Blood, Shit and Tears


Let’s talk about poo. No, I don’t mean the honey loving bear who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood (as much as I also love talking about him). I mean the yucky kind that most of us don’t discuss very much, but quickly becomes an obsession to those in hospital. Given that I’ve already lowered the tone of this blog by talking so much about fannies, I think we’ve already established a level. So what’s a bit of poo talk among friends?

I had a whole post almost ready to go when I accidentally deleted it. After trying to recover it and failing miserably, I realised that I was better off. It was shit.

If I thought poo was a hot topic in hospital, I had another surprise to come. The obsession was magnified by a hundred once I got to rehab. In fact, it was a detailed part of my welcome chat from the nurse in charge that day.

I had no idea how much I was going to learn.

There’s a scale that most non-healthcare people don’t know about called the Bristol Stool Chart. It describes the seven different types of poo you can have. Yes, there are seven specific kinds. I think it could legitimately be renamed the Ruthie Stool Chart, or something to that effect (suggestions welcome in the comments below). Here’s what I mean:

Bristol Stool Chart

While I’m sure the people of Bristol have had their fair share of poo varieties, I can categorically state that I am now an expert in all ranges of the chart. That is aside from type 4s – because of course that’s the ideal one. Believe me, I’m working on it. It’s actually on my list of goals for the coming fortnight – a necessary evil agreed upon every two weeks at a meeting with my consultant, doctors, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, case manager, psychiatrist and nursing management. So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

Each patient has a weekly schedule and on each timetable, there is more time greyed out for toilet matters every day than there is for physiotherapy. I shit you not.

The beauty of bowel management is variety. Thank you Spinal Injury. No two days are the same – unless, of course, for the groundhog days that are types 1 and 7. Those days seem to never end. It’s a balancing act – take the nerve drugs which will lead you towards the lower numbers, then take the poo drugs to head back towards the higher numbers. Eat and exercise well. Simples.

You’d think.

It’s rare for anyone who has suffered a spinal injury to escape bowel-related complications. The solutions are unpleasant at best and downright horrific at worst. I’ll say no more about it because if you’re lucky enough to be ignorant to the toilet procedures of spinal cord injury patients, I hope you’ll never need to know.

What I’ve learned from this all, though – aside from the fibre content of a mango – is that the pleasure of a good poo is something that’s widely taken for granted and when all of this has passed, the only thing I will appreciate as much as walking again will be the satisfaction of a well deserved type 4.

2 Comment

  1. You would make a cat laugh Ruth! Wishing you all the best and the prayers are still going up! Keep on writing. Hope Mum has a lovely birthday. We had some good times together.xx

  2. Jo Parker says: Reply

    Oh the pooh chart! I had almost forgotten. Those nerve drugs play havoc with your bowels and your mind, I was like a buffoon on them. You will reach the dizzy heights of type 4 before you know it! Xx

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