Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bathroom Gymnastics

I am back on my rant about how stuff that should be simple for me, had I working legs, has become both complicated and in many cases, exhausting. Using the toilet is one of these activities. This is something we all take for granted, the moment of peace when we sit to relax, doing what nature calls us to do. Living in a wheelchair makes that much more difficult.

First of all, my wheelchair does not fit easily into my bathroom. This is first on our renovation list but for now it continues to challenge me. What I have to do, before I even get to the Promised Land, is remove the front feet off of my wheelchair, a simple task. Without those feet in place my wheelchair can make the sharp turn and enter the bathroom. However it also means my dead legs simply drag on the carpet under my wheelchair, grabbing the floor, impeding the process. So I have to nudge my chair forward, lifting my feet forward in emulation of what once was a natural walking process, only seated.

Once I make the turn into the bathroom and force my chair through the narrow doorway, I can slide my feet along the linoleum in the bathroom. It's a short distance and a relief in anticipation of the relief to come. Once in the bathroom I line up my chair with the toilet, allowing for a safe transfer from the seat of support to the seat of expulsion. Once on the toilet seat, I can remove my pants and underwear, hopefully not dragging any part sufficiently low as to achieve unintended dampness from the water below, now clean but soon not to be.

Taking off your pants and underwear while seated on the toilet is a real challenge. Try it; you won't like it. It means wiggling from side to side, using the counter and the chair to ensure I don't slide off the seat, and removing the offending articles of clothing about an inch or two at a time, one side first and then the other. Once the pants and underwear reach apogee, the front of the seat, it gets easier.

Then comes the physical adjustment of my legs. You can't just sit where you sit; adjustments must be made. In my case my legs don't work so the muscles must be manually moved, placed in appropriate position to allow for the following act. Once all is adjusted, action takes place. This is the easy part, the most normal part. Cleaning up is a challenge but I get there, with some fair bit of effort. Once again, try it; you won't like it. Once complete, I flush so as to have clean water beneath me for the ensuing activities.

Now comes the putting on part. The initial emplacement of pants and underwear is not without its challenge. The most common impediment is when the articles in question snag on the front of the toilet seat, deftly sliding under when you are attempting to slide them upwards. Suddenly you find yourself not only sitting on the seat, but trapping your pants under the seat, as you had lifted to make the initial adjustment. So, pushing and pulling, I move the pants back downward and try again. I usually get it on the second try, but often on the first as well.

Once my pants and underwear are positioned, I once again rock from side to side, inching them upwards as far as possible while attempting to adjust for comfort along the way. Having your underwear pulled deep into your butt crack makes for substantial discomfort as the day wears on. It usually takes 8 to 10 side-by-side shifts to accomplish what used to be accomplished simply by standing and pulling upwards.

Once my pants are on, or at least reasonably on, I then re-position the now displaced wheelchair and attempt the transfer. A sideways transfer is difficult, especially with the required upwards lift, as the toilet is lower than the chair. All of this takes place after the effort and wear of getting on, getting de-panted, getting positioned, getting abluted, and finally getting re-panted. By the time this is done, so am I!

Then comes the final act, the final gymnastic effort. I back out of the bathroom making the tight turn into the the hallway, all the while lifting my legs up so they can clear the door and so they don't drag on the carpet. Once in the hallway, on the edge of completely done, I have to pick up my wheelchair feet from the floor, re-insert them into the chair and re-position my feet. Once complete, so am I.

I don't think I need an workout routine for my arms. All I need to do is complete my morning bathroom gymnastics.


  1. Have you looked into adaptable clothing? This might help!

    1. Yes, I have. Much of the "handicapped" clothing out there is designed for use where an attendant is doing the dressing. It's still awkward and still requires something to cover your ass end. That covering has to be wiggled into place if you are going it alone. SS, DD.

  2. This post reminded me of my difficulties after my back operation. I had a brace from my mid chest to below my hips. I was unable to stand on my own or walk without assistance for the first few weeks. I found it very difficult to ask anyone for help besides my husband especially when I needed to go to the bathroom. One day he helped me make it to the bathroom and he went outside. He must of got distracted and it felt like I was there for hours. I yelled for help and finally a neighbor heard me and helped me get off the toilet. After that I started using the bathroom sink to pull myself up and started using using my walker more to get around. I was still dependent on my husband for bathing and dressing my lower extremities but I regained my dignity again. I went from working in nursing to expecting the same care for myself I provided others with.

    It seems like yesterday I was struggling to stand by myself or do anything and today I can walk miles. I don't take walking for granted anymore . My injury and disease in my vertebrae will most likely put me in a wheelchair years before my peers.

    I know with ALS recovery isn't in the cards and it affects people at a different. Some faster than others. You just got to keep trying.