Opinion

Leaving toilet seat up can be hazardous

Sitting down on a toilet where the lid has been left up delivers a shock hard to forget. If the person is of small stature, the experience could be more than memorable; it could be deadly.

A recent episode of Untold Stories of the ER followed the case of a tiny woman of about 60 years who fell into the toilet after her husband left the lid up. Due to her size, she sat low in the toilet, her knees caught on the rim, her feet off the floor. She had no way to hoist herself out; no handholds presented to her.

Eighteen hours after she wedged in the toilet, ambulance attendants arrived. Their first reaction was disbelief, then an urge to snicker. A language barrier made it difficult for her to explain to the paramedics how long she had been in this predicament or much about her medical history, which would prove to be crucial. She showed signs of dehydration –- she appeared lethargic and her eyelids were wrinkled.

Her husband was not home. The couple seemed to live alone although a daughter arrived while the paramedics were evaluating her situation.

The daughter explained that her mother was diabetic and elicited that her mother had taken a dose of insulin shortly before her mishap but hadn’t had anything to drink or eat since taking the insulin. Diabetics must take food immediately after a dose of insulin.

Despite the fit physique of the paramedics and the woman’s tiny stature, they could not extricate her from the toilet. Having sat there so long, her bottom had ‘swelled’ around the top of the toilet bowl like a muffin in its baking tin.

They couldn’t break the suction nor could they slip anything between her and the porcelain.

They concluded the sensible thing would be to take her to Emergency sitting in the toilet. But how to unbolt the toilet from the floor?

From somewhere in her home they got a wrench and with it, unscrewed the bolts clamping the toilet to the floor.

Moving toilet and lady as one from the close confines of the bathroom was no snap either.

Gradually, and oh so carefully, they moved the lady with her throne from the bathroom and into the ambulance.

They drove a gentle, slow trip to the hospital.

Attending staff gawked at this unusual sight as she was transferred to Emergency like Celine Dion going to her wedding. She was duly hooked up to monitoring devices as doctors conferred.

Doctors worried she could suffer kidney damage from enzymes produced by the body during that 18 hours.

She might be suffering hypoglycemia and could go into a coma. Also very real was the risk of blood clots in her legs, clots that might migrate to her brain, heart or lungs, cause a stroke or heart attack and kill her instantly.

But how to extricate her from the porcelain bowl? Emergencies aren’t equipped with demolition tools.

But the plumbing department responded with a toolkit offering chisels and two hammers, a Big Bertha and a Little Bertha.

The plumber calculated a vulnerable spot in the side of the toilet, aimed a chisel, small hammer poised.

With three paramedics set to bear the woman’s weight when the toilet smashed, he struck the chisel once.

The porcelain shattered.

She was lifted free sustaining only a couple small scratches on one flank, and eased flat on to a bed.

About then her husband showed up to be royally chewed out by their daughter.

Jokes about leaving the toilet seat up may amuse men but no woman finds them funny.

To protect ourselves, we should hang a hammer within easy reach of anyone on the toilet.

 

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