On This Day
1645 – Jeanne Mance open the first lay hospital in North America.
Jeanne Mance (November 12, 1606 – June 18, 1673) was a French nurse and settler of New France. She arrived in New France two years after the Ursuline nuns came to Quebec. Among the founders of Montreal in 1642, she established its first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, in 1645. She returned twice to France to seek financial support for the hospital. After providing most of the care directly for years, in 1657 she recruited three sisters of the Religieuses hospitalières de Saint-Joseph, and continued to direct operations of the hospital.
Born On This Day
1807 – Harriet Taylor Mill, English philosopher and activist (d. 1858)
Harriet Taylor Mill (née Hardy; London, 8 October 1807 – Avignon, 3 November 1858) was a British philosopher and women’s rights advocate. Her extant corpus of writing can be found in The Complete Works of Harriet Taylor Mill. As is often the case with female opinion-formers,[clarification needed] she is now largely remembered for her influence upon her second husband, John Stuart Mill, one of the pre-eminent thinkers of the 19th century.
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James Breakwell: Surgery Results and a Bathroom Crisis
Mae has a harmless bump on her eyelid that won’t go away, so her pediatrician sent her to see an ophthalmologist. And that’s all the backstory you need for this long and convoluted tale about the bathroom.
As with all my adventures, I wasn’t alone. In addition to Mae, I had Lucy and Waffle with me (Betsy was at school). We sat in the waiting room at the ophthalmologist’s office for about twenty minutes, despite being the first appointment of the day. Then the ophthalmologist called us back to the exam room. He took one look at Mae’s eye and said he couldn’t do anything for us—another morning well-spent—but he promised to refer us to someone who could help. Then he left the room for what seemed like forever to figure out where to send us. That’s the reaction we get from most people. They’ll go above and beyond to make sure we’re somebody else’s problem.
As we waited, Waffle announced she had to go potty. She was in underwear, so this was a crisis. At her current age, the time she can hold it is measured in nanoseconds. She might know she needs to go sooner than that, but she doesn’t mention it until the last possible moment because she has a lot of other things going on in her life. Like everyone else in my family, she doesn’t bother to address a problem until it’s a crisis.
Then Lucy announced she had to go, too. Now two-thirds of the kids with me urgently needed to use the facilities. I’d love to tell you my 4-year-old can always hold it, but under pressure, her bladder control is questionable at best. There was a serious risk we’d need a mop in the exam room. It was time for action.
The doctor still wasn’t back, so I ducked out into the hall and asked the receptionist where the bathroom was. The ophthalmologist’s office was in a suite in a hospital. The suite didn’t have a bathroom—or at least not one they would let us use. Doctors don’t lower themselves to use the same toilets as the unwashed masses. The closest facilities we were allowed to enter were outside the suite and down the hall by the elevators. It wasn’t exactly right around the corner. Meanwhile, Mae was waiting alone in the exam room. My forces were getting spread dangerously thin, and I was positive the doctor would come back the moment I left. It was time to have a heart-to-heart with Waffle.
“Can you hold it?” I asked Waffle.
“Yes,” she lied.
Lucy promised the same. I chose to believe them because sometimes the only way I get through the day is with a healthy dose of self-delusion. Then I ushered them back to the exam room with Mae. Our course was set. We would hold.
But of course, because I hadn’t actually left, the doctor wasn’t back yet. He was still engaged in the longest referral call in the history of medicine. Nervously, I watched Lucy and Waffle for signs they would break. I didn’t have any spare clothes for anyone. The last thing I wanted was for the doctor to come back to find one or both of my kids standing in a puddle of urine. That’s a great way to make a good first impression. Then again, he was already sending us someplace else. If we were going to publicly disgrace ourselves, it might as well be in the office of a doctor we were never going to see again.
Finally, the doctor returned. My kids were still accident-free, if only barely. I grabbed the referral from the doctor and practically ran for the door. By now, Mae had to go, too. Bathroom trips are contagious.
We rushed out of the doctor’s suite and down the hall to the facilities, only to be confronted by a new problem: There was no family restroom. I mean, there were family restrooms somewhere in the hospital. But I was dealing with three bladders with short fuses and didn’t have time for a toilet scavenger hunt. My kids would have to use the single-gender bathrooms in front of us or none at all. And the “none at all option” would be very messy.
The men’s and women’s bathrooms were at least thirty feet apart and separated by a bank of elevators. I had to quickly decide if it was better for a man to go in the women’s restroom or three little girls to go in the men’s restroom. When I have just one kid with me, I always take them in the men’s restroom. I figure I can usher them into a stall and back out without causing a scene. But it’s different when I have a mob of children with me. They’ll finish at different times, then wander around unsupervised as I’m distracted by another kid. They’ll ask awkward questions or, worse, start unwanted conversations with strange men using strange devices mounted on the wall. For most kids, social tact develops later in life. For my kids, it will probably never develop at all.
Then again, it would be equally awkward if I walked into the women’s restroom. Nobody wants me in there. Nobody wants me anywhere, a sentiment I generally agree with. I’m more than happy to stay home.
