When the Nurse Becomes the Patient

Old Worm by Jean James

I work in the medical field, so I’m quite used to embarrassing things happening to other people.  I’m the first person to reassure my patient who just shit on the floor, “Don’t worry about it, it happens all the time.”  Anything to make someone feel better.  But what do you do when you’re the one with the embarrassing problem?

Three months after the birth of my second child I went to the bathroom one morning, and though I didn’t shit on my floor, I did have something very wrong with what came out of me that day.

Because I’m a nurse I have a tendency to examine the things that come out of my body.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not holding a magnifying glass or collecting samples, but a quick peek just to make sure everything appears normal.

This particular day was really no different, a quick glance, followed by a second look, followed by a horrified stare, until it sunk in what I was looking at, or more clearly what was looking back at me…

“O.M.F.G., there’s an f’ing worm in my shit!”  As my brain was trying to wrap itself around what my eyes were trying to deny, I could feel the panic creeping up my chest.  The idea that a living creature just made its way out of my ass was more than I could digest.  And as I began to accept that this indeed was real, my next thought immediately raced to the question, “Are there more?”

I needed help.  I was sure this didn’t qualify for a 911 call, so I had no other choice than to call for my husband.  My husband is not a medical person, he’s not comfortable with excrement, vomit, or any other abnormal bodily fluid.  So believe me when I say calling him for help was truly my last resort.

Hmmm how do I put this, “Honey, there’s a worm in my shit”

His reply, “What!!? Are you sure?  How do you know it’s really a worm?”

Me, “Just look for yourself.  It’s a goddamn worm!  I know what a worm looks like and that’s a worm…in my shit!”

Him, “Well how’d it get there?”

Me, “I don’t f’in know!  How does any worm get in your shit!?  This is kinda of new territory for me.”

Him, “What are you gonna do?”

Me, “Jesus Christ!  Go get me a Tupperware. I’m gonna scoop it up, call the doctor and bring it in for testing.”

Him, “You’re gonna scoop up your own shit?”

Me, “Yes, I’m gonna scoop up my own shit!  How else am I going to prove a worm just came out of my ass?”

So the nurse in me kicked on and I collected my own stool sample, worm and all, and called the doctor’s office demanding to be seen immediately, which wasn’t a problem when I explained why.

Since I work in a small hospital, I know the doctors fairly well.  It’s rather incestuous how we nurses use our doctors as our personal physicians.  Normally I’m not bothered by this.  When I had my children I wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed or uncomfortable carrying on a normal conversation while my doctor was up to his eyeballs in my cervix.

But like the rest of the animal kingdom, I tend to be a bit shy when it comes to number 2.  So carrying my own cup of shit with a worm sticking out of it to my primary care doctor/co-worker was nothing shy of mortifying.  Could either of us ever look at each other the same?

When it came time for me to see her, it was kind of like talking to my husband all over again.

Her, “So, what’s going on?”

Me, “I passed a worm in my stool.”

Her, “How do you know it’s a worm?”

Me thinking “Is she f’ing kidding me.  I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t sure.”

Politely I opened my brown bag and pulled out my Tupperware o’shit and showed her the forensic evidence that was my worm.  The look on her face was priceless; controlled horror, followed by the ever professional, “…hmm…wow…yup that definitely looks like a worm.”  And just for good measure she called in her nurse for a second opinion, as I shrunk lower in my pool of embarrassment.

Knowing she was way over her head, my doctor decided to send me to the Gastroenterologist (a.k.a. the ‘ass man’), as we were lacking a Helmintholgist at our small community hospital.

I vaguely knew who this G.I. doctor was; I hadn’t had a lot of dealings with him.  And after meeting him I realized his personality suited his profession.  Unfortunately for me, he was the only available G.I. doc at that moment.  He carefully examined the contents of my little Tupperware surprise and concluded there was a worm in my stool.  Well, thank you very much Captain Obvious!  Now that we were all in agreement that my worm existed, I more importantly wanted to know how it got there and if I had to worry about any more surprises on my next trip to the bathroom.

I had already done an internet search (because that’s the kind of crazy person I am) prior to coming to the doctor.  I learned more about parasitic worms that I ever wanted to know.  Their life cycle is so gross I’m not sure I can even tell you…okay I will, but I’m giving out one of those warnings:

This might be disturbing to children and people with weak stomachs, and everyone else in between.

In order to get a worm, you must first ingest something contaminated with fecal material (Ewww).  The eggs of the worm hatch in your stomach and migrate into the circulation, which then carries them to the lungs!  The larvae mature in the lungs then climb their way out into the throat where they are swallowed into the stomach, and make their way into the intestines where they develop into adults.  The adult worm can live 1-2 years feeding off of partially digested food.  I’m so going to puke just writing this.  Okay, so when I learned all this I counted back 1-2 years to try to figure out where the hell I was, and to my horror discovered I was in Mexico…on my honeymoon!  Feeling more like an investigator for the C.D.C. (Center for Disease Control) than a nurse, I relayed this information to Dr. Lackluster.

In return, he stoically tells me my worm must go to the lab for positive identification, and only then will we know for sure.  He remarks that parasitic worms are quiet common throughout the world.  Then he drops his bombshell theory as to how this particular worm came to find a home in my intestines.  He said I most likely got this worm from eating dirt as a child…DIRT!!!  So I quickly do the math in my head.  Kids eat dirt around the age of 2, I was 35-year-old at the time, so I just shit a 33-year-old worm.  Holy crap, no wonder that worm had a beard and a cane.  It didn’t come out on its own, if fell out, a victim of worm cardiac arrest.  Was this doctor sniffing too much methane gas?  It’s no wonder this doctor chose to be in a profession surrounded by assholes.

My mouth opened, then closed, then opened, then closed again.  My husband let out a chuckle, (like there was actually something funny going on) until I gave him that look that said, “Laugh again and I’m gonna shove my worm up your ass!”

I left there humiliated with my antiworm prescription and told to leave my specimen with his nurse.

Horrified, humiliated, and embarrassed, I handed over my worm to yet another set of eyes, and it was then that I felt a gentle hand touch my shoulder and a kind voice saying, “Don’t worry about it.  It happened to me once too.  Now every time my ass itches I think it’s a worm trying to get out.”  For the first time all day I laughed so hard, and felt so relieved to know I wasn’t the only one.  Thank God for that nurse,  I could’ve kissed her!

I’m happy to say I’ve been worm free ever since.  I’ ve learned a valuable lesson and am now very careful not to travel to third world countries…and have eliminated all dirt from my diet.

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8 thoughts on “When the Nurse Becomes the Patient

  1. I am not officially TERRIFIED that this will happen to me, or is in the process of happening to me. After all, I do have cats who like to shit and jump on the counter. This was an enthralling read, but I kind of regret it. I am such a hypochondriac!

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