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The Agony of Waiting for Poo

Posted Sep 12 2008 11:28am
Yes, dear reader, this post is about poo (bowel movements in adult speak), or more accurately, the absence of same. And please note that the ‘No Sarcasm’ sign has been turned off for the duration of this post.

Fortunately, it has been revealed by some in the neurodiversity camp that there are no proven links between any comorbidities and the causes of autism (other than - potentially - seizures). As such, I can therefore hold my head high and treat the Bear’s medical issues without any fear that I could be accused of trying to ameliorate her autism. Her biggest set of remaining medical issues - yes, there are others that now appear to have been ameliorated - are GI related, including alternating and sometimes concurrent chronic constipation and diarrhea, and absorption problems (e.g. low levels of many essential trace minerals and iron – as confirmed by Ontario government medical lab tests, for those whose thoughts veer off in rebuttal in the direction of quack labs - despite supplementation).

The latest bout (note that 'latest' is not synonymous with 'first') started on Friday at around 2:00 PM. The Bear, who had not had a bowel movement in three days, had what we affectionately call a 'shart', i.e. a small leak of gas and liquid stool. Momma Bear cleaned her up and waited for ‘the big one’ which usually follows. Instead, the Bear had another shart. Same cleanup, same wait. And another. Same cleanup, same wait. The Bear usually has a bath after a bowel movement (like night usually follows day - to us it is not a BM but a BM&B) and is fine. This time she did not, and the combination of wipes, rubbing, and irritation from the sharts left her rectum sore and red. Now comes the really fun part.

The Bear began to try harder and harder to have a bowel movement. It obviously hurt, and she started to cry. She strained harder, and cried more. And then she relaxed, calmed down, and looked just plain uncomfortable. A half hour later, the same thing, but with louder crying, screaming, and more tears. Crying is unfortunately ‘normal’ on these occasions, but this time it was worse, and the crying and straining continued on and off with increasing frequency for a few hours. Eventually she passed a small brick (yes, it was about that hard), with much crying, obvious pain, and discomfort. Momma Bear had a very hard time cleaning her up, because by this point the Bear was quite sore and resisting any and all efforts. She then had her bath, I came home from post-work grocery shopping, and we thought this was over for the evening.

But it wasn’t. Within a half an hour, she started sharting again. And pushing, and straining, and crying, and yelling. We kept checking, and trying to clean and wipe her and load on the protective barrier. Because she was so sore she kept resisting. Obviously more was coming, and the frequency of sharts was too much to put her in the bath. Faced with the choice of leaving her and allowing her to become more inflamed, or wrestling with her to clean her, we chose the second option. For some reason, the fact that we kept explaining what we were doing and saying that we were trying to help her didn’t seem to matter to her very much. And Wow! - residual hypotonia notwithstanding, is she ever strong! The frequency of attempts increased to about every ten minutes and went on for hours. We talked about taking her to the ER to see if we could get an enema (my choice), but figured that she would probably sit in the waiting room for a few hours with the same issue and no easy way for us to keep her clean, which would lead to further irritation (Momma Bear’s thoughts).

By about 3:00 AM she fell asleep, exhausted. For about ten minutes. Then she woke up, crying and whimpering as she strained, and fell back asleep. This continued all night. By about 8:00 AM, when the Bear woke up for good, Momma Bear and I were at wits end. When we checked her diaper, sure enough she had had more sharts during the night. More cleanup, more wrestling. Of course, we were handling this like the mature (and well rested) adults that we are (if you believe this…), which was helping the situation immensely. We compromised on phoning the provincial Telehealth service, where we could speak to an RN.

The RN walked us through the emergency list (still breathing - from constipation??? - and no fever, which was good), and ensured the Bear was properly hydrated (she was). She asked about her diet, which contained all the right foods, etc., and we mentioned that a) the diet was worked out by a PhD in Nutrition and b) that the Bear was in the process of coming under the care of a GI specialist at a local children’s hospital (thankfully, as a corollary of free medical care everything works at lighting speed). She suggested monitoring the situation (our first choice too for a distressed child who is regularly screaming out in pain) and bringing her to the Doctor if it didn’t clear up by the next day. She gave us a list of preferred foods (pretty much all of which the Bear already eats). She also asked if we had tried a suppository. "Er, no?" Given my experience with such things, she explained how to use one – “You want me to do what?” – and off I went to the Pharmacist to buy some.

Back home, we went through another cycle of pushing, and then we cleaned the Bear up and tried the suppository. (Of note, this is the first ‘supplement’ that I’ve tried on her that I haven’t tried on myself first). Of course, the Bear graciously cooperated through this. We put a diaper on and waited. Within five minutes she gave a mighty strain, complete with screaming and tears, and there it was – ‘Brick, the Sequel’, complete with an embedded and undissolved suppository. We were overjoyed. By early afternoon the Bear was cleaned up again, bathed, fed, and she was happy. Much happier than anyone with no real sleep the night before had any right to be. She ran around giggling, wanted to play, wrestle, was in great spirits, and still actually liked us (I’m still expecting PTSD to kick in within a few days). Now all we had to worry about was the two jars of prunes and the spoonfuls of Lansoyl. We didn’t want any more action for at least 24 hours so that the cream and time could have their healing effect.

Sunday morning, and all was still quiet. Then the strains and crying started again. And the pushing. And the sharts. She also started toe-walking, something that she had stopped doing nearly a year ago. Here we go again. This time though, we had the suppositories. We waited about half an hour to see if the Bear could resolve the problem. Momma Bear wanted to wait a few minutes more, but not this time. In went the suppository (again, with the Bear’s complete and total cooperation), and within five minutes, out came Brick #3. After the cleanup and bath, peace and order was restored. For now.

So far, everything is okay. The GI specialist has moved much higher up our priority list, and we’re trying to figure out just how many prunes one little girl can eat. But thankfully I can rest assured that – despite a lack of research (only now is the UC at Davis starting to look seriously and systematically at the issue of comorbidities) – like all of the Bear’s many medical conditions that we have cleared up (commensurate – totally coincidentally - with some of her most significant gains), this has nothing whatsoever to do with her autism. What a relief!

The ‘No Sarcasm’ sign has now been turned back on.


Update – Yesterday the prunes and Lansoyl caught up. The Bear had three 'normal' (for her) mushy wet BM&Bs, without a lot of upset. We’re now back to the other end of the BM spectrum, until the pendulum swings back to constipation. Note also that I promise to do my best not to write about this issue again.
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