There was, however, a third choice: I could send my kids into the women’s restroom by themselves. Unfortunately, Waffle’s self-sufficiency for all bathroom-related activities is questionable at best. Also, public restrooms are her favorite place in the world to poop. Any time she can extend our stay in a public restroom for an unbearably long period of time, she’s all in. This time, she assured me that she just had to do number one, but if she pulled a surprise number two, we’d have a major biological disaster on our hands. The intricacies of wiping simply escape her. Let’s hope she masters that one before she leaves for college.
Equally concerning, if I sent the three girls into the women’s bathroom by themselves, I couldn’t make sure there were no unsavory characters lying in wait. Dangerous murder clowns usually stick to men’s bathrooms, but there are always exceptions. It was a lot to think about in the two and a half seconds before my kids were going to pee their pants.
“Mae,” I said, “You’re in charge,” investing in her more provisional power than her six-year-old brain had ever dared to dream. It would be up to her to shepherd each child into a stall and to fight off any marauding murder clowns along the way. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of a first grader.
My trio of daughters boldly set forth to take care of business on their own while I stood guard outside the bathroom door. I might not be able to go in, but at least I could ensure that the murder clowns didn’t receive reinforcements. But I didn’t hear the sounds of murder in the bathroom. I didn’t hear anything at all.
Finally, Lucy emerged in a state of agitation. She couldn’t wash her hands. The sink was too high, and Mae couldn’t lift her, although she tried mightily. They’re close to the same size. Mae needs to do more deadlifts. Then Waffle came out, her hands also unwashed and her skirt proudly unbottoned in the middle of the public hallway. I fixed the button situation, then took Lucy and Waffle into the men’s bathroom one-by-one to wash their hands. I figured I could handle one girl at a time in there, although that left the other children unguarded for any murder clowns who happened to be in the hall. Keeping children alive is exhausting.
The men’s bathroom ended up being empty, so all my worrying had been for nothing. Whatever. None of my kids had an accident, and nobody got murdered. I’m giving myself an A+ for parenting for the day, but only because I grade on a curve.
The medical issues in my house never end. Niko had surgery Friday. He went to the vet hobbling on three legs, and he came back hobbling on three legs. But in the meantime, we spent a bunch of money, so I guess that’s progress. In theory, Niko’s fourth leg will be usable in a few weeks after it finishes healing from the surgery. He tore the ligaments under his knee cap, which caused his kneecap to slide out of place any time he put weight on it. During the operation, the vet gave him a lateral suture, which is basically a belt around the joint to hold his kneecap in the right spot. But it’s going to be several days before he’s brave enough to put weight on it again. He might do it more quickly if he took his pain pills, but he fights us on every single one. He’s the exact opposite of an opioid addict. He’s not being difficult; he’s just straight edge. Maybe I should respect his beliefs.
The hardest part about all of this, besides the mandatory follow-up visits to a animal hospital an hour away, is that Niko is forbidden from using the stairs for two weeks. Our house is literally made of stairs. That’s all it is. Okay, there’s also a kitchen and maybe a bedroom or two, but mostly it’s just 10,000 stairs. That might not be what it said on the realtor’s summary sheet when we bought the place, but it’s the truth. There are even stairs to get out to the backyard, which functions as Niko’s bathroom. That’s going to be a problem.
To help Niko avoid re-injuring his leg, we’ve locked down our house with a series of baby gates. I have to open and close these gates constantly to let child and pig traffic pass through while still trapping Niko inside the house. He’s supposed to stay indoors except for potty breaks for fear that he might accidentally be a dog. Any running or jumping could bring us right back to square one, but I think that fear is overblown. Niko only uses his three good legs anyway. It’s not like he’s going to forget that his fourth leg is in excruciating pain and put weight on it. He doesn’t need to. He’s a very fast hobbler.
Nonetheless, I’ll follow the veterinarian’s recommendation because I don’t want to be blamed for undoing a very expensive surgery. So now, several times a day, I carry Niko outside like some kind of god-king on a litter so he can do his business. Although most of the time he just looks at me, confused as to what kind of business I expect him to do. I don’t know. Maybe accounting?
Gilly is less than pleased with all of this. She’s used to going where she wants when she wants. But if I have to be a poop shuttle for my dog, then Gilly can be inconvenienced a little, too. Not that Niko has made this any easier for anyone. He’s already slipped through the gates at least twice, and each time, he immediately ran up and down stairs. Now that he’s banned from using them, it’s the only thing he wants to do. The only upside for him from all this, other than the fact that I carry him between floors like he owns me, is that he got a cool scar from surgery. That’s sure to make him a hit with the lady dogs, or at least it would if he didn’t already have another surgery to take care of that, too. That dog can’t catch a break.
So, So Close
My book comes out in 29 days. It’s crunch time. If you want a signed copy, the deadline is next Monday. You can order a signed copy here:
Those book sales cover the cost of these emails. Yes, I actually have to pay money to an email service to send out free emails to you. I’m not sure that makes business sense, but I like writing these articles, and I like you. I mean, I’ve never met you, but I’m sure we’d get along. After all, you signed up for this email list, so obviously you have great taste. Never change.
Anyway, that’s all I have for now. Catch you next week.
Copyright © 2018 James Breakwell, All rights reserved.
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