Debilitating Injury

The nurse came into my room and said, “Mr. Jones bathing is no small matter especially for someone like you with your current mobility issues.  Assisting our patients to maintain proper hygiene is a fundamental aspect of nursing care.  We need to reduce the spread of infections and we don’t want you getting a rash or some type of bed sores.  I am concerned with your comfort, safety, well-being and dignity and I understand how difficult it would be for you to bathe yourself, so it is time for your first sponge bath and during your prolonged stay here, this will become part of your daily routine.  Bed bathing is a personal and intrusive procedure and I will do my best to meet your intimate needs and eventually you will be able to schedule your bath times based on your own personal preferences.  I will use this wet sponge to cleanse all areas of your body and these washcloths to rinse you off and when you get stronger I can help you with an actual shower, as that would allow you to properly wash your hair.”  I was in a car accident two days ago where I broke my arm, my leg and ruptured my spleen, and I was still in a lot of pain even though they put me on meds.  I was told that it would take a month for me to recover from my accident and I was hooked up to a drip thingy and they inserted a catheter (specialized medical devices used to facilitate the release of fluids) through my urethra into my urinary bladder to assist with my urine release.  I told my nurse that she should do whatever she needs to do.

The nurse said, “Some nurses consider this to be a mundane task that they feel is unpleasant, repetitive and requires physical work, but giving you a sponge bath will allow me to better access your mobility, hygiene, dressing and your continence needs.  The time that we spend together with me giving you sponge baths will enhance the nurse patient relationship that I hope to form with you.  Communication between us will enable us to discuss any handle issues or concerns that you have regarding your personal care plan or treatment regimen.  If you don’t feel like talking that is fine and I will try to observe all of your non-verbal cues, such as grimacing or frowning, which may suggest that you are experiencing pain or discomfort.  I look forward to the sponge baths as they are a great opportunity for me to assess your physical and psychological state, possibly detecting potential anxieties and fears that you may have.  Your cooperation and meaningful conversation will enable me to provide a supportive dialogue so we can discuss any sensitive and difficult issues or anything else that may arise.”

I told my nurse that I hoped that nothing would rise up, but that I could not make any guarantees about any involuntary actions.  She smiled at me and said, “I am going to shut the door, close the blinds and pull the partition curtains closed around your bed for more privacy and then I will help you to sit up, as I need to undress you before I bathe you.  I understand that bath time can be awkward and embarrassing at first, but you should get used to this after a while.  I have seen it all before, so there is no need for you to try and cover up or hide anything from me.”  The nurse shut the door closed the blinds and then she pulled the curtains closed around my bed.  Then she put on gloves and she helped me to sit up and she asked me to try and slide over to the side of the bed so that she could place a waterproof mat on top of the bed sheets to keep the bed dry.  She removed my hospital gown and I laid naked on the bed for a moment till she pulled up the blanket to cover my groin and legs.  Then she helped me to slide back over toward the center of the bed and she started setting up all of her supplies, which included towels, wash basins (one for soapy water, one for rinsing), liquid soap, wipes, no-rinse shampoo, body lotion and a new dressing gown.

The nurse dipped her sponge into the water and she said, “A good bed bath should always leave the patient feeling clean and comfortable, so let me know if the water is too hot, or too cold or anything that you need me to adjust.  It is important that I rinse you off right after I wash you as other soap residue will remain on your body and that might leave you feeling sticky.  I will start with your face and then I will wash your arms and chest, unless you have preference for me to do this in a different order.  Then I will have you sit up so I can wash your hair and your back.”  The nurse washed, rinsed and dried my face, arms, chest, my hair and my back and then she said, “Now that wasn’t so bad was it?”  I nodded at her and she said, “A bed bath can be either a pleasurable or a stressful experience, most of my patients seem to enjoy it, but for others it causes them distress.  I need to raise up the blanket that is covering the lower part of your body and I am going to wash you completely, cleaning your genitals and then I will have you turn on your side so I can wash your anus.  I will start with your feet and then move to your legs, so you will only be completely exposed to me for a short time.  If you get uncomfortable at any time, all you have to say is stop and we can discuss your needs.”

I told my nurse that I wass good so far and that I was happy that she was so good at explaining things to me as she gave me this spong bath and I was actually starting to relax as it felt good being clean again.  She pulled the blanket up to expose my feet which she cleaned thouroughly and then she lifted the blanket higher to wash my legs.  My nurse said, “I may have to spend a bit more time washing your penis because of the catheter that you have, as I need to be real carful that it does not come out and I hope that you are OK with that.  Once I raise up the blanket, I will ask you to bend your knees and try to spread your legs apart to give me better access.  I will also need to wash behind your testicles and I know that this will be the most embarrassing part of this process, so I will try to work quickly with a purposeful attitude.”  My bath was done and I smiled at my nurse and I told her that it was much better than I originally thought that it would be and that I might even be able to get used to this.  My nurse smiled back at me again and she said, “Mr. Jones I was right when I told you that bathing was no small matter.”

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