote, I used the large disposable pads on those "special" days with good results. Dumped what I could into the toilet and sent the pad to the trash. I do hope you and Bob had a great Christmas together even with the lousy start. Loved the lyrics.

Hugs & prayers, Dan

Jenn said...

OMG!!!!!!!!!! I'm laughing, yes, yes, I am. Um, D, I believe you've just written the BEGINNING of "A Care Giver's Christmas Special". What lovely DETAIL. I, the reader, have been catapulted smack dab in the CENTER of the action! 'Oh Holy Crap' (another holiday song to add) 'the slurry slowly spreads' - yes, your eloquent wording shines. lol P.S. HOLD YOUR BREATH on clean up! Ho ho ho *GAK*

J.L. Murphey said...

OMG! I can so relate to this one! Loved the lyrics too. Will be singing this long after Christmas. Did you read my Thursday Tumbles and Stumbles (Stop Helping Me) about my adventures in diaper changes? I still use disposables. If I had to wash them too...I shudder at the thought.

Anonymous said...

I always knew you were a strong woman. Love you songs, they were great and gave me a chuckle. You should put them in your new book, live as a caregiver. I am with Joyce, you should use disposable bed pads, just throw them out. But after all that I hope you did end up having a Great Christmas and a Happy New Year.