Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stoma Chronicles

I write this from somewhere over the Atlantic.  This story is about my airport experience prior to boarding.

A brief background is that I have a colostomy after having my rectum removed to get rid of cancer. A colostomy is essentially a hole(stoma) in the abdomen as an outlet for the large intestine.  There is no longer a sphincter muscle so elimination happens freely.  Rather than wear the more traditional bag, I choose to use a procedure known as irrigation, which means I give myself a colonic each day.  I need an hour in a bathroom, two liters of warm water, and some basic equipment which is a sleeve type contraption for elimination and what looks like a drip you might see attached to someone in a hospital bed, which has a cone at the end of it. In order for this process to work one must do it at roughly the same time each day.  Consistency and routine is critical.  I choose to do it as soon as I wake up.

Today, the flight was early so I decided it was time to up my game and irrigate in an airport bathroom...far away from the safety of a hotel or my home which is all I have know for the year that I've been doing it.

So I arrived with plenty of time, checked a bag and went to a bathroom “this side of security”.  The warm water was already in a flask which I had done at home. I decanted the precious water into the “drip”. And then started to prepare the rest of process in this stall with my wheeled suitcase opened up on the floor.  The hook on the door had been ripped off, not optimal, but not terrible I'll just hold the bag of water over my head while I hold the cone in the hole in my belly.  Then I looked down and saw the bottom of the suitcase full of water!

“Just breathe” I remember saying to myself. 

At this point I wasn't sure where the water is from.  I'm wondering if the flask had leaked. Couldn't have.  And then I saw..  The drip contraption has a valve which I left on.  As I breathed and took stock( all within seconds), the evaluation was: bag with a sump of water, clothes wet, laptop wet, but the big disaster, is the precious water...gone. The tap in the men's room was Lukewarm to cold which I had tested before. (It's not a great idea to flush cold water into the body, I mean it's 98 degrees in there) Ok, pull out all the clothes, pour out the water, pack up and put all the irrigation equipment back in the bag.  Plan B...which was to be determined as I went through security.

Right to Starbucks.  “A small flat white, and a Venti hot water please”. $4.50….must not be charging me for the water I thought.  So socially considerate, I must remember that in my analysis for the social and environmental fund I manage.  Then she grabs a small cup, so I gently reminded her it was a Venti as I pointed to the big fellow.  “Sorry” she said, “We are only allowed to give hot water in small cups, and there are cameras watching for inventory.” I offered to pay for the precious water. “Paying is not an option, there is not a button”, she said pointing to the register.  I finally used my strong negotiating skills to get a Grande, or she saw the desperation in my eyes. Better than a stick in one of those eyes I suppose.

Off to a new bathroom, with stronger resolve, an amended plan, but a lot less time. And just for the record stress slows down the digestion system (in my very humble opinion, it's because the result tensing slows down peristalsis). As I sat there and laughed at the absurdity of life, I texted the story to my sister who seems to be quite interested in the stoma chronicles. I walked out of the bathroom just as the final boarding call sounded and glided seamlessly into my seat.  Now it's time to inhale the abundance of good movies that British Airways has to offer.

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