The incredible shrinking bladder

by Ken Carpenter

            Age can be a funny thing if it doesn’t drive you nuts. Take the bladder, for instance. In my case, please, take it and replace it with a football or something. It has shrunk to the size of toad’s eyeball.

            Such was not always the case. When you’re a little kid, it is a good thing your bladder is oversized, because it is really easy to get sidetracked until somebody else points out that you are squirming like a worm on a hot griddle.

            Suddenly, “Oh yeah!”, you head for the nearest bush, tree or whatever to take care of business. If there are any other squirmers around, and no grown-ups to put a halt to it, you soon have a line of boys counting down to “Go!” If you happen to be the one that reaches the target of the moment, say that dandelion out there about ten feet, you are king for a day.

            Not that you earned anything, except maybe a temporary and undignified nickname of some sort, but you won something. Small victories should always be relished like a rare treasure, even if it is only King Urinator for a day.

            Not that it has much to do with it, but many groups of young boys have names for their willies, or at least they did in the good old days. Ours had Mortimer, Bosephus, Sid and several others that don’t instantly come to mind. Aren’t you privileged to be the recipient of such information?

            Anyway, as is my way, I decided to do a little research on shrinking bladders. I was surprised to find conflicting reports on the shrinkage of aging bladders. One 2005 University of Pittsburgh study had the audacity to suggest that “the idea that your bladder shrinks as you get older is nothing more than an old wives tale.”

            No doubt the study was carried out by 20-somethings who can drink two quarts of water, a 20-ounce Coke and a liter of OJ and walk around a mall for two hours before it crosses their mind that maybe a short trip to the restroom would be in order before the drive home. My bladder aches just to think of it. Be back in a minute.

            They studied 95 women between the ages of 22 and 90, and in their wisdom decided that bladder capacity rarely changes. Instead, they decided, many women are just cursed with an overactive bladder. In fact, there are apparently over 17 million Americans with overactive bladders.

             I take exception to a bladder study that does not include any men. What? Are they afraid we will all tell them the name of our willy and want to engage in peeing contests?

            Well, we might, I admit, but it sure would liven things up. I am here to tell you right now that my bladder no longer holds what it used to. I only thought I knew how to squirm when I was a kid.

            A blue whale’s bladder holds five and a half gallons. Some creatures have all the luck. If I was around all that water all the time I’d never do anything but urinate.

            I found one site that claims that bladder capacity in a 30-year old is two cups and in a 70-year old about one cup. It seems more like it should be four cups in the youngster and a half-cup in the codger, but at least someone agrees with me.

            I am guaranteed to make a run for the nearest facilities when I get around a running garden hose. A torturous home supply store I went in last year had a gurgling fountain set up in the yard section, and I swear there was almost an exodus of aging witnesses to it ambling toward the restrooms.

            While on a drive last week I was suddenly hit with a ‘too much coffee’ twinge that quickly turned painful. I hit the gas and writhed my way down the road until I reached a convenience store. Five more minutes and I would have pulled off the road and hit the brush.

            As I quickly walked in, trying not to look desperate, I noticed the fellow in front of me walking in a tight-cheeked manner that looked familiar. He was obviously in distress, and in a panicky voice he asked the first man he reached where the restroom was.

            Steered in the right direction, he picked up the pace, and I thought I heard a mumbled, “Please Lord” pass his lips as I was forced to trail in his footsteps. Luckily I knew the facilities well, and was pleased there were enough urinals and stalls to handle four customers. I was not especially pleased to be shadowing a man who appeared to be suffering some kind of intestinal distress though.

            I walked in behind him and he wasted no time hitting a stall door on the run, slamming it behind him and immediately releasing a string of cussword prayers because his suspenders were apparently not co-operating. The fear in his voice was very clear, and the race was obviously on to see if he could drop trousers in time.

            I did my own rush trip, substantially less panic stricken, to the urinal and did my business as quickly as possible. The uproar behind the stall door will forever haunt me, but I will not reveal any of that.

            It does remind me that I have never shared my own experiences with Irritable Bowel Syndrome though. Stay tuned.