My Plastic Footprint

I’m feeling uncomfortable in more ways than the obvious one at the moment. Apart from the feeling of discomfort in the bladder area I have a feeling of guilt about Julia running round fetching and carrying for me. On top of that I’ve just been calculating the amount of plastic waste I’m going to produce before my return to hospital.

It’s going to be six weeks before I return. That’s 42 days.

For those of you not familiar with the equipment involved, it starts with a Foley catheter. Don’t read the link unless you have a real thirst for knowledge, it’s just a catheter that stays in place because they blow up a small balloon on the end to keep it in place.

Definitely don’t read it if you currently have one inserted as I’ve just scared myself to death by reading all the possible problems.

They can also, it seems, be used to stop nosebleeds. The mind boggles.

The catheter is plugged into a leg bag.

It is secured to my leg by Velcro straps, which is a skill in itself. Secure it too far down and you can get quite a twinge when you stand up. If I could find an emoticon showing a man with massive googly eyes and drops of sweat I would use it now. That’s how it feels. I now secure it as close to knee level as possible.

You can get one with a longer tube, but giving one to the man who is six feet two would be too simple.

The whole point of the procedure, from my point of view, is to get a decent night’s sleep so I don’t really want to be getting up all the time to empty it. This is where the night bag comes in. It’s four times the size and you can get about 7 hours out of it before that sense of urgency alerts you to the need for emptying.

The night bag has several feet of tubing attached. I haven’t measured it yet, but it’s long enough to trail across the floor at night and get tangled in Julia’s feet.

To attach the night bag you merely connect the tube to the tap of the leg bag and open the tap. To remove it you close the tap and disconnect. Remember to leave the soft tube on the leg bag. Simple. Even an idiot can do it. Most of the time. I’ve only had one emergency sock change so far, and one trip to root through the bin for the connector…

Anyway, plastic waste.

You use a leg bag for a week, so I’ll need six, which seems a bit of a waste. However, I don’t want an infection to build up so I’ll do as I’m told.

You have to throw the night bag and tube away every day.  That’s 42 bags and about 50 yards of tubing.

I think you could open up the top of the night bags to make flower pouches. They already have eyelets for hanging and a drain hole.

However, Julia says no.

I’m sure there’s a way to repurpose the tubing too, but she isn’t keen.

So that’s 42 night bags, 50 yards of tubing and six day bags.

That’s not the end of the story, as they come in packs of one leg bag and five night bags. I need nine packs, in plastic outers, and at a ratio of 7:1 will have six surplus bags – three leg and three night. I’ll be interested to see if they have a system for taking them back into stock.

To be fair, the NHS is making big efforts in recycling and if I were to get an infection by reusing equipment I would moan at great length. You know I would.

However, I still feel bad about all this plastic.

We also have three pairs of crutches from various rugby injuries because they won’t take them back, but that’s a different story…





16 thoughts on “My Plastic Footprint

  1. tootlepedal

    I gather that the old story about toilet waste being recycled back onto the drinking water system is one of the urban myths so perhaps recycling your plastic might not be the greatest idea. Still, it does seem a lot to have to throw away. I’ll do my bit by not buying any bottled water while you are suffering. (That’s an easy promise to make!)
    Look after yourself.

  2. Pingback: The District Nurse | quercuscommunity

  3. ChasingSernity

    It is rather like adding insult to injury! This is a task for some enterprising recycler to tackle – biodegradable medical supplies. Best wishes for a speedy recover, at least there is the summer to look forward to.

  4. Laurie Graves

    I agree that this seems like a necessary use of plastic. I’m guessing the plastic is discarded because of fear of infection, which you certainly don’t want to add to your agenda. Still, I’m sure the whole procedure comes under the category of “No Fun at All.”

    1. quercuscommunity

      Yes, I asked today when the nurse visited and she said it is all about infection control and catheterisation is very much a last resort. Not sure if I’m cheered by this or not. I think it was better without the words “last resort”. 🙂

      1. Laurie Graves

        Oh! Our friend Jim made it through with nary an infection. So take heart!

    1. quercuscommunity

      Thirty years ago a friend of mine broke his foot visiting Preston and had to make a good case, and sign a receipt in blood just to borrow a crutch to get home on the train. He had to return later to bring it back. Now they appear to be disposable.

      I may have exaggerated the receipt part…

  5. The Snail of Happiness

    It does seem like a lot of plastic, but it also seems necessary… unlike bottled water, straws, helium-filled balloons, micro-beads in cosmetics, plastic sticks of cotton wool buds, over packaging etc. If it helps, imagine you can off-set your current essential plastic use by saying no to unnecessary plastics for a couple of months (or forever!). I must work out how much plastic we have prevented being produced by getting our milk directly from the farm in a churn for the past eight months… in fact, consider it my contribution to off-setting your plastic waste.

    1. quercuscommunity

      Yes, it has reminded me about general plastic waste – I’ve been getting a bit lazy lately.

      I’d be happy to reduce it further by rinsing and reusing a few bags though. Otherwise it seems you’ve gone to a lot of effort for me to waste it all in a few weeks. 🙂


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