Friday, May 2, 2014

An elderly man was given a prep for a test in the morning. His bowels had to be empty for the colonoscopy. The prep was started on the evening shift with limited results, but things changed for the night shift. Oh boy, did they change. The old man rang out, but before we could respond, his bowels had already emptied. Everything looked normal until we pulled back the top sheet and blanket.
The smell was horrific and I have never, ever seen the sight that awaited us as we uncovered him. This man was lying in the middle of an expansive pool of butterscotch colored bowel movement. The pool wasn’t Olympic in size, but it was quite deep. It covered the bed surface from the middle of his back, pooling along both of his sides and thighs, and ended up forming a puddle between his legs. The depth reached half way up his sides of his abdomen and thighs. We looked at each other in utter disbelief. How could one thin man hold so much feces? How could we clean him without getting the mess all over ourselves and on the floor?
We finally rolled him to one side of the bed and allowing the pudding consistency feces to flow into the depression where he had been laying, then folding the bed pads and sheets over to temporarily cover and trap the bowel movement. We covered the bowel movement and sheet with clean bed pads and rolled him back onto the clean pads. There was no use trying to clean him until we got the entire mess off the bed. Only when it had been removed, could we think of beginning to clean the man.
Lining up garbage cans, we pulled the soiled sheets to the edge of the bed and allowed the bowel movement and the blue pads to slide into the waste baskets lined with several layers of plastic bags. After several changes of disposable bed pads, we could clean the mattress. The worst of the mess was now removed and we could tackle cleaning the man who was on more dry, disposable pads. It wasn’t long until he was clean, smelling fresh, and settled in for the night.
I can’t imagine what the housekeepers thought when they collected the heavy garbage bags in the morning. I do know that some of the nurses who helped to clean the man said that they would never eat butterscotch pudding again. Me, I never liked butterscotch.

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