Laughter is better medicine than a laxative…

…especially when the laxative doesn’t seem to do much.
In Part 1 of “Thru the alphabet…” I promised that bowel challenges would get their own blog piece given that “dysfunctional anal sphincter activities” are characteristic of Transverse Myelitis.
{Warning: there is a long list of synonyms for bowel movements. This piece will include many of them.}
Being regular (or not) has been something that my Dad has talked about for as long as I can remember. For decades he ate a sizable bowel of All-bran every morning. In 2024 he mentions his bowels on at least 4 of the 7 times I call him every week.
Dad rarely goes on for more than 40 or 50 seconds about his bowels…but it seems much longer.
Over the years my sister and I (and on occasion Shelly&I) have talked about his obsession with pooping….or more accurately: Not pooping.
It drives me crazy. (But not as much as it does my sister.)
And now it’s me doing the talking…

I swore I’d never talk about my bowels to anyone (let alone write about it), and then on 9/17/23 I got ambushed by Transverse Myelitis and Everything changed.
Thank you very much TM…

Things that changed, as it relates to defecating and flatulence:
1. Since I got out of diapers as a toddler, no one but me had ever wiped my butt.
2. I used to be very regular. A couple of trips to the crapper before 9am and I had dropped my daily dung. (Never a dump after noon unless I ate a bad burrito…)
3. These were slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am visits to the shitter, i.e. no reading material required. (Sit…shit…wipe…outta there.)
4. Shelly and I have been living together since 8/1/13. I had never passed gas in her presence (or anyone else’s for that matter) …ever. (Now I have no control and am surprised, as are whoever is in ear shot, when I “step on a duck.”)
5. I probably talk about my irregular bowels now more than my Dad does…and I definitely talk to more people about my bowel frustrations than he does.
I spent 2 weeks in the hospital after I woke up paralyzed on 9/18/23. It was only the 3rd time in my 75 years that I spent the night in the hospital, and the first time that I wasn’t able to wipe my own ass…or to even know when I had shit myself (or farted).
The smell was the giveaway.
Many times it was a CNA who responded to my call. (They get the bulk of the shit duty, but oftentimes it was the RN that rolled me onto my side at the whiff of excrement or gas.)
More times than not it was merely a “smear.” It was almost never a fully formed doody. Often it was a false alarm. (Then there was the constipation and the enemas.)
At least 50 different people were summoned by my call light and my “I think I had an accident” plea while I was at Cox South. I’d usually make some lame attempt at a joke as they rolled me onto my side to check between my cheeks. (They’d often ask about the music coming from my Bose speaker. My room during the day was dubbed “party central.”)
My favorite “wiping asses” story while I was in the hospital is the conversation I had with a 19 year old working transport. She was wheeling me from my room to get an MRI. I asked her how long she had been doing this job and she said: “A few months. I’m a CNA student and I get a discount since I’m a Cox employee.”
My quick reply: “Boy-o-boy, you are gonna wipe a lot of asses!!!”
Her: “I don’t think so.”
Me: stifling a laugh. She seemed nice.
I didn’t have the heart to bust her bubble. (I’m sure that would come in due time.)
The next day, when a couple of CNAs were cleaning me up, I told them the story. They thought it was just too funny…
While I was in the rehab hospital I started the second round of potty training in my life. (I don’t remember the first. I’ll never forget this ongoing potty training experience….it’s a shitshow.)
After every meal they would get me onto the bedside commode. Many times it would be an Exercise-in-Futility. (Those now get abbreviated in my journal, e.g. “several EIFs this morning.”)
Having a successful shit and wiping my own ass was a joy for one and all. (It still is.) I was very happy to give them a turd or two to chart.
So how are things these days, 8 months after I’m back in the apartment after 34 days in the hospital?
In a word: Frustrating.
More EIFs than Successes.
I now keep something to read in my bathroom, as I sit and wait&hope&strain in hopes that my sphincter will open and I will hear the welcome sound of a shit splash.

I tell people that most days I feel like “my ass is full”…that I could shit at any minute. Except I can’t. If I had a Benjamin for every time I didn’t think I was gonna make it in time, but instead it was just another EIF, I’d be wealthy.
There have been very few times that I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time.
It has been awhile since I had an accident. But the fear is there…that I will fill my boxer briefs while I’m in public….and that has turned me into a bit of a recluse.
Along with the lack of bowel control comes the inability to control the release of gas, i.e. I can’t do anything to control farts. I try to always give guests a warning of what might happen…and then it does. “Embarrassing” doesn’t do this justice.

If there was a choice between being able to drive again or having control of my bowels and my bladder, it would be a no brainer.
I’d never be behind the wheel again. (And I loved road trips…)
TM Sucks.

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