Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: We come up with something novel for the doctor in casualty

03 Jun 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

Geraldine Durrant, in her characteristic good humour, recounts a novel experience in casualty…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

Thursday had become a red letter day chez nous

Not only was it dustbin day – the new highlight of Patrick’s week – but because we had increasingly to make our own fun, it was also the day on which I changed Patrick’s weekly catheter bag, weighed him and trimmed his hair and beard.

Alarmingly, one morning, when I removed the bag and cast a beady eye over Patrick’s groin, I spotted – in the words of the old Bernard Cribbens’ song – a hole, where a hole shouldn’t be

A wound had appeared on the underside of his scrotum and his catheter was clearly visible in the gap.

My heart sank both at the sickening sight of the exposed plastic tubing and at the thought of what it would inevitably entail in terms of sorting it out.

We had already had our fill of appointments that week and I had planned that day – in the words so beloved of characters in EastEnders – as one on which to ‘get it sor’ed…’ on the home front.

My first port of call was the district nurses, but this misadventure was above their pay grade and I was told to ring the GP – which I did, only to discover I was 26th in line…

Having been up half the night dealing with Patrick’s diarrhoea, I was already at screaming pitch and I knew I did not have it in me to listen to an hour of jangling ‘holding’ noise…

In any case, I realised belatedly, the doctor was merely going to look at Patrick and tell me to take him to casualty, so I decided to cut out the middle man and ask my son to drive us there.

The hospital is half an hour away, the car park is always hopping and Patrick had become so shaky on his feet that we needed someone to ride shotgun.

Not for the first time I felt we had gone, in six months, from fully-functioning adults to a couple of poor old things who needed shepherding by a responsible adult – and I felt both humbled by the necessity for back-up and grateful for the support.

Casualty was, as casualty always is, crowded to the gunnels and a sign told us that it would be more than two hours before we could expect to be seen.

An hour later, the wait time had risen to almost four hours as an unstoppable stream of human misery made its way through the swing doors after us.

But eventually we heard our names called and made our way into a treatment room where Patrick obligingly dropped his trousers.

The doctor examined him, looked puzzled, and invited him to get dressed.

Then, clearly unsure about exactly what he had witnessed, he asked him to drop his trousers a second time, and then a third, before announcing “Well I’ve never seen anything like this before…”

Which made two of us…

But at least I thought, oddly gratified, we had come up with something more original than a sprained ankle or a cut hand… 

There was nothing to be done but to summon a consultant from urology, who duly appeared and carried out his own inspection of Patrick’s plumbing.

He however had – occasionally – seen similar wounds and told me that after seven months Patrick’s catheter had simply worn a hole through his scrotum.

There was nothing to be done in terms of repairing it, so he would have to have a supra pubic catheter inserted directly into his bladder through his abdomen.

The waiting list for this as an elective procedure was very long indeed, but with an open wound in a sensitive area the consultant told me he would try to expedite matters.

In the meantime, I was to swab the area three times a day to keep infection at bay.

And, as we drove home, my son quipped that he would have to decide whether to refer to his dad now as The Holey Father or ‘ill’ Papa…

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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