In my last post I stated that there are at least 26 reasons why having a shower in hospital is such an effort. I’m sure some of you have been tossing and turning, desperate for enlightenment on this topic. Wonder no more.
1. You’re not feeling great.
2. It’s a communal shower and it always feels dirty, even if the cleaners have just swung by.
3. There are loose hairs plastered to the wall and floor. That are not yours.
4. Sometimes there is a stray and bloodied bandaid.
5. Or a used wash cloth.
6. Perhaps a pair of dropped undies.
7. The water pressure is woeful.
8. The water is either scalding or freezing.
9. There is a weird air pressure thing going on so there is an inexplicable draft in the small and enclosed room. You get hypothermia the exact moment you step out of the burning trickle of water.
10. Your shower is accompanied by the unearthly screeching of the water pipes.
11. The shower rose is of the handheld variety. It is supposed to attach to the wall so one can shower standing upright if ambulant. The single screw, the lynchpin of the upright mounting of the shower head, is never up to the challenge. The shower head hangs limply downwards, facing into the wall, and dribbling water down the tiles.
12. There’s hardly any room in the stall because you have a drip pole tethered to you via very short tubing.
13. You may have an extended entourage: oxygen tubing and/or chest drain tube(s) and container(s). The space grows even smaller and you are in constant danger of becoming wholly tangled within the tubing, utterly unable to free yourself.
14. You may have a carer to squeeze into the room with you. The space becomes claustrophobically small. It is highly possible that you and your carer may need to be freed from the stall and the tubes with liberal use of the jaws of life.
15. Door locks mean nothing to your elderly room mates. They shower with the door unlocked, and sometimes, if your eyes are very unlucky, with the door open. When you lock the door you can hear them trying to open the door and get into the shower with you. Mercifully, after a few minutes, they completely forget why they are banging on the shower door, or why they got out of bed at all.
16. You need to keep your arm or part of your torso out of the water so your IV access doesn’t get wet. Chest drain site(s) might also need to be quarantined from moisture which adds an extra element of difficulty.
17. Washing your hair is super tricky if you have an IV line in your arm. One arm does all the work, the other arm sticks out of the water in the Safe Zone. Both arms get sore.
18. Do not even let me start upon the complexities of shaving arm pits or legs.
19. You need to thread your clothes along the IV line one item at a time to get undressed. And then you need to reverse the process to get dressed. In a word: tedious.
20. Your machine alarms several times because you have upset it whilst threading your clothes back and forth.
21. Your machine alarms again because it is now confused and mistakenly thinks there are air bubbles in the line. You try to fix the non-existent air bubble problem. You buzz the nurse who tries to fix the non-existent air bubble problem. They call for a senior nurse who tries to fix the non-existent air bubble problem. Eventually the machine is given enough TLC that the non-existent air bubble problem is magically resolved.
22. Your machine alarms again because in all of the chaos of the non-existent-air-bubble-problem-fixing someone has left the tubing clamped downstream.
23. Your machine alarms again because it is also accidentally clamped upstream.
24. Your machine alarms again for no discernible reason. Just because.
25. The towels are smallish and scratchy. You require at least three to get the job done.
26. Sometimes you’ve been waiting around all day for a doctor to arrive. When it becomes patently clear that your little experiment entitled “How long you can last without showering and remain socially acceptable” has come to a sooner than expected end, you rush into the shower stall. The very moment you have just: threaded your clothes off, squeezed past your machine into the shower, fiddled around with the taps so the water flow is maximised and it is not too hot or too cold but just right, have shampoo in your hair and found the perfect place to rest your arm whilst dangling it out of the shower – the doctor will knock on the door and ask you to come out with much haste because they are very busy and important and must see you right now.
And because it’s Christmas, here’s a bonus reason. You’re welcome.
27. On other occasions you have awoken early to try to beat your room mates to the shower. You have collected your toiletries, clothes and towels, and have them precariously balanced on your free arm when a blood collector arrives. To stab you multiple times. By the time you have given the phlebotomist some target practice and your veins have consented to parting with a few drops of blood, one of your room mates has beaten you into the shower. You grit your teeth. They have left the door open. To the accompaniment of the acapella water pipes, you witness them strewing their hair, bandaids, wash cloths and undies around the shower stall for your viewing pleasure.
NB: We go to a very capable hospital in Sydney, Australia. In fact, it is a centre of excellence for CF care. Like all CF centres in Australia it is publicly funded (ie: chronically strapped for cash). Suffice to say they have not renovated our part of the hospital in approximately 2.5 billion years which explains the dreadful bathroom facilities. Also, due to a shortage of the much coveted single rooms, we must share our rooms with aged ex-smokers, or aged still-smokers who trundle downstairs with their oxygen tanks for a nicotine hit inhaled immediately adjacent to a “No Smoking” sign. Whilst these room mates do not fill our hearts with boundless joy and empathy, it does explain the communal shower situation.