What do you do you if in the middle of your teaching you suddenly feel the urge to go to the toilet? Do you wait until your class is over? Do you ask your students to excuse you? What's the best way to deal with this most personal of issues?
In a school where I once taught, an annual medical examination was a standard operating procedure (SOP). All teachers and staff had to undergo a physical examination - x-rays, urinalysis, sugar testing, CBC, etc. During one such examination, I was unfortunate to find out that I had a tiny stone in my left kidney. The doctor said I didn't need to worry because he could give me some medicine to dissolve it. He explained that the stone in my kidney had been caused by eating salty food - salted fish, dried fish, salty snacks and suchlike. He went on to say that he would give me tablets to take for one month then after that I needed to go back and have another x-ray.
I underwent an x- ray again and my doctor was happy to announce that the stone had completely disappeared. Fast forward five years and I was surprised to discover I had developed a urinary tract infection. I could feel intense pain before and after urination. I had a nasty fever at times and I was passing light brown urine. All in all, I had the classic symptoms of a urinary infection. I consulted a doctor and he referred me for ultrasound treatment. I decided not to go. At times when I had no money I wouldn't go to the doctor. I would just treat myself with a sufficient dosage of amoxicillin and paracetamol. However, the urinary problems wouldn't go away.
One summer, I asked permission from my students to leave the room, "Class, may, I go out?" Thankfully the toilet was only three doors away. I was able to make it to the toilet without an accident. But in the following uncomfortable hours, I felt a frequent urge to urinate. I decided to pass by the pharmacy and buy something that any person would find a tad embarrassing to ask for - adult diapers. "Yes, sir, what size?" the lady asked. "It's for grandpa." I answered. And with diapers hidden in a plastic bag, I returned home, chuckling about the fact that my baby daughter had never wore diapers in her life.
For weeks, I felt confident that nobody noticed I was wearing a diaper and what's more, was actually urinating in it. But a very observant seven-year old boy asked me what was wrong. In reality I was peeing in my diaper. In my condition, it may only have been a couple of drops but even that was such a great relief.
In my desperation, I sought advice from people who knew something about this ailment. They recommended herbal medication with apple juice, coconut juice, boiled guava leaves, boiled tree leaves, boiled flowers of corn and so much other stuff - but there was no effect or respite. I still had the pain before and after urination. I suffered for nearly half a year with antibiotics and analgesics as my only allies.
Finally, I went to see a urologist. There I came to realise that I was already old because most of the patients with my condition were in their 50's and 60's. I underwent an ultrasound and x-rays, and the diagnosis was a stone in my urinary bladder which measured 1 inch in diameter. Using the history of my illness, the doctor explained that the kidney stone did disappear because of medication, but it then fell to the urinary bladder causing all my problems. For years it had remained there and had grown on any minerals that it could cling to.
"You have two choices. We can remove the stone with a laser or with a surgical operation." The laser procedure was more expensive so I opted for the second choice. However, I did not have 40,000 pesos (about 1000 US dollars) so with the help of my cousin, a nurse working at the Philippine Kidney Institute, I was advised to go to the out- patient department of that hospital.
I had to wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning to get a low queue ticket number for consultation but it was worth the sacrifice. Finally I got my schedule for the operation and the ordeal was over. Thanks to social welfare, I only paid 3,000 pesos (less than a hundred US dollars)
What happened to me taught me a lot of things.
When we feel something different happening in any part of our body, we should see the doctor right away. Once we're given prescriptions and instructions, follow them religiously. If it can be avoided, we should refrain from eating salty foods. We should drink a lot of water or juice. A British friend of mine once said that a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water a day can help cleanse our urinary system.
When we feel the urge to pass water, we have to go. But when we are in school, we should go to the toilet first before starting our class. When it is unavoidable, leave the class, but be sure to leave things in the hands of a covering colleague if possible.
Keep yourself healthy. Oops, excuse me folks, I have to go to the bathroom.