Our theme for the month of October is “flash nonfiction.” Writers were asked to submit pieces that were 250 words or less.
My mom and I sat on plastic chairs deep in the basement of the Cleveland Clinic. She kept time while I drank two bottles of contrast. Upon draining the last bottle, I felt an uncomfortable urge, and then panic. “I think I just pooped myself,” I whispered. Mom’s surprise matched my own, but I shuffled bravely to the nurses station where I explained to a kind nurse that I would need a pair of panties before my enterography. She quickly gathered a pack of wipes, a new pair of hospital pants, and a bulky adult diaper. I cleaned myself up in the bathroom before clumsily putting the diaper on.
I laid on my stomach in the scanner, and in the most humiliating moments of my young life, I actively pooped myself for forty-five minutes. At its worst, after they administered medication to halt the movement of my intestines, I was also fighting the urge to vomit. A nurse stood at my head, encouraging me to take slow breaths. While tears dripped to the end of my nose, I whispered an apology for the smell.
When it was over, my mom and a team of compassionate nurses helped me clean up and put a fresh diaper and gown on before sliding into a wheelchair. Their compassion in maintaining my dignity during those harsh moments is what stuck with me. It’s not a happy memory, but a lesson in the holiness of our smallness, and the gift of humble service when we are weakest.