Disclaimer: The author is not a medical professional, so you should ignore any advice I dispense.
Human nature results in difficulty talking about certain subjects, even with family and friends. We love to talk about sex, but only as long as that subject involves other people. We also skirt the subject, and details, surrounding something most of us do every day, or at least on a regular basis: cleanse the waste from our body through a process of elimination. That time can be spent planning ahead for the day, catching up on the news, or just relaxing in relative peace and quiet.
Without doing that, no matter what it takes to get it done, we would probably die when our innards exploded or we succumbed to the sepsis or system-wide poisoning that would follow. The thought of either of those results makes them something I don't intend to put on my "bucket list."
Most of us get some very clear signs when things aren't going right with our digestive tracts. Headaches, spasms caused by a source of unknown origin, bellyaches, sweating, or an actual pain in the rear are common. When those symptoms appear, most people can recognize them and head for the nearest restroom--public or private--to relieve the pressure. However, there are a group of us, perhaps several million strong, who don't have the capability for such spontaneity when it comes to use of those restrooms. I am of course speaking of my friends and me, at least those of us who deal with some level of paralysis, whose daily functions take a lot more planning, foresight and perhaps even some assistance due to our wheelchairs. For us, a simple need to go to the bathroom can initiate a panic reflex and perhaps an unhealthy delay to a time and place where the necessary assistive devices or assistance are available.
I worked on nearby farms bucking hay when I was in high school, and those old farmers were glad to share their wisdom with the young guys who they overworked and underpaid. One of the greatest truisms I heard was from Farmer Tom, who told us that "the most over-anticipated act in most lives is the sex act, and the most undervalued is a good bowel movement." It took me a while to figure it out, but I think I now know what he meant.
My travels have not extended very far into Mexico, but I have heard that if one wants to avoid "Montezuma's Revenge"
it is best to avoid tap water and ice cubes in drinks. Something just as insidious is it's northern cousin, which I prefer to call "Quadriplegia's Revenge,"
as it is a daily threat in my life and the lives of my friends as well. That's right; I am talking about the dreaded diarrhea
I wish that avoiding the "quad's revenge" could be as simple as shying away from ice cubes and tap water. It can be a symptom of food poisoning, such as salmonella or E coli, ingesting Giardia
organisms from mountain streams and lakes (thanks to those pesky muskrats and beavers), Crohn's disease
or other chronic conditions. Unfortunately, it can also be caused by eating virtually anything, or as a side effect of some medications. That was the circumstance surrounding my last few days spent under the influence of that dreaded affliction.
As part of the treatment for a particularly persistent urinary tract infection, my doctor prescribed a new antibiotic in the hope of killing it off. Whenever I take a new drug I always try to read the Physicians' Desk Reference
flier that comes with it, and this one warned me that diarrhea was a possible
That was the understatement of the year. Even though I was forewarned, I did not anticipate what awaited me for days to come.
I must make it clear that I am no rookie when it comes to the battles of the bowels. Having experienced a couple of colonoscopies and a flexible sigmoidoscopy
(that involved a shorter tube but no lesser loss of dignity), my system has been thoroughly flushed in the past. While those experiences were far from pleasant, they were of short duration and did not last for days at a time. This time the tsunami of waste kept washing ashore, even though I was not fueling it by eating or drinking much. Under those circumstances, dehydration is a likely outcome. There are multiple risks to our systems if that happens, and some of them are even life-threatening.
Many days later I have endured the influx of a liter of water to my system, intravenously, and I'm now taking multiple bowel antibiotics. I'm getting tired of dry toast and bananas, so hope the drugs kick in soon. In the meantime, I hear thunder rumbling on the horizon but the sky is clear and it feels like someone is sticking a hot pitchfork into my lower abdomen. I guess it is time to go.
© 2013 Michael Collins