For example, Greg started to get impatient during my bowel program. Jane explained to him that you have to wait for results and intermittently stimulate, but I could tell he was getting antsy. “I’m only supposed to be there for about two hours in the morning,” he said. “This is pretty time-consuming.”
“Usually we get results in under fifteen minutes,” Jane said.
“My last patient was this 90 year old guy with Alzheimer’s,” Greg said. “We gave him a ton of laxatives and he just used a diaper. That was a lot easier.”
“I don’t see how that’s easier,” Jane said.
Greg shrugged. “Well, either way, you’re cleaning up crap, right? But this way is faster.” He put his hand on my shoulder, “You don’t mind, right Nick? We can do things my way when we’re home.”
“I do mind, actually,” I spoke up.
I couldn’t see Greg’s face because I was turned away from him, rolled onto my side, but he seemed surprised. “Really? What’s the difference?”
“Nick is 26 years old and he shouldn’t need to use a diaper,” Jane snapped, before I could answer.
"I think you should consider it, Nick," he said. "It's not like anyone will know, and it'll make things so much easier in the morning."
"Sitting in shit is a risk for skin breakdown," Jane shot back at him.
I was extremely grateful that Jane was sticking up for me. I guess she'd worked with a lot of quads, so she seemed to know what I was thinking a lot.
"Well, we'll see," Greg said, and I seriously wanted to punch the guy.
After finishing my bowel program, Jane let Greg take the lead to do my transfer. Instead of using a lift, we used just a sliding board like I did with Cam, because Greg was much stronger than Jane. Jane was giving him instructions, and I felt very scared that I might fall, but I didn't. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I was safely seated in my wheelchair.
"You're light as a feather," Greg said to me as he secured my straps, which was probably true. I had lost at least thirty pounds since my injury and I was on the thin side to begin with.
"I think you should do a few more transfers with us," Jane said to Greg. "Just till you feel 100% comfortable."
"I feel comfortable already," Greg said.
"Well, I don't," Jane said. "I think you need to practice a little more."
Greg nodded. "It's so great how you're so dedicated to your patients, Jane."
"A safe discharge is very important to me," Jane said.
"I've got a lot of questions about Nick," Greg said. "Do you think maybe we could grab a drink tonight and talk about him a little more?"
My jaw dropped open. I couldn't believe this asshole was using me to try to hit on Jane. What kind of person does something like that? I could see Greg checking out Jane's body under her scrubs and I really wanted to punch him.
"I'm busy tonight," Jane said, folding her arms across her chest. "Any questions you have about Nick, I'd be happy to answer here, with him present."
Greg grinned. "Well, that's no fun." And then he reached out and tugged on the drawstring of Jane's scrubs.
At that moment, it killed me that I couldn't move. The old Nick would have had this guy pinned against a wall. Well, maybe that's not true. The old Nick probably wouldn't have given a shit if Greg was hitting on some therapist, but that Nick was long gone. The new Nick cared. I cared a lot. "You're fired," I said.
Greg glanced at me and laughed. "Yeah, right."
"No, I mean it," I said. "You're fucking fired. Get out of here right now."
Greg narrowed his eyes. "You can't fire me. Your parents hired me, so they're the only ones who can fire me. And they like me a lot."
"They might not like you so much when I tell them how you didn't show up yesterday, and then you almost dropped their son while trying to transfer him to his wheelchair," Jane said.
"I didn't..." Greg started to say.
"Don't bother arguing," Jane said. "Just do as Nick said and leave. Now."
Greg's eyes darkened. He looked from Jane to me, getting more pissed off by the second. "Oh, I get it," he said. "You two are fucking, right? You've got some weird cripple fetish or something, huh Jane?"
Much as I hated to admit it, Greg's words made me blush. Maybe it hit just a little too close to home. But Jane didn't even flinch. "You're out of your mind," she said to him. "Why don't you stop embarrassing yourself and leave with a little dignity? Maybe you'll even manage to get another job if nobody hears how irresponsibly you acted here."
Something about what Jane said or maybe the way she said it finally got through to Greg. He turned around and left my room, slamming the door behind him. I felt incredibly relieved that Greg was out of the picture, although I knew my parents weren't going to be thrilled about finding another PCA for me. Oh well.
