Constipation crises bring a family even closer
How can one ever quite forget those creamy, sweet-smelling, ochre-coloured faeces squirting out of her cloth nappy, up her torso?
But alas, a mother’s occasional nostalgia, innocently shared, is taken by my ageing overseas relatives as an enduring interest in their personal plumbing adventures. In the space of a single week, three of them independently down stools and go out on a general dunny strike. I awake to detailed email accounts, which I call The Daily Loos, or Loos of the World.
Uncle long ago abandoned eating and now gets his main caloric input from the codeine for his back pain. He doesn’t crave treatment advice from me, but rather inspirational imagery.
Remembering his interest in geology, I suggest he think of the slow but inexorable drift of continents. The enema, I say, acts like streams of magma injected into solidified basalt.
Mother is distressed. She hasn’t gone for more than a week.
She has already attended hospital for an enema. “But there was nothing there.” She has had an abdominal x-ray that showed faecal loading. She was still sitting on the commode in the emergency cubicle when the doctor entered.
“We have to address this from the top down.” He presented her with a bottle of fluid to drink.“Is that all, then?” my mother asked.
“Yes, drink it and you can go.”
“From my throne I hereby anoint you my knight in shining armour.”
The doc explodes in laughter.
Today I receive a cheerful update from my brother, the scholar, who resides on the opposite side of the country from Mother: “From Rome, as Galileo was led from the inquisition to house arrest, he whispered, ‘And yet, it (the Earth) moves.’
“From Arizona, at six o’clock this morning, well formed and smooth, it (the contents of Mother’s bowels) moved with great dignity, from her rectum, across a continent and then halfway around the world, to the ears of her children. Plonk.”
Mother-in-law, with an even more compelling case of constipation, actually gets admitted to hospital.
On discharge, family who live nearby are placed on Poop Patrol. Unfortunately, she suffers a relapse, triggering the following Loos bulletin:
“She remains constipated even though we saw four straight days of four small poops. Apparently, small poops do not mean things aren’t backing up.”
All I can say as a GP is “excrement happens”. Or worse – sometimes it doesn’t.