The Dance

Before I worked in the emergency room, I worked as a patient transporter in the same hospital. It was an easy job and I enjoyed it. Not only that, but it allowed me to be everywhere in the hospital and meet all different kinds of people. I knew all the nurses on each floor. I knew their bosses. I knew the staff in the ER, surgery, post-surgery, admissions, and discharge. I knew where everything was and all the different ways to get around. That really helped me when I went to try and get a job at the ER.

Anyways, this story takes place during my days as a patient transporter. I was picking up a patient from Radiology and taking him back up to his room. He was a middle aged man maybe in his 40’s. He was lying on a stretcher and I was going to push the stretcher throughout the hospital to get him back to his room. I asked him how he was doing and made sure he was all set to go. Then he tells me, “We better hurry. The nurse gave me something to help me go to the bathroom and I have to go really bad. I feel like I could pee any minute.”

“Do you want to try and go now? The bathroom is right here,” I suggested.

“No, I’m pretty sure I can hold it and I’d rather go in my room,” he replied.

“Alright Sir, you better hold on. I’m going to get us there as fast as I can. Hope you like to go fast.”


As a transporter, I got really good at pushing stretchers, obviously. I took that patient almost at a sprint down the hallways. I cleared people out of the elevator so we could get in. We went from the 2nd floor to the 11th and of course this patient’s room was at the end of the hall. I was drifting on turns, clearing people out of the way, and making driving noises with my mouth just to add a little more drama to the situation.

We get to his room and I come skidding to a stop with the stretcher halfway in the room so that all the patient has to do is get up and walk 8 steps to the bathroom. “Here ya go sir,” I say. “There’s the bathroom.” I was proud at how quickly we got there.

“Well, the problem is I can’t stand on my own I need help getting from here to the bathroom,” he replies.

So without skipping a beat I move around the stretcher and hurried to get to the patient. I could tell he was definitely getting ready to go. I had him sit up and swing his legs off the stretcher and plant them on the floor. The easiest way to move someone who is the same size as you or heavier is to do what we call, “The Dance.” Basically, you have the person put their arms around your shoulders and you put your hands in their arm pits. You get into a squat position and raise the patient up. The idea is that they are supporting their weight using their arms around your shoulders and you are assisting by holding them near their armpits. It sounds weird but it works effectively and definitely looks like you are dancing.

However, this dance did not go so well. As soon as we stood up the patient says, “Oh no! I can’t hold it anymore. I’m going. I’m so sorry. I can’t stop. Oh no. I’m so sorry.”

I look down and urine is dripping onto the floor from the front of his gown. This grown man is literally arm and arm with me, his face is literally 6 inches from mine, and we lock eyes. I’m doing the dance while staring into the eyes of a grown man who is pissing himself.

I try and move my feet a little farther away so I don’t get splashed. There is a lot of urine. I can tell the patient is very embarrassed. I would be too, so I feel bad for him. I try and reassure him and tell him it’s no big deal and that stuff like this happens. It’s just never happened to me before. Or like this.

I notice the urine has stopped and I say, “Alright come on sir let’s see if we can’t make it to the bathroom so you can change and get cleaned up.”

“Oh no! I’m not done. I’m not done.”

“What do you mean? I don’t see any more pee.”

“No! The other end. Oh God!”

Sure enough I look down and I see loose stool start dripping down to the floor. Seriously? How did I get stuck in this situation? What am I supposed to do? Those thoughts zoomed through my head with no answers. I’m now literally arm in arm with a grown man who has just pissed himself and is now pooping himself. I have no idea what to do.

I thought about calling for help, but we were all the way down at the end of the hall. I couldn’t reach the call bell and I couldn’t let go of the man or he’d fall onto the floor and be even more covered in urine and stool.

As my mind is racing, the patient is continuing to poop. Lots of poop. I’ve never seen someone poop this much. Finally he says, “Just sit me back down on the stretcher. I can’t stand anymore.”

I look down at the stretcher and it is soaked in wet stool and has a pretty good size pile that must have come out with some momentum because it made it all the way onto the top of the stretcher.

“Sir, I don’t think you want to sit down in all that.”

Right then, the nurse walks by and half glances in the room and keeps walking. It was almost like she wasn’t expecting to see anyone in there and when she did she was so confused at what she saw it didn’t register. Five seconds later she walks back and sees what’s going on. Sees me and the patient standing there arm in arm and the mess on the floor and the stretcher. She doesn’t say and word and just stands there in shock. I look at her and mouth the word “HELP!” and give her a look of desperation. She says she will be right back. Great. I needed her now.

“Just let me sit down. Please.” The patient’s legs are wobbly. I can’t tell if he is still pooping or not.

I finally say, “Ok. On three. One. Two. Three.” The sound of his weight squishing down on his own stool makes me gag inside. I didn’t want to sit him down but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I was tired from supporting his weight this whole time.

The nurse comes back with isolation gowns and shoe covers. She hands me a gown. I feel like it’s a little late for that. She also brings a bed-side commode and sets it up next to the stretcher. I pick the patient up again and have him sit on the commode so he can finish his business. That’s when I finally begin to smell what has been around me this whole time. It was the worst fecal matter smell I had ever been around. It’s also when I noticed just how much of a mess this was. Pee and poop is everywhere. There was so much of it!

I felt absolutely disgusting. I looked at the nurse who was looking at me in disgust. She says she will take it from here which I am happy to hear. I spend the next 30 minutes cleaning the stretcher with every powerful cleaner I can find. Then I spend the same amount of time cleaning myself. I still didn’t think it was enough so I took the stretcher outside to our stretcher cleaner that we use mostly to remove blood from bad trauma alerts. I parked it there and left. I called my boss and told her I needed like 30 minutes of fresh air so. They began to ask why and I hung up. I didn’t want to talk about it.

I sat outside in the shade for 30 minutes in silence. Not even thinking about anything. Just breathing fresh air. When I went back to my boss, she had heard what happened. She said if I needed another 30 minutes she would understand. You bet I took her up on that offer.

That was the worst experience I’ve had this far with a patient in terms of bowel movements and urination. I don’t know if anything will ever compare.

-The Witch Doctor