As my readers are aware, I just finished a week in the hospital and I want to share some of the highlights of my stay. Today I’d like to talk about the Saga of the Commode. So sit and grab yourself a coffee. This is a story that never should have happened.

Before I talk about the commode, I need to do two things; explain what a commode exactly is and why I needed it.

A commode is a device that helps a person get to the toilet to do their business. It looks a lot like a chair with wheels and a hole in the seat that your ass hangs out of so you can do your deed. The patient (me, in this case) sits on the seat and a nurse or nurse’s aide can then wheel me into the bathroom. As a diabetic, I used this device a lot. The aides decided they didn’t want to perform this task and that I was perfectly capable of walking into the bathroom on my own after the second day there. I wasn’t and I’ll explain why.

This whole thing started when I slipped and fell on a wet floor and sprained the MCL ligament in my knee. Now, had things been normal, that would have been no big deal as I could have compensated for it and gone on with my life. However, things in my life are rarely normal.

Prior to this injury I had done the following;

  • Radial head fracture to the left elbow – January 2018
  • Radial head fracture to the right elbow – April 2019
  • Prior reconstruction of the ACL ligament in the left knee – 2005
  • Degenerative arthritis in the right knee

The problem was my body was so banged up that I simply couldn’t compensate for the new injury and, as a result, kept falling. After I wound up in emergency for the fifth time I demanded they admit me. I knew going home was a death trap for me. I live alone and have no one to help (more on that later).

That brings me to the commode. It was a lifesaver for me. By the time I was in the hospital, I was simply unable to walk the short distance to the bathroom. To hell with dignity, I needed to pee.

The first commode I was given had only three barely functioning brakes on it. The brakes are important when you’re getting in and out of it, especially when you’re prone to falling like I was. Having brakes that didn’t work meant I was taking my life in my hands every time I went pee. Thus, the nurses and aides were relegated to the duty of using their body weight to keep the thing still.

I’m a large woman. If that thing slipped, not only was I going to do damage to myself but I was taking out whatever poor sod had the misfortune of trying to keep the thing still.

The second commode had functioning brakes but the armrests fell off leaving two metal spikes where the armrests should be. One nurse scratched herself on it and another commode was found.

The third commode had one functioning armrest and three decent brakes. It still was a bit shaky but better than the first two. Problem was it was narrow and me and my roommate were of the larger lady part of the population. It was like trying to pee with my legs crossed.

So this got me thinking. I looked at other equipment in the room. Tables designed to go over the bed had barely functioning wheels and couldn’t be raised or lowered at all. There was one chair in the room for visitors which was all right since that wasn’t much of a problem for me. A TV was mounted on the wall but had long lost its remote meaning that a nurse or aide had to change the channel and adjust the volume at all times. Rule became pick one channel for the day. A&E is far more interesting than I thought.

There were chairs that some of the elderly patients would be placed in that desperately needed replacing. Wheelchairs that looked like they were ready to give up the ghost and more that I’m sure I wasn’t aware of. Even the bathroom was problematic as it was placed directly behind the room’s door which was an accident waiting to happen.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton is supposed to be one of the more well-equipped and maintained hospitals in Alberta. That’s what I was told, anyways, but it’s not. The truth is that the equipment meant to make patients comfortable is old and falling apart. So much so that jerry-rigging was an everyday occurrence for the staff.

Can anyone tell me why this hospital, or any hospital in Alberta, is in this state? It was disgusting to see staff and patients struggling with substandard equipment and rooms (which, by the way, have no air conditioning nor way to move air in them. In an Edmonton summer that means you are roasting in a very stifling room).

Sarah Hoffman had four years to make a difference. Now we have Tyler Shandro, a man I have zero confidence in, and I still don’t see anything changing. Is this what we Albertans want our health care to look like? Do we want a health care system that jerry-rigs equipment and overworks staff? That’s when accidents happen and in the medical profession accidents can be deadly.

It is time we Albertans started demanding an accounting of where our health tax dollars are going. Next time it could be you or your loved one in the hospital and Albertans deserve far better than this.

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