The Bedpan

My mother has recently been diagnosed with terminal metastatic cancer of the liver. Over the past 3 weeks I have been doing everything within my power to make her remaining time on this earth as comfortable as possible. I gradually identified the highest priority aspects of her care and started improving them. The hardest aspect to improve is something that I take entirely for granted; going to the bathroom.

Portable Commode

This is the “toilet” that my mom was forced to use. The seat stuck to her legs and the steel pole running across the seat caused immense discomfort. The physical act of placing her on the toilet was a painful and miserable ordeal for everybody involved. It was obvious that we needed a different solution and one night I promised my Mom that this would be the last time she's placed on a toilet like this. I told her I'd get her a bedpan.

The following morning I woke up early because I knew our small-town pharmacy didn't have anything and I planned to drive to a significant city about 40~ minutes away; assured that this would be a promise I'd be able to keep.

I first went into 2 brand-name pharmacies and found nothing suitable. I did happen to find a portable male urinal at both locations. But nothing for females. My anxiety pumping at the thought of this unbroken promise to my mother I decide to go to Walmart, a business I despise and do not normally give my money to. However, when dealing with this situation principles like this go out the window and if Walmart had something that could ease my mother's pain I'd take it.

As I'm making my way to the Walmart pharmacy I knew in the back of my head that I would not find anything but I had to try. As I'm looking at the items they have available it becomes pretty obvious that they don't have a bedpan. What they do have is...

Portable Male Urinal

A male urinal.

At this point my anxiety is full-tilt. I'm angry and frustrated and in complete disbelief that three major companies ignore an entire gender's need to simply urinate with some level of dignity. As I'm walking out of the store I pass the pharmacist at the counter and something happened that I will never forget.

I don't remember intending to do it but I cut in front of the line at the pharmacy and walk up to the counter. With my voice cracking and tears swelling up in my eyes I firmly and forcefully ask “You have a male urinal but what is a female supposed to do?”

As the words erupt out of my mouth I can feel that every single person in the pharmacy has stopped what they are doing and is simply staring at me. People in the back looking for medicine on shelves stopped. Pharmacists counting out pills and working on computers simply stopped and stared at me.

“What does a bedridden female do to go to the bathroom? You have a male urinal but nothing for females. IF YOU'RE GOING TO STOCK A MALE URINAL STOCK A BEDPAN!”

As I'm finishing my statement the pharmacists say nothing. They simply stare at me in a sense of shock and confusion. Knowing in the back of my head that this will accomplish nothing I turn and storm out of the store. I'm visibly angry, I can barely breathe, and the emotions coursing through my body were some of the toughest I've ever had to deal with. Knowing that I can't even keep my promise of allowing my mother to urinate in dignity without additional waiting required for the item to be shipped tore me up inside.

When I arrive home I recount portions of my experience to my wife and mother and I wind up asking “What do females do?”.

My mom looked back at me and said in a resigned, tired voice “Suffer”.


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