Snippets from the book

Chapter 1 - The child smoker

A snippet from Chapter 1.

Introduction:   Throughout the book I will be looking in at my own life, through self-reflection, and you may notice from reading this that a similar thing happened to you, or you can compare a certain stage in your life or can place yourself in a familiar situation.   These ‘situations’ or lifestyle choices were possibly one of the factors that lead to you becoming ill.   The exact cause of Crohn’s Disease is still unknown.   It can be something to do with genes, immune system, anxiety, smoking, depression, and digestive problems to name a few.

The hope is that if you can recognise the things that I went through, then you can make the necessary changes to get you better again.

This is not a medical book, it’s more like a ‘fly on the wall documentary’ but written down in plain, understandable language. 

For privacy I have changed some names of people and buildings mentioned in the book.

The Child Smoker:   I am in primary school.   I am about 11 years of age.   Across the road is a newsagents / mini-mart.   Three of us go in with the equivalent of 5 cents.   We knew what to ask for, as the bigger lads in the school told us.   “A loose smoke and a match please”.   We were handed a single cigarette and a red tipped match.   We lit it up and smoked it between us.   This became a regular occurrence, each one of us telling our mams on different days that we needed 5 cents for something in school.  

The ironic thing is that this shop is now a funeral home!   It would end up taking me 30 years to give up putting a cigarette in my mouth.

Our Crohn’s journey begins…

Chapter 10 - The many tests...

A snippet from Chapter 10.

The Many Tests Begin: 

So I’m now in hospital again and the staff are beginning to become on first name terms with me.   They are deciding that they are going to plan surgery for me.   But before surgery, you’ve got to do all the tests!   They have me on pain meds while they decide what they are going to do. 

These were the first time I had ever had any of these tests, and I can tell you now, they were the first of many.

So apart from the obvious xrays and urine samples, one of my first references to poo is the stool test.   Crohn’s and IBD in general is all about poo, so there will be plenty of references to it.   I’m calling it poo because if I use the word beginning with S, it might affect the book some way.

Anyway the stool test involved you doing a poo into a chair with a basin under it called a commode.   Now here’s the embarrassing part, you have to remember this is the old Richmond Hospital.   There are about 12 beds to a ward.   You can’t walk to the toilet, as you’ve a pain in your side and you’re bed ridden.

The nurse wheels in the commode and roars at the top of her voice: “Now Brian, see if you can do anything for me in that now, won’t ya.”  

The nurses back then all seemed to be farmers daughters from the country used to dealing with cattle and pigs, no bother to them.   They would ALWAYS roar instructions at you, even if you were right beside them, and embarrassingly roar out your conditions or symptoms.

This is the truth when I say one of them asked me one day – “did your bowels move today”?   Now I had never ever heard that expression before.   Did your bowels move!   So I’m thinking it must be that sound your tummy makes when you’re hungry like a rumbling bubbly sound, so of course I said no.   She would come back later and ask, did your bowels move in the afternoon Brian?   And again I would say no, and I actually remember saying to her, well I might have done one in my sleep, but I didn’t really notice it.   This went on for about 3 days!   Little did I know it was simply asking did you do a poop.

Well they had me on every laxative known to man, including my dad bringing in his ‘old wives tail cure’ – Prune Juice, and made me drink the bottle of it!

Hence they wanted a stool test, so we’re back in the ward, that big open ward, with about 12 beds.   The only separator between myself and the rest of the ‘sick audience’ is a thin curtain, that the nurse has forgotten to close properly!

Well, I felt the rumblings from within like as if you’ve just unblocked a drain, they had literally opened the flood gates.   I broke wind that sounded like the Titanic leaving the harbour!   The waft carried down the whole ward, and you could hear the grunts of displeasure as it reached each nostril on the way down.   This carried on for about 24 hours, and God love the people on the ward, some of them were on oxygen masks!

Each time, the nurse would come down with a chart with little pictures of poops.   Small ones, big ones, thin ones, fat ones, slushy ones, and then a cross section of all of them!   She would then put a tick against which one you had just produced, and put it in the file to show the doctor.   That was the stool test!

I know we’re starting to get a bit graphic here, but these things were, and are, a reality for us Crohnie’s, but your mates think this is all hilarious when you tell them!   I’ll be honest and say this humour helped me get through the whole thing, as you can laugh about it or cry, and it’s a lot better to laugh.  

Put it this way, as a Crohnie, your medical discussions and explanations to your mates, for the rest of your life is going to be about poo and farts, regularity, consistency, and velocity!

Another test that was done almost every time was a Barium Meal.   So when you’re first told about this test, you are visualising a foreign food, maybe Moroccan or something, as I had never heard of this before.  

No it’s not a meal at all, I wonder why they call it meal?   Basically you are asked to swallow about a litre of this pink chalky liquid, but you couldn’t really called it a liquid, maybe nearer to a milk shake consistency.

The idea of this is that as the drink goes down your throat, into your stomach and intestines, it glows under x-ray, and can show up pin holes, or inflammation, or other stuff, so the surgeon knows exactly where to go, when you’re getting an operation.

The downside of this, is they can’t leave all that stuff in your body if you’re sick.   In a ‘normal’ person, it would pass through ‘naturally’ over a couple of days, but in my case it was always followed by an ‘Enema’, which was basically getting ‘flushed out’ to encourage you to empty your bowel.   In my case, this would make me weak, and delay surgeries as I was too weak to undergo surgery.

This is one of the reasons my hospital stays were long, is because they would not give you any food just ‘in case’ the doctor wanted to do something with you.   Then by the time the doctor has decided what to do, you’ve to do the Barium Meal.   Then they flush you out with the Enema, and by the time you have had your surgery done, you are like a rag doll!

Then when you can’t eat anything for a while after the surgery, while its repairing.   The final obstacle is that they can’t let you home as you need to gain some weight!

So after years of this, I had my post surgery system worked out.   Double milky breakfasts and treble desserts instead of dinner to start.   Fattened you up in no time!   For rapid weight gain my local doctor put me on a milk shake type drink called Ensure Plus.   Not Ensure, but instead Ensure Plus.   Bingo!   Did the job!