Like a soulless zombie, I stumbled in from work and collapsed onto the sofa. Catatonic, I stared at the wall in front of me, eyes focused somewhere a thousand yards ahead. My wife had seen this look before – she knew it all too well. Horrors of a traumatic shift catching up to prey on a weary mind. In bed, all thoughts of a peaceful slumber, snatched away. In its place, a tortuous and endless eternity of painful memories. My wife knew that something bad had happened so, she sat down carefully by my side and took my hand in hers.
“Oh my love, what’s happened? You can tell me”
My lip quivered as tears welled in my eyes. After a long pause I explained . . .
“I . . . I had to pick up a patient’s poo today!”
You see – blood, guts, vomit, snot, piss and bones will not affect me in any way. But poo . . . human poo **heaves**, oh god, I hate it! Can’t stand it. It is my bane, my Achilles heel, it is my Kryptonite. The last time I had to directly deal with someone’s poo was when I was a newbie paramedic and we attended a sweet little old lady who had accidentally defecated herself. I remember (probably because I was the newbie) being the one who had to wipe down her legs and wipe inside her bum with lots of tissue then finish by washing her down. Bless her, she was so apologetic and embarrassed – and of course we tried to make her feel better by saying that it really didn’t matter. But for weeks afterward I felt like I’d violated myself, like I’d crossed a line of innocence that really should never have been approached!
I explained my nightmare job to my wife . . .
It was a poor old man who had a history of falling out of bed and not being able to get himself up. I was called as he’d activated his alarm and there was no contact. When I arrived he was lying semi-naked on the floor between his bed and his commode. No injuries or any clinical problems, just simply needed help getting back to bed . . .
“What was you trying to do Fred*?”
“I was trying to go to toilet – for a poo”
“Do you need one now??!!”
Horror befell me with a sudden realisation of what might happen.
“I’m not sure. I don’t think so”
“Oh thank goodness!”
I gave a few attempts at getting Fred back up and into bed but the old man was a dead weight. I had no choice therefore, but to call Control and ask for some assistance – ie and extra set of hands.
Whilst I waited I took Fred’s duvet and wrapped him up in it to keep him warm and completed all my paperwork. Eventually, Control sent me an MRU Paramedic** and after a brief explanation we both agreed a method to help Fred up from the floor.
“Wait, did you say Fred needed a poo first?”
“I think he said no, hang on, Fred, do you still need a poo?”
Fred looked up from the warm bundle of duvet and smiled.
“No. I’m ok now”
The MRU and I both inwardly cheered. Result! This was going to be even simpler than I thought. I moved round to his feet end and started unravelling him.
“Right then Fred, you ready to be thrown back into bed then yeh? Come on then let’s . . .!”
As I pulled the duvet away, a beautiful pile of fresh Fred poo was deposited on the floor by his bum.
And at this point it should be noted that the MRU and I exchanged a nano-second glance, the result of which could be summed up by the following imaginary conversation . . .
Binder: You fancy clearing this up for me?
MRU: Fuck off!
Binder: Please!! I can’t do this!
MRU: Who do you think I am! Some fucking newbie!?? No chance! All yours!
MRU: You’re first on scene. You’re lead medic, you deal with it!! Loser!
I grabbed some toilet roll and unravelled the lot into a big pile so I could ‘scoop’ the poo up. I made no attempt in hiding my nausea and heaving. In fairness, the MRU did his part by holding an open clinical waste bag for me to throw it in.
Once done I took a few moments to rally my thoughts. Oh god I thought, I’m gonna have to wipe his bum too! The MRU was well ahead of me, and handed me a fresh toilet roll.
Shaking my head with horror and retching as I did, I moved in to “finish the job” . . .
Just then, the front door started to open . . . the MRU instinctively rushed forward to challenge whomever it was.
“Who is it!?”
“It’s the carer. Fred? Are you ok?”
A young woman entered and beamed warmly at Fred lying on the floor.
“Oh Fred. You’ve fallen out of your bed again! What are you like?”
The carer??!! THE CARER! Oh my! The timing was almost orgasmic! I jumped up from where I was and backed away to the kitchenette.
“Brilliant! Oh I’m so glad you’re here. Right. Fred has had a “little accident”, if you would be so kind and clean him up, we’ll do the hard work and get him back into bed”
The carer, bless her, didn’t even bat an eyelid in cleaning Fred and changing his clothes. This left the simple task of lifting him back into bed. And after making him comfortable, the MRU and I went to leave.
“Thanks for your help. I’m Binder by the way. What’s your name dude?” I asked the MRU offering my hand in a friendly handshake.
“Danny*. And thanks, but I know where that hand’s been so forgive me, but I won’t be shaking it!”
Danny gave me a side-ward smile – the type that suggested that I was “never ever going to pull that one over his eyes – not in a million years!” and left me to gather my kit up. (Well, nearly got him!)
After explaining it all to my wife (in a more self-obsessed traumatic way) I continued to stare the thousand yard stare of those who’ve seen “too much”.
My wife – more switched on than any MRU – sighed. That typical sigh she gives when her patience in something is pushed to its limit. She squeezed my hand . . . a little tighter than was comfortable I might add . . . then stood up and started getting ready for work.
“Well,” she said eventually, “the rubbish needs taking out. And if you could do the washing up that would be nice. See you”
Clearly, she just doesn’t get it!
*not their real names of course
**Motorcycle Response Unit