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On taking a shower

What could be so hard about taking a shower, you ask. Normally I’d agree with you but right now I have a permanent drip feeding into my arm. It is driven by an ambulatory pump, which sits in a small waist pack attached to a belt. The pump feeds into a PICC, which is a semi-permanently installed tube running into my arm at the elbow, up over the shoulder and emptying into a large vein in my chest. The difficulty is caused by needing to keep both the pump and the entry gubbins clean and dry.

As you can imagine, I’ve gone through several design iterations to solve these problems. The arm turns out to be relatively easy to waterproof. I simply wrap my arm from wrist to biceps in cling film, and tape down the seams using micropore. That works pretty well. At least no water has got in so far. The only complication is that I prefer to wrap my arm myself, which is harder than having someone else do it, but my independence is important to me. It allows Gillian to have more of her own life. She gets little enough of that at the moment that I don’t want to encroach on it any more than I absolutely have to. But I’ve mastered the art of the dry arm, and am now flying solo.

The pump problem

The pump, on the other hand, is still not a 100% solved problem. The first idea was to hang it from a wire coat hanger outside the shower stall. Well, it certainly kept the pump dry. I did have to shower with my left arm vertically raised, all the time (picture a rather over-keen schoolboy yearning to answer the teacher’s question) meaning I could wash only with my right hand. I can reach most places with that hand, but not my right armpit. Maybe I could stand on tip toes, get Gillian to hold the pump a bit higher to give me more manoeuvring room, and yes! I gave said armpit a quick wash. Verdict: clean, eventually, but too tiring and inflexible.

Second attempt

We bought some largeish ziplock bags, put the pump in and closed the seal. We taped around the tube where it appeared at the corner of the ziplock. That seemed pretty good, but we put it in a second bag, just for extra safety. I carried the bag while I was in the shower. True, I had to sit down so that I could put the bag on the floor, but I had a lot more manoeuverability, so it was a definite advance. Still not perfect. More experimentation needed.

Final attempts

I wanted to free up my left hand, as it would make washing that much easier. The double bag method was working well, so we kept that. The idea was to try to tie a length of paracord to the bag so that I could simply hang the bag over my shoulder. We had a few goes at this, starting with taping the paracord to the bag. Big failure: after only a minute or two the water unstuck the tape and I was reduced to carrying the bag in my left hand again. The next design tweak was to replace the outer bag with one that had handles, to which I could tie the paracord. Better, but a disturbing amount of water got into the outer bag — acceptable — of which some got into the inner bag — definitely not acceptable. Tomorrow’s attempt will involve me trying to turn over the top of the second bag so that the water would have to climb uphill to get in. If that doesn’t work, I have enough paracord that I might even make a macrame bag. Maybe.


A couple of friends contacted me ask whether I knew about boat bags. I didn’t, but a quick search turned up loads, including some that might very well be exactly what I need. Even better, one of those friends, Katie, is putting a selection of boat bags in the post for me so that I may borrow the most appropriate one. Thank you, Katie.

{ 6 } Comments

  1. Gillian | 20 January 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Another issue with the ambulatory pump is that if the narrow tube leading to his arm gets bent or folded, the pump alarms with a loud beep. And every time Chris turns over in the night (or so it seems to me) he lies on the tubing and sets off the alarm. An unbroken night’s sleep is a thing of the past…..

  2. icyjumbo | 20 January 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    True, that is annoying. But it’s not absolutely forbidden to bend my arm. I think the pump complains if it tries to pump and it encounters more resistance than expected.

    And as for sleep, I’m getting my sleep in 1.5–2 hour chunks. For me, that’s pretty good.

  3. Gary Coathup | 21 January 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I think this could help – – it may have to be adapted!

  4. icyjumbo | 21 January 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Ho ho ho! I thought I was private in my bathroom, but clearly you’ve been watching the process rather more closely than I anticipated. 🙂 There may indeed be a hint of makeshiftiness in my engineering efforts. What do you expect of a mathematician?

  5. David Allsopp | 22 January 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    I thought mathematicians normally lost interest once they’d proved that a solution existed? 😉

  6. icyjumbo | 23 January 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    That’s true, of course, but in this situation, I’m a patient too, not just a mathematician. And there is the not inconsiderable matter of the engineer in the family watching over me. My every move gets R&A-ed, a fine QQ legacy.

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