could you have done this?

Years ago, back in the day when I still wore little knickers because I was slim, as opposed to big knickers to make me look slim I worked in the caring profession.  Ironic really as most people wouldn’t describe me as the caring type; but still before my career, before kids came along I enjoyed a range of titles from residential social worker through to psychiatric care assistant. 

I was remembering these years today whilst out on a run and I remembered one night when I turned up for a temporary role at an old folks nursing home.  I was penniless after spending the three months prior to that night in a student bar with a book in hand having the time of my life at college.  I needed funds and fast and so night shifts were the way to go as you always got time and a half and more often than not you could sneak in some shut-eye at some point.

 So my nineteen year old slightly spotty self rocked up at a nursing home in Yorkshire and was greeted by the matron who was very pleased to see me as my arrival meant she could trot off home for the evening.  To my sheer surprise she explained that I would be alone that evening with just twenty-six elderly chaps and ladies for company all of whom would be tucked up tightly in their beds.

In the years I worked in various nursing homes I saw some rubbish practices but I am afraid this blog isn’t tackling those tonight as I put my soapbox on the top shelf in the garage and I can’t reach to get it down.  Looking back I would agree that it wasn’t wise to leave a nineteen year old care assistant in charge of all those people but hey ho at nineteen I thought I could run Britain so I was pretty confident. 

Matron explained that all I had to do was make the rounds hourly and check each bed and occupant, and as we walked around the sleeping folk she gave a brief history…

“This is Arthur, he is 86 and sleeps through…. This is Martha; she sometimes gets up to go to the loo…”

And then we reached Ethel’s bed and she paused for a moment,

“Hmmm, this is Ethel,” she coughed “hmmmm, Ethel is 92, she is in good health, loves The Arches, has six grand children ” she carried on and on, “and Ethel likes sitting in the sun, she sleeps well generally but occasionally her bowel falls out and you need to pop it back in.”

And off Matron continued to the next bed whilst I stood aghast, jaw making thudding noises on the floor and imagination on overdrive.

I mean can you imagine, nineteen, no real medical training, an ego as big as a house and zero and I mean zero experience in popping bowels back in.

Terrified that if I confessed my inexperience in replacing bowels I would be sent home without my seventy pounds worth of drinking money I swallowed my horror, hid my ignorance and waved Matron farewell and locked up. 

On the hour every hour I wandered the dark halls, jumping out of my skin when Maratha shuffled off to the bathroom and every hour I studiously swerved past Ethel’s bed until at 3am I heard a shout and what I can only describe as a trumping noise.  In fact yes, it sounded just like an elongated fart and it came from under Ethel’s duvet.

It was terrible, it was like my legs were controlled by an external source as they dragged themselves over to Ethel’s bed and I had an out of body experience as I watched my hand tentatively lift the edge of the duvet.

There it was, my first bowel experience, previously I had had bowel movements but frankly they don’t compare.

What could I do, I couldn’t leave it, no lady wants to be caught with internal bits hanging out.

So using only my northern sense for guidance I leaned over and ‘popped’ it back in.

It truly was a once in a lifetime occurence.

Needless to say it was my last night shift at that particular home.


  1. March 24, 2011 / 9:58 pm

    Oh my God!!!!! I’ve never heard anything like it. My jaw has literally hit the floor.
    (You couldn’t come round and pop it back in, could you?!!!)
    Amazed is hardly the word.
    But I’m sure old Ethel, for as long as she lived, was very grateful to you….

  2. eviegracesmummy
    March 24, 2011 / 10:14 pm

    Blinking heck!!! As someone who started my career in a nursing home I was never asked to ‘pop it back in’ (I was asked to do a few bizarre acts but still feel quite queasy about it)! I have dragged myself out of bed got one of OHs caps and am now taking it off!!! *mental note call Jane if I need any personal procedure* xxx

  3. March 24, 2011 / 10:15 pm

    I have a new-found respect for you (not that your marathon training didn’t already have me in awe). That must be a Northern no-nonsense approach to “getting things done”. Either that or you really wanted a night out…

  4. March 24, 2011 / 10:26 pm

    Astounded, horrified. So glad I will never ever have to do that.

  5. March 24, 2011 / 10:39 pm

    Hubby just looked at me side ways as I literally LOLed (I don’t do LOL normaly).

    Thank you, I will now go to bed feeling better about all the crap jobs I had when i was young and a smile on my face.

