Introducing! Morphine and Catheters
When high on morphine for the first time as an 18 year old post-operative gynae ward ingenue innocent I once spotted a lady hobbling past carrying a small translucent plastic pouch – like some sort of jellyfish neoplasm futuristic evening-wear it seemed.
‘Mum, what’s that?’ I said.
‘A catheter’ she informed me.
‘Hm.’ I said happily ‘catheters are just like handbags.’ She laughed, amused by this. Haha! How funny, I smiled away in my sweet, morphine haze. The start of my ‘gap year’: a football-sized tumour, a large laparotomy and the excision of my right-side reproductive organs – what could be better! At least I get to see all these friends and family – and oh, the FLOWERS! Well, imagine my surprise when I later realised that I too had one of these absurd yet expertly designed handbags neatly stored under my bed, then unaware that the word catheter would come to mean a whole lot more to me than a one-off sardonic fashion accessory. Still, I believe all handbags are complimented by lipstick, and catheters are no damned exception!
These moments provide a way into other medical events of my life which are normal to hospital veterans, but not to everyone.
1. Definition, dictionary: catheter /cath·e·ter/ (kath´ĕ-ter)
A tubular, flexible surgical instrument that is inserted into a cavity of the body to withdraw or introduce fluid
2. Definition, real:
Absurd torture device which invades unnatural places (surely inspired by a post-modern Ridley Scott movie)
I’m very familiar with catheters into veins and arteries, as well as other well-known forms. You may be very familiar with catheters yourself, or you might be surprised to know there are many types of catheter, used in cardiac surgery for example.
To make pain intelligible and bearable, experiences like this need to be capable of making us laugh, because we have to face them and laughing makes that a hell of a lot easier. Maybe I have an unusually developed appetite for black-comedy but I have found these things funny. Sometimes this simply boils down to a bawdy chuckle.
I’d be really happy to hear from anyone for whom this resonates, or if this sparks off any thoughts from you. Please do leave any comments below.
Thanks for reading!