Not only the athletes are making it to the Paralympics in Rio this year – there are also a whole team of nurses and other medical staff on site. We got hold of Bev Everton, a nurse with the British Paralympic team. Bev always keep a survival kit in her bag, but not the kind you think…
The athletes are making their final preparations to peak next week, when the competition starts. For four long years they have trained to be in the shape of their lives these few days in September.
The medical staff have also been involved for a long time. Last year, Bev was in Rio to check out the hotels and venues. There are 100 athletes in the British team and the need for accessible rooms and other areas are essential — a challenge for the organizers.
– They have done a lot of changes in the hotels since then. It was about bed heights, rugs, doorways, shower chairs and adapted bathrooms for example.
Bathrooms are a central theme for our talk, and Bev needs to take a break in our Skype call to check some rooms – and toilets – before the last athletes arrive from Europe.
– Some of my athletes use urinary catheters and bowel irrigation, to empty bladder and bowel. They need adapted rooms, and not least clean toilets to minimize the risk of bugs. Actually, I always carry gloves and cleaner in my bag. I would never let the athletes use a bathroom I wouldn’t use myself, she says.
Like other athletes the Paralympic athletes need to think about food, sleep, training and rest. And hand disinfectant...
– Bugs from food or water would be bad to any athlete, but for a person with Spinal Cord Injury, who can’t control their bowel, it is a disaster, Bev explains.
Those who use intermittent self-catheterization to empty the bladder are recommended to use the pre-filled ones, where no tap water is needed. Or use bottled water for “dry” catheters, to avoid bacteria in the urethra.
– The athletes have all sorts of bladder and bowel related questions, and to be able to ask these things, they need to feel trust. We have built our relationship over a long time, which is great since we need to talk about pee and poo all the time, Bev says with a smile.
All athletes have different needs, more different than the Olympic athletes, and the healthcare staff is there to take care of whatever comes up.
They keep a supply of LoFric catheters in case someone’s luggage has gone missing. They keep a close eye on hydration, diet and sleep. They go on water runs to the supermarket, and they check out portable toilets.
They also encourage the athletes to stay with their routines, not least bladder and bowel related routines.
– Things tend to take a bit longer here, transport to venues for example, so bladder and bowel need to be taken care of in the morning. But other than that, the athletes shouldn’t change their schedule for catheterization or irrigation.
The 12 hour flight from Europe to South America also affects the athletes. Often they get dehydrated since they are a bit reluctant to drink during the flight to avoid peeing. The diet is different and they get a bit tired.
When we end the call, Bev is going to have cake with her roommate who is celebrating her birthday.
– But cake is for nurses only. That's no food for Paralympic athletes, so we need to keep it to ourselves, she concludes and sounds quit pleased…
Bev Everton is a nurse specialized in continence care and works as
a bladder and bowel nurse advisor for Wellspect HealthCare.
Don’t miss the next blog post about Mikey, an archer in the British team who just arrived to Rio for the final preparations!