short-story-thumbsI remember as a very junior nurse in the early 1970s being very embarrassed about asking a patient if they had “opened their bowels” , ” used their bowels” , “gone to the toilet” , ” had a poo ” , ” evacuated their bowel” ….which was an all important question we were obliged to ask every patient when we checked their blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration rate and temperature every shift. This was a very serious part of a junior nurses’ responsibility, and we were carefully monitored by more senior staff.

Being a public hospital, patients were in either a four or six bed ward , sometimes with many visitors present, and everyone could hear everything which was said.

One afternoon, I was looking after an elderly gentleman, a real Aussie farmer and I asked the all embarrassing and dreaded question………he was very hard of hearing, which made my task all the more difficult.

A house doctor was in the ward and came to my rescue…..” Have you had a crap today Bill? ” he asked my patient…….silence for a few seconds, then a huge grin…..” Oh, do you mean have I been down the yard today?….. Of course I have Doc ” he replied !

I giggled, and completed the observation chart.

That night , I relayed the story to my family, and my father, who had been brought up in rural Victoria, roared with laughter, and from that evening on, it became a family saying . Dad often referred to the story, asking me to re tell the tale , always accompanied by howls of laughter……

Many years passed, and my dear old Mum had had surgery for bowel cancer, and she was suffering post operative constipation. When I visited her a few days later, she winked at me and whispered and said she had been ” down the yard ” that morning .

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