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THERE ARE not enough rest stops along the 75 kilometres between Bruce Mines and Elliot Lake, in northern Ontario. I speak from experience. This is how the day started: because of a flare-up of my newly-diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis, I had been prescribed the wonder drug, Prednisone. I had to take 30 milligrams daily, or six small white pills, similar to two small white diuretic pills I already took each morning to rid my body of excess fluids, (dubbed my pee pills). At 5:30 am I started my day, and reached for my pills in the dim light of the bathroom night light. I poured what I needed into my hand, the six prednisone and the two ‘pee’ pills, and chugged them with my first coffee of the day. Following a leisurely breakfast, I prepared for a long day on Highway 17. I needed to visit a student on placement in Bruce Mines after touching base at the school in Blind River where I taught Personal Support Workers.
I started out around 7:15, stopped at the local coffee drive-through and was surprised to have to make a pit stop there, since I had just gone before I went out my door. The 30-kilometre ride out Hwy 108 was pleasant, or at least the first half of the trek was. The last 15 kilometres had me humming frantically and shifting in my seat, hoping and praying that Paulina’s Café at the turn off would already be open for business, because I sure needed to use the facilities. Of course that meant I would have to buy yet another coffee for the privilege of using the biffy, but it would be a tiny price to pay for relief.
My small prayer was answered—Paulina’s was open, the fragrance of coffee everywhere. I left the café and headed for the school, reluctant to open my second cup of coffee in view of the horrible urgency I had undergone in the past half hour. The winter highways were still bare and dry, sunrise promising a gorgeous day. Ten minutes into my trip, I found I could no longer enjoy the scenery or the music because lo and behold, I needed a restroom again. Lauzon Lodge, about halfway between Elliot Lake and Blind River, had closed its restaurant, but I knew the beach area housed washrooms, open year round. Amid the leaves and debris of the freezing outdoor loo, I did find an open hole, and used it with a huge sigh of relief. I was now about nine minutes from the school and felt I would have plenty of time to get there in case another round of bladder discomfort occurred. Not true.
As I neared the hospital, the school still a few kilometres away, I swung into the parking lot on two wheels and did a closed-legged walk up to the entrance. I could see the “LADIES” sign on the door, the beautiful door to paradise. My mind and bladder cleared for the moment, I began to question why the dreadful urgency to urinate today of all days. Nothing different in my routine except the six prednisone tablets. Uh oh. Six prednisone tablets that looked suspiciously like the pee pills. Could I have been so stupid? Of course I could have. The bathroom was poorly lit, and I usually took my few medications in a mechanical just-out-of-the-sack manner. Yup. I had done it. Mixed up the two. I had managed to take six pee pills, and in addition to the need for frequent rest stops, I would also be in danger of becoming quite dehydrated. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. And I was teaching young adults to go out into the world and take care of vulnerable people.
I extended my time at the school in hopes that I might get past the worst of the diuretic overdose. Three rest room visits while I dawdled there, then off to Bruce Mines, a good hour away. I tried to get to Iron Bridge, a mere 27 kilometres, but alas, I drove alongside the meandering Mississagi River most of the way, watching it ripple and whitewater its way to who-knew-where, guaranteed to fill any normal bladder, let alone one assaulted by six pee pills! The snow plow turnaround with a backdrop of black spruce beckoned as the urge heightened. I saw good cover, so grabbed the Kleenex box and headed for sweet relief. Only as I finished up did I hear the growl of a chainsaw close behind. Did they see me in my frenzy to void? I was beyond caring. Gid ‘er done was the only thing on my mind as I sped out of the turnaround.
Crossing everything I had two of, I headed toward Bruce Mines, hoping I could at least make Thessalon, another 20 kilometres away. I was fine until about a kilometre outside of the town. Once the urge to void made itself manifest in the brain, there was no let-up. I considered another plow turnaround, but there was a transport idling there. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be searching out a thick shrub while being watched by a pair of drivers looking for a bit of entertainment. Thessalon, however did not open its doors until 10 in the morning, and not a restaurant, not a business, nothing with a biffy presented itself on my first drive through. I thought about the funeral home, since the hearse was unloading its latest customer, but drove on by in a Keigel holding pattern. It now hurt to breathe.
Finally, I saw a municipal employee unlocking the door to the offices. I parked and ran as best I could manage with my burden of urine, and gasped out “washroom” to her shocked face. She pointed behind the building and I envisioned another outhouse, but was pleasantly surprised that the public washrooms were just inside the back door to the building, warm, clean and well-stocked. Again, exquisite relief, spelled with a capital P.
By the time I reached Bruce Mines, I had stopped no less than eight times to void. The urgency had faded and I was left with nothing but bony ankles and a massive headache. I now had the hefty job of replacing the many litres of fluid I had left along Highway 17 in the past hours. I set out for home with a case of water in the seat beside me, and a thermos of coffee for good measure and pure pleasure. I had earned it. In the future, I will be far more diligent when taking pills in the wee hours. This has been a lesson in discomfort. Some long haul truckers carry a coke bottle for their bladder emergencies. I will now carry urinary catheter paraphernalia, just in case….