Fun with Foleys -or- Let’s Talk Catheters 😃

Weird medical device

So, here we are again, venturing into the by-now familiar territory of TMI, and perhaps you’re wondering — not for the first time, I’m sure — what’s up with this guy? It’s a fair question.

Yesterday a plumber stopped by to work on one of our showers, and I greeted him at the front door with a Foley catheter bag in hand, an unavoidable “benefit” of my recent prostatectomy, and one which I’ll “enjoy” until next Thursday. He asked me what was going on, and when I told him, he pointed to his helper — an older gentleman coming up the sidewalk — and said “he just had a prostate biopsy.”

Long story shortened…the helper was extremely interested in my situation and I answered a dozen or more questions as best as I could. He was awaiting the results of the biopsy and while his urologist had done a good job of explaining possible outcomes, I think I was the first person he’d had the opportunity to talk with who had firsthand experience. He seemed very grateful for the opportunity to talk about my case, even though it may not be relevant to what he’ll ultimately experience.

I share this just to say that one of my prayers going through this experience is that I’ll be an encouragement to others, and, I hope, an instrument of God’s grace in a way I could not have done before. So, in that same vein…I have a few things to say about catheters.

Oh, to allay your fears…there will be no photos.

First, there’s a certain paradox associated with having a Foley as your constant companion for days at a time. On the one hand, your freedom is greatly constrained — by your sense of propriety, if nothing else. Carrying around a bag of pee is a buzzkill in most social situations.

On the other hand, you also have a freedom that you’ve not experienced (I hope) since you were an infant: you can pee anywhere, anytime!

I had this epiphany last night while tossing but not turning — one’s sleeping position options are quite limited by the presence of a catheter and traumatized internal organs held together by duct tape and baling wire — having awakened to the presence of an ear worm, Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. Don’t ask me why that song; I don’t even have it in my music collection. (As an aside, that song was alternating in my brain with Stealers Wheel’s Stuck In The Middle With You, another non-intuitive choice. The night before it was American Pie — the song, not the movie.)

If you’re not familiar with Dylan’s song, here’s a snippet:

I mention this because my sleep-deprived brain began to try to put my own lyrics to Dylan’s music. (This really seemed like a better idea at 3:13 a.m. than it does now.)

Well you can pee while you’re walking through the store
You can pee while you’re standing in your door
You can pee while you’re dining on your meal
You can pee while you’re watching The Wheel

It’s a freedom like you’ve never had before
Even if you don’t want it anymore.

Well, you can pee while you’re lying in the bed
You can pee while you’re standing on your head
You can pee while you’re playing the piano
You can pee while you’re peeling a banano

It’s a freedom like you’ve never had before
And it’s likely you don’t want it anymore.

Much like the contents of a Foley bag, there’s more where that came from, but you get the gist…and you have my sincere apologies.

The other thing about a cath is actually a cautionary tip. Unless you have one of those little bags that you strap to your thigh, sort of like a really disgusting pistol holster, you need to get used to doing everything with one hand, or look for handy places to hang the bag whilst doing…well…anything. Why? Well, obviously, because you’re attached at the…um, well, you know…it goeth where you goeth.

I’ve come to appreciate like never before the vast multitude of drawers and cabinets in our house (we have a lot of storage space), because a slightly opened drawer or cabinet door is the perfect spot to hang the bag while, say, making a sandwich or washing your hands or talking on the phone.

The biggest challenges here are finding good hanging spots when sitting in a chair. Right now, in my office there’s a perfectly placed drawer next to my computer, but there aren’t such good options for the arm chairs in the den or our bedroom. One recommendation is to put a clean trash bag in a short, wide-bottomed wastebasket, and hang the bag inside the wastebasket.

OK, sure, you could just hang it on your waistband or from a pocket, but if you’ve ever had abdominal surgery you know that wearing clothing with a tight-enough waistband to support something like this is a pretty bad idea. And if you didn’t know it, you’d learn pretty quickly.

Fortunately, we’re overrun with decor, some of which is just the right height and has the proper configuration to act as a Foley bag hanger…something I’m certain the designers of said decor would be mortified to know.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation for the sheer design elements of the system the hospital attached to me and sent me home with. It’s an engineering marvel, and also provides a practical study into the physics of hydrostatic pressure.

The model I’m wearing is loaded with bells and whistles (not literally; that would be weird); I couldn’t find it on the manufacturer’s website, so it may be a custom design just for hospitals. I’m tempted to post a photo, but that would break my promise.

But in some small way, it gives me a feeling of security to know that I’m possibly driving the Rolls-Royce of catheters. We’ll see if our insurance company is equally impressed.


  1. LOL! Eric this cracked me up. I’m always entertained by your blog topics! 😂 I understand your frustration with all these procedures associated with your cancer. I tore up my knee last September after “twisting “ it stepping out of a motorhome. In January I had total knee replacement surgery and have suffered intense pain for the past 8 months. I totally can relate to the sleep deprivation and lack of comfort attempting to do anything. For the past month I have been undergoing multiple procedures for a urinary regulator for my bladder. Monday I finally had the device permanently implanted in my hip. It is controlled with a phone app. I have experienced some discomfort with the implant but I think it will get better. Now I’m really a Bionic Woman. 👍😂 An added benefit has been that the regulator stimulation stops my knee pain!!👍
    Continuing to pray for you & Debbie during this health challenge. Im thankful you still have your sense of humor and are willing to share your experiences. 🙏🥰🐸FROGS…Fully Relying On God’s Strength

  2. Sharron, thanks so much! (Debbie was a bit aghast that I’d post something like that…you’d think she’d know better by now. 🤣) I’m glad to hear that you’re getting your health issues under control. This getting older thing is not all it’s cracked up to be, but by God’s grace and a little humor, we’re all gonna be OK!

  3. First, I loved the song you wrote. Strangely our tastes are similar. When it comes to the ranks of song writers, urine! (I meant YOU are in!)

    I’d like to take this opportunity to relay information I found out the hard way. On my first hip replacement they applied a spinal block to control the pain. Not having the experience before I was all for it. After the surgery, that evening my bladder began filling. Trips to the bathroom told me my system was still asleep from the block but the pressure continued to rise. My first catheter was applied (which made the hip replacement itself seem minor league). This had to be done three times before I was able to function on my own.

    The second hip replacement came and I told my anesthesiologist about my experience. He told me he could control my pain via the IV. The whole process went “swimmingly” as the Brits would say. If anyone is dealing with your or my conditions and surgery is required, please remember these experiences. Just a “heads up” from me to others.

    1. Norman, thanks for the affirmation. If you need a new lyricist for your new website, I’m available for consultation, as long as you can deal with my artistic sensibilities. Well, as soon as I develop some. 🤣

      Thanks also for sharing your experiences. There may well be people who stumble onto this post and who can benefit from your insights and advice!

  4. Eric, well I could ask you “how’s it hanging?”but that might be a whole ‘nuther story! Considering this cath works on a drip system and functions only if the bag is lower that, uh, well, you know, that drip master thing, your options are limited!!!
    Seriously, know that you Dona and I are praying for you! However, it will be a Methodist prayer but I think they work on a Baptist!!! Love you guy!!

  5. I’ve had the joy of a device like this on a couple of occasions. I remember mine had a bag that strapped along my lower leg. Had to wear loose pants, and emptying was handled by putting your foot on the commode rim and opening a valve.

    I can identify with the childlike freedom comment.

    1. Kelly, the hospital sent me home with one of those as an accessory, but I haven’t bothered with it (yet) for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that the weather is too hot for long pants. 🥵

      As of this morning, I have 3 1/2 days to go!

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