Monday, September 23, 2013

Catheter Ergo Sum

The following contains graphic descriptions of truly icky medical stuff. Reader discretion is advised. Elderly, pregnant women and passengers traveling with small children take note. 

The human body is a marvelous machine, an incredible number of complex systems and materials contained in one compact (usually), attractive (hopefully) package. But it has a couple of flaws. One is that we eat and breathe through the same opening, which leads to the risk of choking. On the other hand, this also creates the possibility of burping, so we shouldn’t be too quick to judge.

Another flaw is that we use the some of the same organs for waste elimination and for sex. While this does allow us to economize on underpants, it has some serious drawbacks. In particular, men have an organ called the prostate which is employed by the sex department, but whose office is over in the waste elimination area.

Once in a while, the prostate develops cancer and has to be removed. When this happens, it’s necessary to re-attach the bladder (Latin: uesicam) to the urethra (Latin: urethra), and this takes time to heal. (Healing is another one of those amazing human body things. Imagine the contractor putting an addition on your house saying: “Ok, the work’s all done. Don’t worry about the siding. It’ll grow back.”)

While this healing is going on, to facilitate the function known in medical circles as peeing, a plastic tube called a catheter is inserted through the urethra to drain the bladder. This is every bit as much fun as it sounds.

Via the catheter, the bladder just empties itself whenever it damn pleases into a bag. There are day bags that can conveniently strap to your leg, but which need emptying every couple of hours. There are also night bags, which let you sleep through the night while being as comfortable and convenient as a ball and chain.

To change bags, simply undo the leg anchor, hold the current bag upright, pinch the catheter closed and disconnect the bag. While continuing to hold this bag upright, and still pinching the catheter shut, clean both the new bag connector and the catheter with alcohol wipes, attach the new bag to the leg anchor, and insert the connector into the end of the catheter. Then detach the old bag, still holding it upright, and empty. Then attach the new bag.

Careful calculation shows the entire process requires no more than 7.43 hands to complete.

While the catheter is a serious medical device, intended to address severe urinary problems, it does allow you to watch the entire Star Wars saga without a break.


Bill Costa said...

If you search for David Sedaris Stadium Pal you'll find an essay where David discusses the "Stadium Pal", an external catheter medical device being marketed as a convenience for watching sporting events.

"While it might make sense in a Hospital, it wasn't really very practical for day to day use. In an open air sporting arena a piping hot 32 ounce bag of urine might go unnoticed. But not so in a stuffy airplane."

Unknown said...

I've seen a video of Sedaris doing the Stadium Pal piece. Very funny! At least with the Stadium Pal, you can take it off when you get tired of it.