6 Realities Of Having My Life Saved By A Poop Transplant
Medical science is advancing so rapidly that we expect bionic genitals any day now, but one decidedly low-tech procedure has been making quite a splash: the fecal transplant. It's exactly what it sounds like -- injecting someone else's shit into your asshole to fix butt problems.
It sounds like something out of a sci-fi dystopia as imagined by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but it's a real thing that people really do. Did we mention the patient is in charge of finding their own poop donor?
"Nicole" went through all of this recently and kindly relayed all the gruesome details:
Antibiotic Overuse And Lazy Hand-Washing Can Ruin Your Gut
So how does someone find themselves staring down this particular barrel? For Nicole, it was a perfect shitstorm of factors. "In the spring of 2015, I had a knee surgery, the incision ended up getting infected," she says. "The lab couldn't get the bacteria from the infection to grow, so they treated me with broad-spectrum antibiotics."
"Now, your body isn't reacting to the cow ones like we had hoped, but we're confident if you swallow this horse kind ..."
This "when in doubt, antibiotics" approach to medicine has a number of nasty side effects, and Nicole ran into a particularly fun one. "My digestive system has always been a bit messed up, so when I told my surgeon about my stomach pain and foul-smelling -- like wish-you-were-dead-smelling -- diarrhea, I didn't expect much of a response," she says. "Instead, I got sent into isolation. This is how I met C. diff."
Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is a bacterium you always have in your butt, and it generally won't bother you because there are other bacteria in there that keep it in check, like the parent of a bunch of unruly toddlers. Antibiotics can take that good bacteria out of commission, however, leaving C. diff to go crazy. Since harried hospital workers often forgo washing their hands in favor of a quick antibacterial rubdown, it spreads around hospitals like wild butt-fire. The result: "It was a miserable experience -- I didn't want to eat anything," Nicole says. "I lived on Saltines, ginger ale, and broth. The smell of food made me sick. I lost 15 pounds over the course of three weeks (the only good thing to come from C. diff)."
You will also form some very definite opinions about the softness of toilet paper.
After several more rounds of antibiotics shockingly failed to kill the antibiotic-resistant infection, "it was time to bring in the big guns: the fecal matter transplant," Nicole says. It may sound like a cruel prank, but it's actually perfectly logical: just take the bacteria from a healthy person's colon, stick it into the colon of the person who's missing it, and boom, you're back on the solid poop train. The method has been around since the days of ancient China, but it's only been recently studied by people in lab coats, who have found it to be effective against C. diff 85-90 percent of the time. It's also much cheaper than antibiotics, the current standard for treating C. diff, which only works about 30 percent of the time.
"Well, there is a procedure where we transplant p ... poo ... sh ... actually, let's just try antibiotics."
So why the hell are we still using antibiotics? Why would we treat a disease with the very thing that often causes it, when a better, cheaper, albeit grosser alternative exists?
We're Still A Long Way From Fecal Transplant Acceptance
Doctors are a little leery of untested medicine, given that whole leeches-and-bloodletting period of medical history, and they still have a whole lot of unanswered questions about fecal transplants. It's not really possible to isolate just the bacteria you want from a stool sample, so the treatment has all the medical precision of, well, shoving a stranger's turds up your own poop chute. That means we don't know what long-term side effects it could have. Your butt could wind up possessed by the soul of the other person's butt. You know, like in that Rob Schneider movie we're just going to assume exists.
"This summer, Rob Schneider is Buttin' In."
As such, a lot of doctors won't perform the procedure and a lot of insurance companies won't cover it. That's bad news for C. diff patients, the only people it's currently FDA-approved to treat, but even worse news for people suffering from other digestive conditions for which fecal transplants have shown promise, including such debilitating disorders as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
Of course, when your literal asshole is being a metaphorical asshole, it's hard to care about long-term consequences, so there are people out there taking a DIY approach. For example, when researching the procedure, Nicole stumbled across www.thepowerofpoop.com. "I couldn't resist clicking on it -- I'm a sucker for good names. It took me to a page with do-it-yourself instructions for a fecal transplant. It has sections like Shopping List and The Big Day. The shopping list includes things like enema bags (available at sex shops!), a diagram of the colon, 'silicone gloves if you're squeamish,' and 'a big brown towel.'"
We would like to go ahead and amend that to "silicone gloves, regardless of squeamishness."
It should probably go without saying, but we never know with you people and we don't want to pay your emergency room bills, so please don't ever do this, ever. Still, it served as a reminder that, despite the circumstances, Nicole was still one of the lucky ones. "I am fortunate to live near several doctors who will perform the procedure and had worked with my insurance to have all of the labs, preparation, and procedure covered," she says, so it was on to the next step.
You Have To Beg A Friend For Their Shit
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whose end you look at it from), poop banks aren't really a thing. "There's only one in the United States: OpenBiome," Nicole says. "Unfortunately, my hospital didn't work with them." That meant there was only one option: BYOP.
"Gary just got a job as head researcher at a company called OpenBiome! He says he can't tell us what he does, but it's very important!"
Nicole vividly remembers being handed a list of screening questions for her chosen donor, a dubious honor if there ever was one. Noticing the distinct "I've shit myself into an alternate reality" look on Nicole's face, the nurse explained that she needed to use the screening questions to find her own donor. She also explained that it couldn't be someone Nicole lives with, because in all likelihood they may share her bacteria as well as her leftovers that she was saving for lunch tomorrow, you jerk.
