No, that's not bile in a T-tube drainage bag. It's a bilious beverage
just waiting to wet your whistle. Bottoms up!
Waste not / want not was the mantra in epoch hospitals. This philosophy led to events like performing sterile procedures with 2 fingercots and overly judicious rationing of utilities. There were almost no lights on after dark so night nurses always had a flashlight on hand. Recycling and reuse were common with "disposable" equipment having an almost infinite life span.
Recycling was not limited to medical equipment. Gall bladder surgery was a brutal and miserable experience with a huge subcostal incision in close proximity to the diaphragm so every breath exacerbated post-op pain. A T-tube was usually placed in the common bile duct during surgery and drained the greenish yellow unsavory goo in a nearby bag.
Bile is a vital component in the digestive process and works to emulsify and break down fat. A deficit of this greenish gooey fluid results in an unpleasant condition known as steatorrhea whereby fat passes through the intestines undigested. An unusually putrid scented diarrhea is the end result.
To avert steatorrhea old school surgeons had a very direct and straightforward solution. They ordered the night nurse to save the contents of the biliary drainage bag and serve a glass of this gruesome green goop to the patient prior to breakfast. Hospital breakfasts were notorious for their high fat content. Just about every meal was a permutation of that All American staple, bacon and eggs which was a steatorrhea stimulator of the highest order.
The disgusting bile beverage was best served in an opaque vessel such as a coffee cup so as to obscure that yucky green visual stimulation. Minimal explanation was also important. The nurse never drained the bile into the serving container in view of the patient. Optimal bile bag emptying was done with the patient sound asleep and unaware of the impending tortuous tipple. Old school nurses were masters of deception and were even known to ask patients to turn over for a temperature check. While they were prone a painful and totally unexpected intramuscular injection was hastily administered.
The bile drinking gambit was not much different than the stealthily plunge of the 18 gauge needle during the temperature diversion injection. Either experience was misery of the highest order no matter how it was presented. Bile had a unique earthy/nasty scent to it that could not be masked and the bitter salty taste was cringe worthy. Oh..And be sure to offer mouth care after bile consumption. It promoted dental decay.
Did bile recycling help patients? That's a tough question. Perhaps the diversion of consuming the vile liquid distracted them from their symptoms. It's always prudent to maintain a high level of suspicion when offered just about any beverage from an old nurse. Better safe than sorry.