I knew the day would come. After years of working in after-school child care, tutoring, teaching and speaking to students of various ages, I knew my niece and nephew would eventually ask how I go to the bathroom. I had spoken with my brother and sister-in-law about how much “information” they wanted the kids to have when the time came.
The funny thing is, I think because they see me simply as “Aunt Jenny,” the question came much later than I expected.
On a recent visit to my brother’s house, I excused myself from the main family room and went into the kids’ toy room. My brother’s house doesn’t have an accessible bathroom, so having a BARD TOUCHLESS® Plus catheter with a collection bag works well in situations like this. I have had a bladder augmentation, so I simply catheterize through a stoma in my belly.
Everyone seemed interested in the new gift my niece had received for her birthday, so I left them in the family room. No one noticed, except the dog. As I got the catheter out, Addie was intently looking at me. I shooed her away. A few seconds later as I was getting ready to insert the catheter, I “felt” someone looking at me from behind. I was about to tell Addie to go away again, but when I looked over my shoulder, it was my five-year-old nephew with eyes wide open in surprise. “What are you doing Aunt Jenny?”
I explained that I had to use a little tube to be able to go to the bathroom since my muscles don’t work. I asked him to give me a moment alone, then I would come and talk with him.
We all headed outside and I heard my nephew tell my brother, “Aunt Jenny was putting something down here to go to the bathroom.”(You can picture where “down here” is!) I decided to pull out a new catheter and show it to him. “The pee goes in here? And then what do you do with it?” I responded that I empty it into the toilet. He replied, “Or you can take it home with you.” Well, yes, I guess that’s an option, too!
When “the question” comes, I have always found it best to make sure it is age-appropriate. Much of life with a spinal cord injury is spent being an educator on various topics: physiology, accessibility, “how do you…” questions. I try to be ready with an answer and know that I only need to answer with what I feel comfortable with. At this point in life, I’m an open book and don’t mind questions. You may not be ready for that – and that is okay. I feel the important thing is to make kids (and adults) know we simply have a different way of doing things and that it is not “wrong” or “bad.”
When I’m speaking to a group of elementary school aged kids, I keep my answers general: “Some people with spinal cord injuries can use those muscles and go to the bathroom just like you; other people can’t use those muscles and use a tube called a catheter that goes into their bladder to empty it.” As the age of the students increases, so does my explanation of anatomy and physiology, if appropriate.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0716/0261