Some old jokes
First up, there’s the one about the tourist on safari being told what to do when hunting tiger. First, his guide explains, you fire your gun.
Then, if that fails, you use your gun as a club and whack him on the nose.
Finally, if all else fails, pick up some shit from behind you, throw it in the tiger’s face – and run!
“What shit?”, asks the tourist.
Oh. There’ll be some. There’ll be some.
Or then there’s the Admiral Nelson joke. Sailing around the med, his midshipman runs up to him and shouts: sir, the enemy are at hand and they outnumber us 3 to one. Fear not, replies Nelsopn: “we shall prevail. But bring me my red shirt so the men will not see when i am wounded and bleeding.”
Five minutes later, midshipman returns: sir, the enemy are re-inforced and outnumber us ten to one.
Nelson: “bring me my brown trousers….”
The theory of noble pain
I’d make a good vicar. Because from such obscure stuff, i am going to make a rather more serious point: which is that the boundary between noble and courageous and (literally) shit scared – or just shit – is a lot more porous than we tend to allow.
I push away the “aren’t you brave, Jane” commentary, because it embarrasses me. But maybe i deserve it a little now because where i am is bought with pain AND loss of dignity. As i said before somewhere: pain legitimises nothing. Just hurting doesn’t make you righter… better… but it may allow you some leeway when it comes to being heard.
Equally, though, we should maybe recognise that it ain’t all nobility. Women, on average, go through a LOT of pain in childbirth. I say on average, because some just fly through it, whilst others are reduced to sobbing, shaken wrecks. There’s pain. There’s courage. And there’s a lot of blood and mess and bodily fluid.
A bit like my own perspective: some trans women, i suspect, remove the pack, insert the dilator and are right as rain two minutes later. Others may have experiences not dissimilar to my own. We are all different.
A surfeit of bodily fluids
So, lets put the last few days in perspective. On sunday, alongside the wonderful pack removal, i was very aware i needed to poo. Even six days of low res diet does not leave you wholly empty and… i am very sensitive about bowel stuff. Basically, since having a hernia patched up last year i am acutely afraid of straining and my eating habits are geared to high fibre and going regularly.
The current sutures made me even more afraid.
I approached monday with trepidation. The hospital approached me with: two suppositories, a laxative and a mini-enema. A sort of scatalogical version of the twelve days of christmas.
That failed to move me.
So on monday morning they brought out the big guns (a mega-enema) which eventually did the trick.
What’s missing from that description is the pain. Hitherto, my no.1 lifetime pain event occurred when i ripped a cartilege. Basically, an ill-considered folding of my leg under me and i heard it tear. I stood. I fainted. That night, i was outside myself with pain. Then, too, the fact i could not move sufficiently to go to the loo added to the indignity of it all.
On monday i found a new no.1. Eventually, i shifted some seven days of highly impacted faeces through bruised bowel and past strained suture. I was screaming as i did so, quite oblivious to the fact that two nurses were supporting me over the toilet bowl.
Tuesday i’ve explained already: suffice to say that a combinqaqtion of haematoma and swollen urethra blocked off my bladder, whilst a rogue scanner failed to detect my bladder was full to about three times capacity. Tuesday’s indignity overtook monday’s on the pain stakes by a mile – and i’m not too proud to admit i was screaming the place down as they anaesthetised me pre-theatre.
Lastly (i’ll get back to my first public wheelchair outing and related events later), i managed to reprise monday’s toilet events last night as, yet again, i found myself impacted and desperate to go, whilst simultaneously terrified of bursting sutures and trying to work round the pain of using the loo once more.
Only a little screaming. On the other hand, the fact that it took me the best part of 50 minutes to “do my business”, involved the application of baby oil in a way i’d never imagined possible, and again left me physically shaking and drenched in sweat and oil and…just don’t ask!
In between, there is dilation, dilation, dilation: you can tell when i’ve been doing it, because i leave a trail of slime after me that’s part KY, part iodine and part blood.
If bravery is about little more than pushing through unavoidable pain, i’m brave. I’m also aware now how it feels to use up the last vestiges of your dignity in your process.
Nurses – the real heroes
And, one last thought: one of the most brilliant things about the nurses is not that they helped me through it, but that they did so in a way that allowed me to look them in the eye after. We all knew what i’d done: where i’d been; but they just carried on and helped me to be me.
Which, in my eyes, makes them the real heroes in all this.