I was taking care of the sweetest little lady. She had Alzheimer’s disease. She didn’t know who I was, who her daughter was, what her own name was.
But she beamed delightedly at everyone she saw. “Well hello!” she would exclaim joyously. “How very nice to meet you! How very nice of you to stop by! What a pleasure! Tea?”
She had been admitted to the hospital with constipation which had now resolved, as evidenced by the copious liquid stool that she was freely passing. She certainly hadn’t needed that stool softener I’d given her earlier that morning, I thought regretfully. Drat.
That afternoon, glancing in as I passed her door, I saw her standing uncertainly in the middle of the room. Uneasy, sensing something was amiss, I entered her room and cautiously looked around.
And I saw her hands were covered with stool.
“Oh!” I exclaimed in dismay. “What happened?”
“I had to go to the bathroom,” she replied, simply and honestly. “I had to wipe.”
I grabbed the bath wipes. “But why didn’t you use toilet paper?” Stupid question, I know. The poor lady had Alzheimer’s disease.
She looked wonderingly at her dirty hands, then back at me with surprise and admiration. “Why,” she said radiantly, “I didn’t even think of it!”
And she beamed happily at the revelation. Toilet paper! How great is that?
I was scrubbing under her fingernails when she said with sudden urgency, “Oh! I have to go again!” I seized the bedside commode and quickly sat her down, listening to a stream of liquid stool gush into the commode.
Whew, that was a close one. We wouldn’t want a mess all over the floor. Her hands were bad enough.
She stood up and dutifully bent over so I could clean her bottom.
I was a good little nurse. I knew how to clean a patient. I was determined to diligently remove every last vestige of stool from her.
I stooped down and peered at her bottom, inspecting her closely. I lifted the bath wipe. There’s some stool, right there… I leaned in closer. Right there…
And she took that opportunity to emit one last forceful jet of liquid stool.
Tip to new nurses: Never ever place your face directly behind a patient’s bottom. Especially if that patient has diarrhea.
I’m grateful to report that the stool didn’t actually hit me between the eyes. But it did shoot right past my nose. And I was instantly, irrevocably wiser.
Let us now quietly withdraw and allow this slightly rattled and very sober nurse to continue her job. The infinitely important job of cleaning a patient.
With one’s face turned prudently aside.