This was no easy task. Think about it: Who do you know who loves you exactly enough to poop in a bag for you but not enough to put up with your shower clogs? She lived with her boyfriend, so he was out. Her family lived too far away (they don't let the donor just mail you their shit). Her thought process became increasingly desperate: "Should I just ask someone who I'm not close to so I never have to see them again? Should I offer to pay the person? How much do you pay for poop?"
"Well ... I'm sure they've seen weirder requests."
Eventually, "I ended up asking one of my best friends through an incredibly awkward Facebook message, giving her about 45 different outs if she needed them," she says. She was pleasantly surprised: "Her response was, 'No need to feel embarrassed. I poop every day anyway and I don't at all mind gifting it.'" She's either an uncommonly generous person, or Nicole unknowingly slighted her in some way and she took the opportunity to indirectly poop inside her body as a weird revenge scheme, which, you have to admit, would be a good one.
Preparation Involves Eating Candy And Shitting Water
"The procedure -- which is essentially a colonoscopy, but on the way out, they spray a mixture of poop and saline all over your colon -- was scheduled for the end of August. I couldn't have anything to eat the day before. I could have clear liquid and hard candy, nothing with red or purple dye." Those can look an awful lot like blood on a colonoscopy, and a bloody colon false-positive is only slightly better than an actually bloody colon. "I had so many Werther's that day that I'm probably someone's honorary grandma."
"Urge ... to post ... fake news stories ... rising ..."
She also "had to take a double dose of laxative pills that morning," and anyone who's ever taken a single dose may be excused to go clean themselves up after shitting themselves in sympathy. But it gets even worse: "In the afternoon, I had to mix one bottle of powdered laxative with 64 ounces of Gatorade (for perspective, you usually mix a few teaspoons with 8 oz of water as a normal dose). I had to drink eight ounces every half hour until it was gone and any stools were 'clear or straw-colored water.'" It's hard to imagine the existential resignation of being instructed to monitor the color of water you're shitting. "Two things resulted from that experience: I hate Gatorade, and I now know a truer, deeper meaning of the word 'hangry.'"
After a few hours of waiting at the hospital while Nicole's "donation" was inspected and prepared, "I saw the colonoscope sitting on the table next to some very large bottles of lube." That could provoke a variety of reactions, but Nicole's was "thank God." Another thing she could thank various deities for was that she got to sleep through the actual procedure. "I also have very little memory of the event, though I apparently asked my boyfriend four or five times if the colon picture on my discharge instructions was really my colon (it was)."
"Oh sure, everyone coos over Lisa's sonogram pictures, but the second I want to share something from my life ..."
You Have To Do Your Own Follow-Up Poop Enemas
"When you have the fecal matter transplant, they only insert half of the mixture," Nicole says. "The other half gets put into two squirt bottles (think ketchup and mustard bottles from restaurants, but clear) for you to take home and insert that night and the next morning." The bottles even had to be kept in the fridge to prevent spoiling, so she really had to pay attention if she decided to make a sandwich lest she end up on the losing end of a dangerous game of condiment roulette.
The mixture had to be inserted on her own, "with no sedation," Nicole adds. "Apparently, they just expect you to squirt poop up your own ass like a reverse enema." As she "tried to imagine the contortionist act I would have to perform to lay on my right side and get my hand and a bottle close enough to get the poop mixture up my butt," she realized that she would once again have to enlist someone else's help in her quest to stop shitting everywhere.
"Hello, darkness, my old friend."
"Luckily, I have a wonderful boyfriend who was willing to, uh, assist," she says. We'll spare you the gory details of the procedure, not to mention the cleanup, but Nicole notes that, "My boyfriend is now my fiance, because once you squirt poop into someone else's ass, you're bound together forever."
Some Of The Donors' Health Problems Suddenly Become Yours
Again, one of the reasons the medical community is reluctant to endorse this procedure is because there's still so much we don't know about what it can do. We're just now discovering that our gut bacteria may be responsible for a whole lot of things that have little to nothing to do with butts, including our personalities and mood regulation.
Try telling that to HR when you snap back at Chad in marketing and see how it goes.
Oh, you thought we were joking about your butt getting possessed earlier? The reality is actually weirder -- changing your asshole bacteria can turn you into a new person. After one woman, who had always been thin, received a transplant from an overweight woman, she immediately and rapidly gained 40 lbs, which she has been unable to lose "despite a medically supervised liquid protein diet and exercise program."
As for Nicole, "It's been almost a year since I had the procedure and a few things have changed about my dietary habits," she says. "The first is that I get full much more quickly than I had in the past. I used to be able to polish off three or four pieces of pizza -- now, one and a half makes me full. I'm also a lot gassier than I had been before (doctors tell me that it's due to the changing bacteria in my gut) ... Lastly, I recently found out that I'm somewhat lactose intolerant -- mostly to milk." All of which are minor quibbles compared to her life before.
You'll be amazed what you'll give up in exchange for pooping normally.
It also strengthened a lot of relationships for Nicole, not the least of which was with her donor. "Recently, she's been remodeling her bathroom and, as a thank you for her donation, I bought her a new toilet," she says. "And the Circle Of Poop is complete."
Manna obviously has more poop jokes on Twitter.
For more insider perspectives, check out 7 Horrific Realities Of Receiving A Donor Organ and I Got A Hand Transplant: 5 Horrifying Realities.
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