Twenty five years ago I attended an all girls’ college in preparation for nursing. It was some distance from home, and one night I was homesick and had an upset stomach. I decided to call the college infirmary. A kindly nurse answered, I told her the symptoms, and she said she would send a security officer to pick me up.
When I arrived at the stately, brick, circa 1900 building, I was greeted by a 50 some motherly looking nurse in a starched uniform. She escorted me to a room on the second floor where they housed the sick students. I was told to get into my pajamas and get in bed. A short time later she returned with a tray of stuff to take vital signs. I did not notice the rectal thermometer or the tube of KY. An oral temperature was taken as she probed my abdomen. When she read it, she said “oh dear, this is slightly elevated, I will need to take it rectally to be sure”. I asked if that was really necessary, and she said to just lie down on my side and it would be over with quickly, it was no big deal. I did as I was told, and as soon as I reached my left side she pulled down my pajamas and bikini panties. I felt her lift the top cheek, and insert the cold glass thermometer into my rectum. She held it in place for several minutes. When she read it again, she said it was normal, that what I needed was a nice warm enema. I remembered the red bag that often hung in the shower at home, but I had never had one. The thought of it scared me. I asked her if I could just please go back to the dorm and ride it out…of course she said no…I was there for the duration tonight. She said she would have me in shape for my 8 am anatomy and physiology class, and I thought, well all right, I guess it can’t be that bad. She must know what’s she’s talking about.
She returned with an IV pole, and a white metal can with black tubing and a black nozzle.. She went in the bathroom and turned on the water. I could hear her fill the can. I didn’t realize she was adding soap, but when she brought it out, there were suds floating on the top. I was really scared now, the can was full. Certainly I was not going to have to take all of that water into my bowels. I told her I didn’t want it.
She said…”now now, just take your enema like a good girl, it will be over soon, and you will feel much better afterwards”. I said it was too much, and she said…”just get over on your left side, let me worry about that, I have given hundreds of enemas in my nursing career.” With that, a towel was place under my bottom, and soon the nozzle was firm against my anus, and then it was pushed in. When the flow started, it felt very hot. She told me to take some deep breaths, it would be over soon…and then the cramps begun. I asked her to stop, but the words went unheeded. Instead, the nozzle was pushed in further. The cramping was severe as she raised the IV pole up even higher. I was begging her to stop, but she said, “you college girls need to know how to take an enema, now just calm down, you will need to take the whole thing, or I will have to start over. With all the junk you eat these days, I’m surprised I don’t have a house full every night here, just one or two a night”.
When it was over, I was allowed to run to the bathroom, where I sat for many minutes. I returned to bed, only to have to get another two times. She nurse told me she’d check on my frequently during the night, and wake me in time for A&P.
At 5 am, I was awakened to have another rectal temperature. I prayed nothing else would follow. I got up at 7 am, and made it to class on time. When I got there, I told my lab partner that I had spent the night in the infirmary. She asked me if I had been given an enema. I wondered how she knew. She said that was the standard treatment there, that I was lucky I only stayed one night.
And I never returned there…I did become a nurse though.