Indoor Plumbing, the great equalizer
Excerpt from Gingers & Wry, by Dwayne R. James, 2012
Let me begin this chapter by gently reminding you that high fiber diets should always be accompanied by a healthy intake of water.
If not, you will likely get severely backed up.
This is in fact exactly what happened to me in the Spring of 2012, not long after we had experienced the identical problem with the plumbing in our house. Unfortunately for me, the solution for the former was not the same for the latter (although I did, for a fleeting moment, consider it).
And, so it was that one day, without going into too much detail, I found myself, um... let’s just say, unable to “perform”. I can tell you that the need was definitely there, in fact it was a rather urgent need, it was just that nothing was moving.
I could feel it amassing. But it just wasn’t going anywhere. Not on its own anyhow.
After several hours of trying, I soberly considered my options. I had never felt anything like this before, and I was concerned. I knew that it could be something innocuous, but I also knew that it had the potential to be something quite serious, and something that could escalate in severity in a very short period of time.
Like any responsible adult, I did a quick search using my go-to resource for alarming answers to health-related questions (the internet) which of course just caused me to freak the hell out.
I immediately considered a number of D.I.Y. solutions to break up the blockage (that I certainly will not go into detail about here), but was pretty sure that, if I actually implemented any of them, I seriously risked becoming some kind of internet meme.
Luckily, my mother was coming over for a visit later that day, so I decided that I had no choice but to impose on her to watch Cedric and Nigel so that I could go to the hospital.
No, I really didn’t want to go the ER, but resolved myself to the fact that it was unavoidable. And besides, it wasn’t all that bad. Just a few days earlier, I’d been up there with Nigel, and we were in and out within an hour and a half.
Of course, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but health care professionals take the delicate health of young toddlers a lot more seriously than that of middle-aged men who are constipated. In fact, I was about to discover just how hard it was to get anybody to take this problem seriously.
My mother arrived in short order and I met her at the door, trying to be as calm as I could when I told her, “Mom, I have to go up to the hospital.”
“What! Why?” she asked concerned.
She blinked a few times, and slowly added, “I see.”
“Severely constipated,” I added by way of qualification.
This time there was no reaction at all, so I simply stopped trying. I was pretty sure that it didn’t matter how good a thesaurus I used, I just wasn’t going to be able to truly convince her of the urgency of the situation with words.
“Just give me your car keys Mom. This is an emergency.”
Driving in that delicate condition was an experience unto itself. It felt like I was sitting on a large grapefruit the whole time, and shifting my weight to operate the brake and gas pedals only exacerbated the discomfort. I arrived at the hospital in due course, got a parking spot as close as I could to the ER entrance, and resolutely waddled in.
There wasn’t much of a line thankfully, and within about twenty minutes, I was perched uncomfortably on the edge of the seat in the receiving area telling the ER triage nurse the nature of my emergency.
“There is a small planetoid with the consistency of plasticine taking up residence on the far side of my sphincter,” I told her matter-of-factly, “and it’s not coming out on its own.”
The nurse stopped typing and looked at me briefly, likely to gauge whether or not I was being serious.
“Uh huh,” she finally said before going back to her typing.
We sat in silence for a moment or two.
Had I been clear enough? Perhaps not, so helpfully, I decided to add, “In fact, it’s only got one way to go, and it’s not back the way it came.”
This didn’t get a verbal response at all, although she did stop typing again for a moment.
I provided a few more details, had my vitals measured and was finally told to follow the yellow line on the floor into the back area.
Even as I waddled uncomfortably along the yellow line, I noted that the coloured lines that they were now using were a vast improvement over the red footprints that they used to have in the old hospital. To me, they always seemed a little too much like bloody footprints, something I really didn’t want to see in the ER department.
The yellow line ended in an alcove beside a nurse’s station where I found a small waiting area with a few chairs and a window high up on the wall. There were a few people there already, and I immediately began to size them up in order to gauge how long I was going to be there.
As I was waiting, trying to avoid eye contact with the other people in the room (I really didn’t want to talk about what my ailment was), I happened to look up on the walls, and see some framed photographs. This reminded me of something that I’d completely forgotten about.
A short while back, a woman that I paddled with and who worked at the hospital, had asked if I had wanted to donate one of my photographs for a campaign that they were having to beautify the ER department.
I had happily agreed to donate something, but had never actually been to the department since then to see it up on the wall. This was my chance, but as I attempted to get up off my seat, I was quickly reminded that now would not be the best time to be wandering around the ER department.
Instead, I directed the most miserable, sympathetic pouts possible in the direction of the nurse’s station, but it didn’t seem to be greasing any of the wheels to get things moving any faster, externally or internally.
It would have worked for one of the boys.
As an hour passed by, it was starting to feel like it had when Ellie and I were waiting in the birthing suite for her labour to progress. Ironically though, in this case, it was me that was expecting.
