Under the Knife – Part 5


Getting out of bed was much more difficult than I expected.

The pain of sitting up was one thing. I was able to help myself up to the side of the bed by pulling at the top of the bed railings, sitting the back of the bed as high up as it would go, and then using my arms to push myself up into a seated position. That only took about a minute to accomplish.

Standing was the easy part, although I did get a little head rush when I first stood up. Maybe I should give myself a fluid bolus? Hmmm. Urine in the Foley catheter bag is light yellow. I’m well hydrated. We’ll hold off on that one.

Trying to walk was a different story. No, I hadn’t forgotten how to do so. The problem was organizing all of the lines that were attached to my body. Like a marionette, when the IV line was stuck on the edge of the bed and became taught, my arm pulled backwards. I took a couple of steps and the Foley catheter gave me a gentle tug which stopped me in my tracks. There goes that Bic lighter sensation again.

So standing up to walk out of the room involved first making sure that all of the IV lines were free of obstruction. I looped them on top of the rolling IV pole to keep them out of the way. Once the IV lines were secured, then the Foley bag was hung on a hook on the bottom of the rolling IV pole. I looped the drainage tube once over the hook as well so I didn’t step on it while walking. Ooooh. I shuddered just thinking about that. Stepping on a shoelace has nothing on stepping on your Foley catheter.

Then I had to make sure that my gowns were properly positioned. If you only have one gown, either way you wear it, someone is getting an eyefull. Opening to the front is wrong position – especially for male patients with Foley cathethers. Not something most people want to look at. Opening to the back is also not a sight to behold, either. So the way to fix the problem is to wear one gown forward and another gown over it facing backward.
Last, but not least, you have to wear the non-slip booties. Not that I am worried about slipping quite as much, but I just have to wonder how often they disinfect the hallways in the hospitals. That’s stuff I just don’t want on my feet. So the booties go on when I step out of bed and off when I get back into bed.

With a twist and a groan, we were up and out the door. I walking baby steps, but walking nevertheless. Walking so slow was a good and bad thing. I had to walk slow because if my stride was too long, the Foley catheter started pulling again. If you can’t guess by now, it is my belief that Foley catheters are evil inventions. But walking slow also allowed me to observe what was going on around me. That was kind of fascinating from a medical perspective.

We turned left out of the door. In front of us was a long hallway. People were bustling from side to side of the hallway, in and out of rooms. There were many portable computers strewn randomly about – each with a little red flag sticking up in the air so staff could tell where they were. Little alcoves in front of the doors to rooms created hiding spots for staff to do their work.

Walking up behind staff members in the hallway allowed us to temporarily see little snippets of what they were doing on the computers. One nurse clicked off of Facebook and back onto the charting system as she heard my feet shuffling and the wheels of the portable IV pole rolling up behind her. I smiled at her. She smiled at me and wished me a good afternoon. Don’t worry, we’re on the same team. I do the same thing during down time.
The first couple of alcoves led to rooms with closed doors. Dang it. Couldn’t see what the patient in the room next to me looked like. The next patient room was open. I could see the patient’s feet at the bottom of the bed and a visitor – presumably her husband – hunched over the tray table and pecking away at a notebook computer. Another room had a woman in a hospital gown sitting in a chair under the television set. She was wearing a hijab. The television was off and she was just staring into space. As I shuffled by, I wondered if any steps were taken to protect her modesty during surgery. Another room showed a man sitting at the side of a bed laying over the patient’s feet and apparently sleeping. Then came the nursing station. Several of the nurses were sitting at a table writing in charts. One looked like she was texting on her phone. In the middle of the table was an open bag of Doritos and a bouquet of flowers. Other staff members were typing on computers along the walls. My nurse looked up, saw me, and gave me a “thumbs up” sign and a smile. I pretended like I was running. She smiled again.

The room after the nurse’s station was hard to pass by. As we approached it, we could hear a mother pleading with a patient. “Honey, please, you have to eat something.” Like cars passing an accident scene, Mrs. WhiteCoat and I simultaneously slowed down our already slow pace. A well-dressed woman was standing over the patient’s bed. She had her back to us. The patient was laying in bed and had her back to the woman. There was a bandana on her head, but wisps of brown hair jutted out from underneath the edges. The bedsheets covered her to her mid chest. One arm laying on top of the bed sheet was devoid of visible muscle.
“What if I go out and get you something from a restaurant?”
No response from the patient.
The patient looked like she weighed 90 pounds. Hanging on an IV pole next to her was a large bag of yellow fluid and another bag of milky-colored fluid which appeared to be TPN.

