As an eleven year old, I was overly modest. I lost that modesty with a severe poison ivy infection. I was spending the summer with my cousins, all boys. I had four sisters and no brother. We were outside in the woods a great deal and I contracted poison ivy. As it took hold on my legs, the ooze rode the leg openings of my underpants and the infection spread to my crotch. I was too embarrassed to tell my aunt.
It being summer time and hot at night, I just slept in my underpants. One morning, my aunt woke me up and discovered me stuck to the bed sheet. The poison ivy had spread from my toes to mid-chest. It was far beyond what calamine lotion could cure. I was driven home, was quickly seen by a pediatrician and hospitalized. I would spend the rest of my summer there.
I was kept isolated in a room on a wet sheet over a rubber mattress protector. Everybody who entered the room wore a mask and gloves. On the other hand, I wore absolutely nothing. Because the blisters were swelling and splitting, my skin was treated as a burn patient’s would. I was kept on an IV drip and fluid oozed out everywhere.
Several times a day, the nurses would pour a solution over my skin to prevent infection and to encourage healing. They rolled me from front to back several times to reach all my skin. That process and the three times a day the sheet was changed were the most painful parts of my being in the hospital. Lots of crying from me.
When my parents and sisters visited, I was “dressed up”. They placed a diaper under my butt, drew it gently between my legs and left it on my front unpinned. Most of my fluid intake seeped out of me, but occasionally I needed to pee. We experimented with a portable urinal, but the blisters on my penis made it too painful to position my penis in the opening. If I wasn’t in my open-sided diaper at the time, I just peed. The sheet was a wet mess anyway so it was hardly noticed.
Once the blisters went away and my skin started to heal, it was even more sensitive. The wet sheet treatment stopped. I lay on a silk sheet and I was coated with lotions to protect the new skin. I also did physical therapy in the bed to bend the joints and stretch the new skin. In time, I was rolled on a gurney to therapy sessions on another floor. I wore a pinned-on diaper for these excursions and was proud of finally having a wardrobe. I never felt the least bit embarrassed now - wet or dry. I do remember seeing lots of smiles from those who saw me rolling by.
That summer I learned to enjoy my newly restored skin. I spent time in the sun on the hospital’s balcony usually in a diaper but occasionally nude to encourage healing. Despite the pain and isolation, I have fond memories of the nurses who cared for me and my reintroduction to diaper wear.