Shit Matters

When I looked into my girlfriend's eyes the night she told me that getting new poop and it could potentially cure her Ulcerative Colitis, it gave me every reason in the world to believe she would soon be healthy. It would be just a few weeks later when my girlfriend would ask me to accompany her when she went to get a fecal transplant.

At first, it sounded made up.  She explained to me that it was an experimental treatment, but some people have had success putting UC in remission with this treatment. I didn't realize was just how much of a role gut bacteria plays in someone's overall health.

 The impact of gut bacteria and health.

The impact of gut bacteria and health.

The hope of this procedure was to take a fecal donation from someone who had healthy gut bacteria, and have it implanted in her gut, and through that procedure, her Ulcerative Colitis would go into remission.

The weekend heading into the procedure was filled with hope for us.  My girlfriend was ready to get her life back, and not have to be in constant pain.  We talked about all of the things that she would do with her regained energy.  She and I also had very tough conversations about what if the procedure did not work. When the love of your life asks you what will happen if the procedure does not work, and you know how big of a deal a procedure is, it is difficult to answer.  I kept reassuring her it would work. I did not want to face the reality of the transplant not working, and how devastating that would be for her.  When you cannot count on your body, there needs to be something or someone you can count on for hope, and I was trying to be that person for my girlfriend.

Before deciding to participate in this experimental transplant, my girlfriend did a lot of research.  One of the more interesting things she learned, was because of how much the gut bacteria affects the body, there are instances of someone's personality changing from receiving bacteria from a different person.  With me being a neurotic mess, I took that anecdotal evidence and ran with it.  I worried that based off of the procedure, she would end up being a completely different person.  My biggest fear wasn't that the procedure wouldn't work, I knew it would.  My biggest fear was that she would be different.

The period of time between driving to the hospital and the end of the procedure was a complete blur.  Once she was finally getting the transplant, I couldn't take my eyes off of the hospital update board.  Five random letters and numbers never meant so much to me, as it was my way of knowing how the procedure was progressing.  Soon enough, the implant finished successfully, and I got to drive my girlfriend home.

One of the keys to a fecal transplant is not going to the bathroom for a few hours after the procedure. It is important to allow the new bacteria assimilate with stomach, and if you go to the bathroom too soon, you potentially flush all of the new bacteria down the toilet.

When we got home, I went to get us some food, and when I got home I experienced one of the most difficult moments of our relationship.  My girlfriend was on the couch crying.  Looking at her face, I immediately new what happened.  She went to the bathroom.  Without looking at me, she asked me if she just ruined her chance at getting healthy.  Not being an expert on fecal transplants, it was so hard to stay optimistic while not giving her a sense of false hope.  I told her, that the implant was in there long enough to make a difference.  If I was honest with myself, I was terrified that it wouldn't work.

Weeks passed, and there wasn't any noticeable change in her health.  What was once the best shot at getting her healthy, ended up being another day.  What we learned from that though is how important daily habits are.  My girlfriend, who was already focused on the food she puts in her body, has worked on becoming even more focused.  Eventually she did find treatments that put her UC in remission.