The complicated consequences of constipation

Oh, don’t be so squeamish.  I’m not going to get into details of my gut’s functioning.  I will not even use the word “poop”.  Okay, maybe just that once.  From hereon in, it’s Number 2.

When I was diagnosed with leukemia, doctors tried a few drugs before finding one that my body would tolerate. The first drug assaulted my gut, making eating a challenge, and the second didn’t seem much better. Still, I was doing well enough that I was discharged from hospital. Two weeks later, I developed an excruciating pain that escalated very suddenly, so J. called 9-1-1, thinking I’d get to the hospital faster than if she drove me. When you’re writhing in pain, paramedics administer IV morphine. If you know anything about opiates, you might agree that IV laxatives should be administered concurrently.  (Am I the only one who has figured this out?)  Because I was not in a great state of mind, I didn’t really think about the fact that the morphine had virtually stopped my gut.

Fuzzy blue Grover holding copy of The Monster at the End of this BookI was re-admitted to hospital to investigate the pain, but within a few days, my condition deteriorated and I was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. I stabilized by all objective measures and was about to be transferred from the ICU to a regular hospital unit, until J. asked me about Grover, my beloved first dog. We had put down Grover the previous year, in part because, like his fuzzy blue namesake in The Monster at the End of This Book, he became overly fearful–he started whimpering when we used the toaster, for example–but until he started dementing, he was the best, most loyal, smartest, and most loveable dog EVER. So when I couldn’t remember Grover, J. knew something was wrong and she asked the ICU doctors to reconsider their decision to transfer me.

Thank goodness they listened, since my compromised liver was in the process of failing. I learned that when your liver shuts down, you go a bit crazy. The next few days were marked by hallucinations, paranoia, and even restraints after I started randomly removing tubes from my body. I recall very little, but I understand it was not pretty. I was reportedly belligerent, defiant, and miserable, which thankfully is true of me only occasionally under normal circumstances. At some point, the doctors realized that because I had not gone you-know-what, all that nasty chemo had been building up in my liver, causing it to fail.

Now, if it’s been a day or two since you went Number 2, don’t you worry or rush to the loo. If your liver is healthy, it can manage a few extra toxins. Also, your liver likely doesn’t have the same daily dose of toxins going through it as mine does.

I find now, even though this experience is long behind me, I still get a little panicky when my gut slows since I don’t want to repeat my ICU stay  Despite the kindness of my caregivers, I didn’t have fun the first time, from the little I recall. Thank goodness I love beans and lentils and other high-fibre foods. Now if they could just reduce the sodium in Bran Buds….Nutritional information chart for All-Bran Buds Cereal


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