We walked down the rest of the hallway in silence after that. We got to the end of the hall, hung a left, and slowly walked to the elevator. We stood at the window and looked out toward the parking ramp.

“What do you think was wrong with her?” Mrs. WhiteCoat asked me.
“I’m not sure. Cancer probably. Why else would she be on a surgical floor?”
“That’s what I was thinking, too.”
“But why the TPN? She’s been here a while if she’s on TPN.”
“Who knows? Maybe she’s sick from the chemotherapy.”
“For that long? Besides, she still had her hair.”
“Not all cancer patients lose their hair, honey.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

I was waiting for a crack about my bald spot, but it never came. For the moment, we were both too absorbed in what was going on with the patient in Room 1408.

We turned around to go back and I noticed someone staring at me. On the wall across from the elevators was the glass-enclosed painting of an elderly man in a tuxedo wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses. I walked closer to see who he was. Walter Higgenbotham. Successful businessman. Donated oodles of money to help construct this wing of the hospital. Thanks, Walter.

We turned around and started on our return trip to the room. We passed another man in the same get-up as I was wearing, pushing a rolling IV pole as his wife walked slowly beside him.

He grinned. “Wanna race?”
“You’ll have to give me a head start,” I said while nodding my head at my Foley catheter bag, “I have a bit of a handicap.”
“Ouch. Got mine out yesterday. You do some more training. I’ll take a rain check.”
“You better practice up. I’m pretty nimble.” I said over my shoulder.
“We’ll see.”

Our pace picked up as we got closer to Room 1408. My Foley catheter was irritating the heck out of me. Both of us wanted to get another glimpse of what was going on in the room. By the time we reached that point, the door to the room had been shut.

I walked down the rest of the hall and turned into my room to find fresh sheets on the bed.

My nurse is so cool.

Now I just have to figure out how to untangle myself to get back into bed.


Here are links to the other parts in case you get lost:
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6


  1. If you think that it stinks to tug on your Foley, you ought to try having one installed while you are still awake and unmedicated.

    That will make you completely ignore your broken ribs.

  2. This is more of the story while I was in the hospital. Still POD 1.
    Just haven’t had time to type things up lately.
    We’ll get to why the Foley was in in the next installment, but Ed is on the right track.

    • Why’d the story jump from Parts 1&2 in the magazine to Part 5? Where are Parts 3&4, please?
      From the Foley Fans Forever club… after my TURP, I thought walking was good, right? I walked around the floor so many times that I abraided my urethra and wound up with a gift bag of hematuria! The urologist roundly scolded me (“I said 3 times around, not 10 times. “), and greased up my cath with Boric Acid ointment for a day or two. I learned my lesson.

      TMI? I hope you’re laughing at my expense.

  3. My guess for 1408 is anorexia nervosa. They tend to be girls/women from affluent families… But, then, my training as a Ped biases me towards that.

    Unless, of course, you are staying the the Dolphin Hotel…

  4. Great writing! I felt like I was there …seeing everything while walking along with you ..even at the same pace and I was also trying to see into the room through your eyes.

    “Like a marionette” 🙂

    “Higgenbotham” – I was wondering if the name is real or some funny name you made up.

    What is the Dolphin Hotel?

  5. As usual, a story masterfully told. I am teetering on the edge of my chair eagerly awaiting the next installment. I can’t say I’ve ever had a Foley, but your descriptions have me cringing!

  6. It does make you think, as you tour the halls from the patient’s perspective. Those darn gowns just make you feel so vulnerable. (At least they do to me.)

    Great descriptions as you write. We can picture what you where experiencing.

  7. Soronel Haetir on

    I say wear it open in the front, when else will you have a legitimate reason to flash the entire world?

  8. Yowser! Granted, I’m speaking from the other gender’s point of view, but I cannot imagine walking at any speed with a Foley in (yup, I’ve been there).

    I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  9. Seaspray, Higgenbotham is actually real. If it’s the same medical facility that I’m thinking of, they plastered his name in a few places around campus.

  10. WhiteCoat, you’re an amazing writer… You have a second career to fall back on… I am sitting here thinking when is the next installment…

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