“Mr. Rhymer, your heart monitor is setting off alarms all over this hospital. I need you to immediately stop doing what you’re doing and get back in bed.”
It’s four o’clock in the morning in the ICU and here I stand, straining, shaking, a plastic jug shoved up under my gown tempting a cardiac episode because I’m trying to pee-pee like a big boy.
It had been a long day. My wife and I had spent five hours in pre-op stuck on the tarmac waiting for take off. So when we finally got the go-ahead I was psyched, ready to go. I kissed my wife goodbye, told her not to worry and they wheeled me down the hall and through the surgical suites.
Teams of surgical nurses, orderlies and techs lined the walls, bitching, complaining, talking about their weekends. I waved. Said hi. They looked at me strangely, but said nothing. The dude pulling me down the hall stopped to have a conversation with a friend. “Yeah, let’s do that. I’ll call you on Satur…” He stopped and looked down at me. He looked confused. “What?” I said. Was there something in my teeth? Was I flashing the nurses? I looked around. Everybody else looked back and forth at each other. The guy finally said: “Why are you awake?”
From behind me I heard: “ Oh shit, I knew I forgot something.” A well-meaning young man ran up to me and injected something into my IV. As he finished up, he said “Whoops.” I passed out just as they wheeled me into the operating room.
The surgery was four and a half hours long and I woke up in ICU, which was the first of many surprises. My wife and kids came in to say Hi and I could tell by the look on their faces that it was bad. The kids only stayed a few minutes, at least I think so. The events of the first few hours are fuzzy. I made my wife take a picture so I could see what I looked like. No wonder the kids got the hell out of there. The surgery was way more extensive than we thought. It was bad. I looked bad. Texas Chainsaw bad. Well, not that bad. They finally kicked my wife out, I kissed her good bye, but my night had just begun.
You see, anesthesia shuts your body down and sometimes… bodily functions take a while to kick back in. Around two AM they handed me the jug. I had been taking in IV fluids for seven hours and nothing was going out. It was way past time to pee. How hard is that right? Well, even in the best of circumstances, it’s not easy to pee lying down. Just try doing it with a cute 26 year old nurse named “Apple” checking your blood pressure every five minutes. Two hours and an empty jug later, things were getting serious. The dreaded “catheter” was offered and summarily rejected with extreme prejudice.
I finally convinced young Apple if I could just stand up, I thought I could make this work and as an added bonus it would save her the horror of having to stick a tube up my “winkie-hole.” Suddenly, she thought standing was a fantastic idea. I stood, shoved the plastic jug under my gown. This would work, it had to work, right? It might have except that Apple decided this was the perfect opportunity to change my sheets.
So there I was, my junk shoved into a plastic jug, ass to the wind, flapping sheets behind me. I shut my eyes and tried to drown it all out. The ICU, the sheet changing Apple, the team of Nurses screaming at the Armenian woman in the next bed to stop biting them. I tried harder, I started to shake. I tried harder and shook even more… and it was at this moment that Nurse Mary, who had an uncanny resemblance to Kevin James, appeared with news of my pending cardiac arrest. Playtime was over. She held up the tube and told me to lie back down. This was happening whether I liked it or not.
For the record, I didn’t. I really didn’t. They must have run out of the usual materials, because I’m pretty sure they used some left over PVC pipe on me. I had to remind them that they were emptying my bladder, not irrigating my backyard. Nurse Mary held me down and went to work with extreme efficiency. It seemed to take forever. I filled up two bags, a plastic container and an empty Snapple bottle Apple found in the trash. But soon it was over and the PVC pipe was drug out of the room behind a tractor.
Ten hours after surgery, I finally collapsed and went to sleep. I had made it through the night, but it would be twenty-four hours before I found my nipple.