Pulling the Plug

A catheter is a long tube about a foot in diameter that’s shoved up your penis through the urethra into your bladder.

Okay, it’s really not that large – maybe an eighth to a quarter of an inch in diameter. It’s made up of two tubes, one long and one short. The long one ends up in your bladder and has a bulb on the end to hold it inside the bladder. The short tube is used to fill the bulb with saline. When you want to take the catheter out, you cut the short tube to let the saline out, then pull the long tube out.

It was a long week with that tube in. You have to be scrupulously clean at the site the catheter goes into you, and clean the catheter bags every day. The big bag goes on at night, and the travelling bag is used during the day. You need to drink about ten glasses of water a day to keep your bladder healthy and help in healing, so when the travelling bag is on, it gets dumped out quite a few times a day. The larger bag will last an entire night.

A typical urinary catheter

A typical urinary catheter

The catheer is held inside the bladder by a balloon filled with saline solution

The catheer is held inside the bladder by a balloon filled with saline solution

When it was time for the catheter to come out, and I had several options: I could use home care, go to my doctor, go to a medi-clinic, or ‘man up’ and do it myself. Never one to shy from a challenge, I decided to do it myself.

Everyone was creeped out by the idea of me pulling that tube out. My friends all said I should get a nurse or doctor to do it for me, but I decided to tough it out. I attached it to the bathroom door, drained the bulb, and slammed the door.

Imagine how that felt.

The large catheter for night time use attaches to the bed

The large catheter for night time use attaches to the bed

The daily wear catheter attaches to the leg

The daily wear catheter attaches to the leg

I’m kidding. Actually, I drained the bulb and gently pulled it out. It was a bit uncomfortable, but only for a few seconds. And then I was golden. Free, unencumbered and feeling great! I clearly remember seeing my neighbours on the street outside our house and dancing a little jig to show them the infernal bag was gone. It was a wonderful feeling, and I felt I was surely on the road to recovery now and that all I had to do was deal with that pesky little bit of incontinence the doctors and nurses said I could expect.

Some guys don’t have any incontinence. For others, it lasts a long time. Most doctors will tell you that you’ll be at the point where you’re going to end up somewhere around a year after surgery.

I figured I had this thing under control, that I’d be incontinent for a few weeks, and should be back in business within a couple of months. It didn’t quite work out that way.

I was told much later that the average time for a man recovering from a radical prostatectomy to gain some significant amount of control over incontinence is around four months. There I was, one week after surgery, thinking I had control. I didn’t.

About Murray Hill

A retired tech and gadget writer with weekly columns appearing in some of Canada's largest newspapers and on canada.com for over twenty years. His love of gadgets and tech is only surpassed by his love of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Manchester United.

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