I was the last of three children, and my parents heaved a sigh when I reached 18, for I could be left on my own without need for an adult. On that summer, they left for three weeks of vacations, only the two of them, and it was quite obvious that they wanted to enjoy themselves without having to deal with teenagers. As for me, I was to spend most of the summer working in a corner grocery store, to get personal income, except for two weeks at the beginning of August, when the store would close because it was when the owner took his own vacation time, and there were few clients anyway at that time of the year.
Unlucky as I was, stuck at home while some of my friends were enjoying the beach or exotic locations, I ended up with a tummy ache on the weekend just before the two weeks. I had gas, then nausea, and diarrhea. Just when I had two weeks off! Well, “off”, not quite, for I had told Mrs Ganty, our neighbor, that I would help her with yard work—for a fee, of course.
I hoped that the trouble would disappear quickly; in fact, it got worse during the night. I could barely sleep, making trips to the toilet every so often. In the morning, I rang at Mrs Ganty’s door.
“I am sorry madam, but I feel sick and won’t be able to do yard work.
— You definitely don’t look ok. Have you seen a physician?
— No… it was the week-end.
— Have you made an appointment?
— What’s wrong?”
In general, I would have been embarrassed to discuss such matters with strangers, but I had known Mrs Ganty for years. Besides, she had been a nurse.
“Nausea. Diarrhea. Tummy ache. Gastroenteritis, I guess.”
(“Gastroenteritis” had been the word used by our physician when I last had similar symptoms.)
“Could well be. Why don’t you come in so that I can have a look at you? Of course, I’m no doctor, but there are things that I know how to check.
— Don’t worry madam I’ll just take some rest.
— Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. Let me be blunt. It’s true that gastroenteritis in an adult is in general no big deal, except for the inconvenience of vomit and diarrhea. Unfortunately, its symptoms are similar to those of appendicitis, a much more serious condition which can be fatal if left untreated. If you don’t want to see a physician quickly, at least let me check on you.”
Appendicitis! I had heard and read about it. I walked in. Mrs Ganty showed me into her house, upstairs, and into the room formerly used by Michel, one of her sons.
“There. Lay on the bed, try to rest. If you need it, the toilet is just across the corridor. This door. Just make sure you wash your hands really clean after using it, gastroenteritis spreads through fecal matter. Have you checked your temperature?
— Then let’s check it. You seem feverish.”
Mrs Ganty was soon back with a thermometer, which she handed to me. “Put yourself under the covers and take your temperature. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Despite it being summer, albeit on a cooler day due to strong winds, I indeed appreciated being under the covers. Fever, probably… I stuck the thermometer in my mouth.
Mrs Ganty came back a few minutes later. She frowned, and seemed about to say something, but instead just extended her hand for the thermometer.
“38.8°C! And oral, so it’s even higher. You definitely have a fever, young man.”
She wiped the thermometer with cotton and alcohol and set it back into its case.
“Please get out of the covers, undo your belt and trouser button, and pull up your shirt. I need to examine your abdomen.”
I complied. “I’m going to press at various places. Tell me if it hurts.” Mrs Ganty proceeded to prod at various places on my abdomen. It was uncomfortable, and I told her so, but no sharp pain, including when she pressed on the lower right and asked me if it still felt acceptable.
“Mmh. Gastroenteritis seems more likely indeed. I’m going to give you some paracetamol and you will rest a bit.”
Mrs Ganty left. I heard her wash her hands, and a few minutes later came back with a glass of water with some medicine dissolved.
“Let’s see if you’re able to get some rest.”
I tried. After fifteen minutes approximately, however, nausea grew again, and at some point I darted out to go vomit into the toilet (I was glad it was close). Mrs Ganty appeared, looking concerned.
“I had hoped you were doing better.
— I had a terrible urge to vomit and a sharp pain in the stomach.
— Er… I’m now having second thoughts about diagnosis. I think you go to Dr Jeanneret, right? I think your mother once mentioned that. I’m going to ring him. When you’re done, wash your hands carefully and get some rest.”
A few minutes later, she came back.
“Dr Jeanneret is on vacation and does not seem to have arranged for a surrogate. Perhaps the most reasonable would be for me to drive you to the emergency room at the hospital.
— Is this really necessary? This is just a bit of vomiting, and…”
Mrs Ganty sighed, then thought for a bit.
“Daniel, as I said I’m no doctor. However, I’ve learned to perform certain examinations that are used in an emergency to rule out or diagnose appendicitis. Do you want me to try that now?”
It sounded less of a big deal than going to the hospital, so I accepted.
“I need some equipment and will be back in a few minutes. In the meantime, use the toilet, number one and number two, even if you don’t feel like it.”
I obeyed, a bit puzzled.
Mrs Ganty came back with a bag, the kind that medical professionals carry with them on home visits. “Please remove your trousers and briefs.”
She took out a box, and put a rubber glove on her right hand. Nonplussed, I did not budge.
“Daniel! Please remove your trousers and briefs. I cannot examine you if you’re dressed. You know, I was a nurse for 40 years, I had a husband and two sons, I’ve seen many a nude male.”
I obeyed, embarrassed. I put my hands on my privates, though. While I was undressing, she installed a towel on my bed.
“I am going to press on your appendix. So I want you to tell me immediately if it hurts. Understood?
— Now I want you to squat on this towel. Support yourself with your hands. Recline back a bit, you can support your back on your pillows. Knees further apart.”
I obeyed. Because I had to support myself with my hands, I could no longer use them to shield my genitals. Whatever, Mrs Ganty was right, she probably had seen so many she did not pay attention. As I set myself up in the desired position, I saw her apply some product to her gloved hand.