Eventually, I couldn’t even sit down. The blockage had proliferated to the point, where I couldn’t urinate anymore either, and suddenly I was dealing with two separate pressure fronts building up inside of me. I’ve seen on weather forecast maps what happens when two competing pressure fronts meet.
This was not going to be pretty.
After what seemed like a prototypical eternity, the nurse finally called my name, and I actually moaned out loud in response.
She ushered me down a long hall way, and I waddled after her as quickly as I could, excited that relief was finally in sight.
I was put in a room with an adjoining stainless steel bathroom that was basically a giant shower stall with a toilet.
I was beginning to see the direction in which this endeavour was headed, and it wasn’t giving me the warm fuzzies. I looked at the nurse as she sized me up in preparation for what was to come, and I realized that the feeling was mutual.
The nurse left with a promise that the Doctor would be along shortly.
I familiarized myself with every square inch of that tiny room over the next hour, and can honestly tell you that not a single iota of it was in the least comfortable for a man in my delicate condition.
I was beside myself with agony by now, so I followed my instincts, went into the glorified shower stall, and sat down.
Then¬—without going into too much detail (as if that’s possible now)—the whole thing resolved itself, let’s say, naturally.
And by naturally, I mean excruciatingly painfully.
Once it started, it happened with the primal force of a freight train that simply could not be denied. In fact, it kind of felt as big as one too, and it was being wildly driven by a locomotive that even Superman would have had a difficult time contending with.
It was painful.
In fact, it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but it was equal parts relief because—even as it was happening—I knew it would shortly be over, no matter that it seemed to be dragging on for a preternaturally long time.
I think I screamed, but I’m not sure, although I did get some awfully odd looks in the hallway afterwards.
To liken it to childbirth, is most definitely an insult to any woman who has ever given birth, but it is perhaps an inevitable comparison.
Perhaps this was the universe’s way of punishing me ironically. Twice I had selfishly managed to avoid having to watch my wife give birth naturally, so now I was apparently being punished by having to experience it myself.
Yet, as I stood there unsteadily afterwards, gazing in wonder at the monstrosity that my bowels had wrought, I inexplicably felt something that I’m sure every mother has experienced: pride.
Yes I know it seems odd, but I was proud of the fence post I’d just birthed. I loved it as only a mother could.
This has got to be some kind of record, I thought to myself as I stood there, leaning wearily against the door jamb. The monster in the toilet was so long that, even curled, it towered obscenely—and more than a little imperiously—out over the water. It was like an iceberg, and I knew first hand that the majority of its mass was out of sight and underwater.
Just the other day, I had tried to reassure Nigel that monsters didn’t come out of toilets. Apparently I was going to have to modify that belief slightly now that I knew that they definitely went into toilets.
Immediately, I chastised myself for not having a camera but really, what would have been the point? It’s not like I could have ever shown the picture to anyone anyhow, and I’m pretty sure that Guinness doesn’t have a category for “World’s Biggest Shit”.
Afterwards, I sauntered over to the nurse because, well, I could finally saunter again. I was wearing what could only be described as a “shit-birthing” grin. She could see by the look on my face, and the way that I was walking, that my problem had resolved itself on its own.
I leaned smugly on the counter. “Is that what it’s like to give birth?” I asked. “Because, if it is, I’ve got a newfound respect for women.”
The nurse still hadn’t said anything. She just simply looked at her watch and slowly replied, “Nope. You didn’t suffer for nearly long enough.”
As it turns out, she was relieved, because they hadn’t quite figured out how they were going to deal with me anyhow.
I apologized for what I had done to their toilet, and she didn’t seem to appreciate the fact that the baseball bat I’d just laid for them wasn’t going to be circling the drain on its own. It was going to need some kind of encouragement. I even offered to do it myself.
In retrospect, I really should have taken her to the room, and shown it to her, because she simply waved me off, and told me not to worry about it.
So, somewhere, there’s an orderly still cursing my memory for the hell I put him through, and for making him see something he’ll never—ever—be able to unsee.
In my mind, I can see the nurse instructing him to clean it up. Then I imagine the poor guy going into the washroom, grasping the enormity of the situation, and quickly returning to the nurse’s station to make sure that the patient who had left this behemoth behind had actually survived the process of eliminating it.
“No human could do that and live,” I imagined him saying, even as he gathered his co-workers and ushered them into the bathroom like a carnival barker. I hope, for his own sake, he charged admission. I would have paid good money to see it (In fact, once I saw how much I owed for parking, I’m of the opinion that I did pay good money to see it).
How he took care of it, I’ll never know, and perhaps I don’t want to.
I checked out but, before I left, I finally decided to look around for the photograph that I had donated, now that I could actually walk again.
It didn’t take long to find it. It was in fact just around the corner from where I had been waiting.
The photograph in question was a winter scene of a yellow portage sign on a tree that was covered in snow. I had taken it on a winter camping trip a number of years back.
Appropriately, considering what had just happened to me, the name I had given the picture was: Anticipation.