My Gothic Body: Stone, part 3 – Bag Life 1

Part one, part two.

TW: back tubes and bags attached

My mindset the night of February 7 was pretty good. There was little pain. I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep because the nurses would be checking in constantly. I got lucky and got a private room. I was disappointed the procedure didn’t work but, you know, things happen. I was bored but able to doze on and off and so made it through the night.

Nurse Manny, I liked. He attached some air compression leggings to my calfs that massaged my legs through the night. (These wrapped around each leg, from knee to foot. Each was attached to a machine that forced air into one, let it out and then forced air into another, alternating between legs to give each an air pressure squeeze. They are sold commercially as air compression leg massagers.) He helped me walk around the room when I couldn’t tolerate lying on my back any more and just generally had good vibes.

Nurse Mary was weird and alarming. She came across as way too hyper and happy. I immediately didn’t trust her. She was awkward interpersonally and out of nowhere wanted to shake my hand. It was weird.

She also broke the news to be that I’d be living with a nephrostomy bag until the next procedure. This was unexpected and a little hard to hear. I was not emotionally prepared.

My urologist, it turns out, is the cautious sort. Not every doctor in this situation would recommend living with a nephrostomy bag but given all the possible scenarios we might face moving forward, it was his preferred method of treatment.

A nephrostomy bag attaches to a nephrostomy tube. The nephrostomy tube is a tiny tube with one end in the kidney and the other end hanging out of the body. In my case, hanging out of my back. The bag attaches and fills with urine, fresh and direct from the kidney.

Nurse Mary was bossing around Nurse Cindy as she prepared to teach me how to care for the bandage that covered place where the nephrostomy tube entered my back, and how to care for my bag. Before she taught me these things she taught Nurse Cindy these things while also rattling off a long list of stuff Nurse Cindy needed to go fetch for me to take home.

I’m going to highlight this part of the conversation I overheard because it will be important later.

“What’s this?” Nurse Mary asked Nurse Cindy. They were looking at my back and I couldn’t tell what they were talking about. I was still wrapping my head around what it would mean to live with a bag attached to my body.

“I don’t know.”

“Did you put it on?”

“No. It was like that.”

“Well, take it off. It’s redundant. We don’t need it. See (and she fiddles with something I can’t see) you can just twist this instead.”

“OK.” Nurse Cindy leaves the room to retrieve all the bandages and stuff Nurse Mary directed her to collect for me to take home.

Nurse Mary looks at me slightly exasperated. “I was going to show her how to flush the tube,” and she shakes her head slightly, still grinning like a goon.

-Then you should have told her that instead of expecting her to read your mind, I thought.

Nurse Mary then explained to me how to detach the bag. There was a stopcock I’d turn to stop the flow of urine from my kidney to the bag. To flush the tube, I’d attach this special syringe I could screw onto the tube, and push in the pre-filled liquid into the tube, thereby clearing the tube. I might need to do this a couple of times a week. Then, I’d reverse — remove the syringe, attach the bag, and turn the stopcock so the fluid could flow.

She also showed me how to change the bandage, information I’d convey to J.

Eventually they determined everything was flowing the way it was supposed to. There was still a lot of blood in my urine (or, it seemed like a lot, but, as the emergency room nurse would tell me in a few days, blood is like food dye, it only takes a few drops to make everything reddish). The fluid in my bag was the color of a Jolly Rancher watermelon candy.

I got dressed in the gray sweats and hoodie I wore to the hospital, and carried out clear plastic bag full of syringes, gauze bandage packages, a urine collector/container (for unexplained reasons), my spirometer (a tube to breathe into to promote breathing and diminish the likelihood of pneumonia), and holding onto my nephrostomy bag. They loaded me into a wheelchair and escorted me to the waiting room where I waited for my prescriptions (oxycodone and stool softener) and for J to arrive to take me away.

to be continued…

One thought on “My Gothic Body: Stone, part 3 – Bag Life 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.