  6. Mcai7td3
    March 24, 2011 / 10:46 pm

    Omg!! How do you pop it back in???

    • March 24, 2011 / 10:52 pm

      tis very hard to explain actually but involves latex gloves….

  7. March 24, 2011 / 11:07 pm

    This is Comedy gold, too funny and once you’ve popped a bowel back in, presumably no toilet training nightmare can ever compare so it’s always uphill from there! Brilliant.

  8. Karen F
    March 24, 2011 / 11:21 pm

    Legend! No other word will do….

  9. March 24, 2011 / 11:34 pm

    aghh!! I’m shuddering at the thought! You are a braver woman than I am.

  10. March 25, 2011 / 8:27 am

    OH MY WORD!!!!! I don’t what else to say! My jaw is still resting on the floor. I am aghast!

      • April 2, 2011 / 10:06 pm

        Ella is absolutely horrified!! But thrilled with the post 😉

        Poor Ethel! Poor you! And it has reminded me that I must go and get my post-baby backside Botoxed so I don’t end up like that when I’m ninety.

  11. March 25, 2011 / 8:42 am

    Bloomin heck – I couldn’t even think of doing that now at my mature age but to even CONSIDER doing it at 19? Wow…hats off to you!

    • March 25, 2011 / 9:12 am

      I think you can call it the ignorance of youth x x

  12. March 25, 2011 / 9:20 am

    Ohhh Jane, I am cracking up, not at poor Ethel of course but the way you write is fabulous.

    I would have died but like you I recall being that age and thinking I could rule the world!

    Mich x

  13. March 25, 2011 / 6:14 pm

    Yep. Done it a few times mainly in cows ( a struggle!) and occasionally dogs and cats. Oh and once tried with a hamster but we had a problem with the finger/bowel interface and it bit me.
    My doctor friends have told me that it’s quite straight forward in humans.
    I hope your £70 was worth it!

  14. March 25, 2011 / 6:58 pm

    I can state, emphatically, that the answer to that question is a resounding no!

    Well done though, going beyond the call of duty and all that ;-)!

  15. March 25, 2011 / 10:38 pm

    Oh. Em. Gee.

    I was just a little bit sick in my mouth there.

    Seriously, my sis in law is a carer at an old people’s home. I swear they should be paid triple!!!!

  16. March 26, 2011 / 11:08 am

    Oh hells bells, you poor Darling you. I could no more pop someone’s bowel in than I could… heck I can’t think of anything worse.

    Thank God for souls like you… one never knows when one is going to find oneself in need of a little help pushing one’s bits back in!

    • March 26, 2011 / 11:36 am

      hmmmm had a career change since then; am scarred for life….

  17. March 26, 2011 / 11:32 am

    Words fail me they really do. I am going to get a tattoo on my but before I ever go in to an old peoples home with handle with care on

  18. March 26, 2011 / 11:57 am

    Nearly dropped my bowel laughing… I know I shouldn’t, but…..the thought of a jellified 19 year olds legs at the sight.

  19. March 26, 2011 / 2:40 pm

    Holy bageezus! My family owned and operated an assisted living facility for 18 years and I never once had to pop a bowel back in! Sat with a dead body once, burped a colostomy bag, got peed on, walked in on a gran and gramps doing the dirty, and watched a lady flick poop like a chimpanzee, but not once did I have to do that you poor soul! lol Happy Purple Day! x

  20. March 27, 2011 / 12:29 pm

    Oh my good god. Reading this was like watching a horror movie – I couldn’t look away but I was scared what was coming next! What a star you were to help Ethel out. There’s a chance any one of us could be her one day – I hope my 19 year old helper is as courageous as you were.

  21. March 28, 2011 / 7:45 am

    I’m shocked and horrified at this – I hope the ‘matron’ of this home was eventually removed and lived with a guilty conscience. No – I
    Couldn’t have done what you bravely did I don’t think but, then again, what other option would I have had in those circumstances. We will all be old one day and it is totally scary to think we too may be in those degrading and lonely situations in a purportedly ‘ caring ‘ home for the elderly. Brrrrr – it makes me shiver.

    • March 28, 2011 / 8:29 am

      Exactly; I had to give ethel her modesty back!

      I intend on my children adoring me so much that they will let me live with them when my marbles start to go.

      That will happen won’t it?

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