She then reached under my buttocks, her hand going below my scrotum. I felt her finger on my anus.
“Bear down as if going potty.”
This just reminded me of mommy when she gave me suppositories when I was a young boy. Perhaps Mrs Ganty would push a bit on my anus? Little did I expect what followed…
Mrs Ganty’s finger penetrated me slowly, but surely, and very deep. What a surprise! The feeling was unprecedented. She probed inside of me.
The finger withdrew. “Then most likely no appendicitis. Sorry for the examination but it was needed. You would have gotten the same in the emergency room, and sometimes there is not that much privacy.”
Mrs Ganty wiped my behind. I was too astonished to react.
“Lay back and have some more rest. I was about to propose you some lunch but I fear your stomach may not bear it. Maybe later in the afternoon?”
To some extent, vomiting had a bit cleared the matter. The shutters were closed. I fell asleep. The rest was welcome. At 4PM, I woke up, and went to the toilet.
“Daniel? How do you feel?
— Better, but still some diarrhea.
— I think it would be better if you stayed for the night, rather than stay sick at your home. I suggest you fetch a few things from your house—toothbrush, clothes, pajamas and toiletries.”
Why not indeed. Besides, Mrs Ganty had stuck a finger up my derrière, it’s not like it could be worse if she saw me in my pajamas.
I was doing better, and I could eat light dinner. I fear that I would get nauseated after it, and I did, but things were still bearable. I however had gas and still some diarrhea.
“Daniel, I know of a treatment that may calm your bowels and get through a smoother night. In the meantime, can you put on your pajamas please?”
Some minutes later, a knock on the door.
“Daniel, I nearly forgot. I’d like you to get under covers and take your temperature. And, by the way… I did not want to mention that this morning, as you already had the thermometer in the mouth, but the habit in his household is to take temperature rectally. That’s how it’s done in hospitals, you see, it’s more reliable. I clean the thermometer with alcohol after every use, so it was clean when you put it into your mouth, but I’d rather it was used only as intended. Have you ever done it?
— Then I’ll show you. Lift the cover a bit, will you, roll on the side and lower your pajama bottoms… Now I hand you the thermometer, you insert the narrow tip in fully and carefully. Bear down like going potty to ease the entering. See? All easy. Keep it for a couple minutes.”
I normally would have been shocked by such treatment, but, again, after she had had a finger in, the thermometer seemed no big deal. She covered my exposed behind and went away. After a few minutes, she reentered, carrying a towel.
“Hand me the thermometer, will you? 38.5°C…”
She busied herself with cleaning it. “Next morning you’ll take your temperature when you wake up, like, after going to the toilet… Now let me set this towel up. Get out of the covers please… Remove your pajama bottoms, I’ll be back shortly.”
Remove my pajama bottoms? Again? Mrs Ganty may have been a nurse and used to seeing naked males, I was not used to be naked in front of people… Oh well. I again installed myself on my side and lowered my pajama bottoms. The treatment she was talking about was probably some kind of suppository.
Mrs Ganty reentered the room carrying a kind of large jug, to which a flexible pipe was attached, ending with some kind of rigid piping. I had never seen such a device, but I immediately understood its purpose. I instinctively reached back for my pajama bottoms.
Mrs Ganty hooked the jug on a hook set in the wall besides the bed.
“Honey, of course you can decline. But you’ll feel better afterwards, you’ll be able to get some rest with less gas and cramping and especially you’ll be less likely to be woken up by diarrhea.”
I sighed and nodded.
“So I want your pajama bottoms completely off and you on your left side.”
I complied. Concerned about showing my private parts, I did it while turned on my side, facing away from her. Even though I had had to display them quite prominently during the examination, at least I could avoid more embarrassment on that part.
“Flex your right leg up, knee to your chest.”
Obviously, that position was meant to give her access to my anus… My anus which, since some suppositories in childhood, had received little attention, but got more than its share today!
I heard her prepare things. The snap of a glove. A finger applying ointment on my anus “relax, bear down”. The device being pushed into me. And then the warm water flowing into me.
I expected it to be unpleasant. It was not, at least in the beginning. The warm feeling was new and even interesting. As I filled, however, my bowels started reacting. I felt an increasing need to go to the toilet.
“Ma’am I think I need to go.
— If it’s unbearable, you may go, but if you can hold it please try, so that we don’t have to do it all over again.”
All over again! No, I would just bear it. My bowels continued being filled. Then, I felt her removing the nozzle in my rectum.
“All done! If you can, keep it for a few minutes. I’ll massage your tummy. You can straighten your right leg.”
She started rubbing my stomach with her hand. Her other hand was gently resting on my back, under my pajamas, reassuringly. It was strangely good, despite the rumbling in my bowels.
“I think you should go now. Beware, often more comes after you raise from the toilet and walk around. Have a shower after, I’ve left a towel on the bath.”
And so I did. I expelled, and as she had said, more came down after I took a few steps after wiping myself a first time. I also peed a lot; probably water got absorbed by my colon. As instructed, I showered.
The enema had indeed soothed my bowels. As I laid in bed with my book, I saw again the hook onto which Mrs Ganty had hung the enema jar. That was not a usual location for a hook, so its only purpose must have been to hang the device… This meant she was used to giving enemas to Michel, and most probably to all her children. This was troubling; I had never heard of that treatment, except in Molière’s plays or about barium enemas, so I had thought enemas belonged to history books and hospital examinations. I stood corrected. So many novelties on a single day! I fell asleep, and, indeed, was not woken up by diarrhea.