"There are good ones and bad ones," Jane said to me, adjusting some of the straps that Greg put on incorrectly. "That was a bad one. The next one will be good."
"What if he's not?"
Jane smiled. "Then you fire his ass too."
Jane reached up to adjust my collar, and the touch of her fingers on my neck caused me to tingle everywhere I could feel. I couldn't help but think of her response to Greg's accusation that we were fucking: You're out of your mind. That's what Jane thought of me. She liked me as a person, but anything else would be completely insane.
My parents weren’t thrilled that I fired Greg, but apparently Jane talked to them and smoothed things over. They promised next time they’d let me meet any candidates before they made the final decision. But Dad, being controlling as usual, said that they were going to do most of the interviews.
Dr. Greenly set up an afternoon meeting with me and my parents to talk about future management issues, whatever that meant. Dad didn’t show up, because now that I wasn’t in a life or death situation anymore, he was far too busy. But Mom came, and I was there, of course. Since it was mid-afternoon, I was in my wheelchair. These days, I was spending the majority of my day in the chair, even when I wasn’t in therapies. I hated the wheelchair so much when I first saw it, but now I hated being in bed. At least in the wheelchair, I could move around independently.
“Thanks for coming, Mrs. Edwards,” Dr. Greenly said to my mother when he came into the room. He was always so formal. Sometimes I wished I had a doctor who was warmer.
“Oh, not a problem,” Mom said. “I wasn’t clear what this meeting is about, exactly?”
“I wanted to discuss Nick’s bladder management,” Dr. Greenly said. “Now that he’s going home soon, we should do something a little more definitive than the Foley catheter.”
“Oh,” Mom said. “Well, could we just take it out and help him get on the toilet when he needs to go?”
“It’s not so simple,” Dr. Greenly explained. “He can’t tell when he needs to go, and even if he could, his bladder and sphincter are not coordinated, so he’s going to tend to retain urine.”
I hated that they were talking about me like I wasn’t even there, especially about something as intimate as this. So I spoke up, “What are my options?”
“I’d recommend a suprapubic catheter,” Dr. Greenly said. “It’s a catheter that goes through your lower abdomen, straight into your bladder. You’ll have it in all the time and it will empty into a bag on your leg, just like now.”
“You mean there will be a tube coming out of my belly all the time?” I asked. I had been so happy when the feeding tube came out. I didn’t want a new tube.
“I’m going to be straight with you, Nick,” Dr. Greenly said. He glanced at my mother, then back at me. “How old are you again?”
“I’m 26,” I said, wondering what that had to do with it.
“You’re a very young man,” he said. “And if you ever plan to be sexually active again in the future, this is your best option. Any other option involves getting you to void randomly, and that’s not what you want if you’re planning to have sex. You don’t want to have to worry about having an accident when you’re not wearing a condom catheter.”
I looked over at my mother, who was picking at her skirt and not really looking at me. I guess she didn’t want to hear about her quadriplegic son having sex. Not that I was having sex. I wasn’t sure if I ever would again. But I didn’t want to rule it out.
“But what if I recover?” I said. “Will I be stuck with the tube forever?”
“The suprapubic catheter could be removed,” he said. “But the reality is, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever regain voluntary control over your bladder.”
I guess I knew that was true, but it still hard to hear. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s just… do the tube one.”
“Excellent,” Dr. Greenly said. “I’ll set it up for you.”
Dr. Greenly left the room, making my decision final. I looked over at my mother, who was still picking at her clothing. She always got really embarrassed about the more intimate aspects of my care. I knew we had to get past that, because she was going to be one of my caregivers when I came home, but I don’t think either of us were ready for that yet. Maybe someday.
“I need some fresh air,” I told her. “I’m going to go outside.”
“By yourself?” Mom looked alarmed.
“Yes, I am an adult, Mom,” I said.
“I’ll go with you,” she said quickly.
I navigated easily through the door of my room and down the hallway. I remembered how hard it had been to use the sip and puff controls, but now it had almost become second nature. When I first met Jane, she told me that this wheelchair would give me independence and freedom, and I thought she was full of shit, but now I realized how right she was. It was a beautiful day today and thanks to my wheelchair, I could now enjoy it independently.