A short story about using a bed pan

With all the experience I had pissing the bed (never intentionally, though), I was surprised by how hard it was to piss in a pan.

I’d just had spinal surgery, so I couldn’t sit on a toilet until I’d re-learned how to sit upright. And I couldn’t sit upright for another day or so, because spinal surgery is serious business. The kind nurses had removed my catheter earlier in the day, so my options now were to piss the pan or piss the bed.

When I asked why they couldn’t just keep the catheter in until I was ready to sit up, they said using the pan was “part of the recovery process.” Kind of like how you have to learn to crawl before you walk. Except, I didn’t understand how pissing in a pan was meant to help me better sit up and piss in a toilet. The two kinds of pissing have nothing in common. No one lies down with their butt across a toilet to urinate.

So there I lay, almost perfectly horizontal, as a nurse slipped a metal bed pan under my butt. The edges of the pan pressed against my cheeks.

“What happens if I piss the bed?” I asked.

“The pan is directly under you,” the nurse said.

“Yeah, but what if I miss?”

“It’ll be fine.”

I was skeptical. No one has perfect control of their urinary flow. What if I sprayed?

After convincing myself there was no point in worrying about my dignity, given that two different nurses had already given me a sponge bath and my mom had brushed my teeth for me using a special toothbrush hooked to a wall that has a built-in suction device so you don’t have to gargle and spit (it literally sucks stuff out of your mouth as it brushes — a real technological marvel), I decided to just do it.

The nurse drew the curtain around my bed and stepped out to give me privacy.

And then I… couldn’t pee. It just wouldn’t come out. I knew I needed to go – I hadn’t gone all morning. But lying down, with a pan under my buns, my bladder gave me the side-eye and said, “Nope!”

You see, by this point in life, my body understood that pissing while in this position meant I was certainly wetting the bed, and that was not cool. So, like an evolutionary safety mechanism, it just… wouldn’t let me urinate.

It took 15 minutes of lying there, coaxing my bladder to do an Elsa (“Let it go!”), before there was any movement.

There was a trickle. And that was it.

“It’ll get easier,” the nurse said when she took away the pan.

And it did! By the next day, I was a pan-peeing pro. I was pushing the button to summon nurses to bring me the pan several times throughout the day. I had some of the best pees of my life.

“Why does anyone even bother sitting on a toilet?” I thought. There was something luxurious about peeing while lying down.

On day three, they told me I’d have to poop in the pan, and that was when I finally sat up. It was a real Christmas miracle.

First published March 26, 2016