“Here is a phenergan suppository for your nausea. If you puke that up, we have a serious problem…”

It always gets a laugh, even out of the sickest patients.

But the vomiting of poop… it does happen.

Cue the pager.

(Beep, beep, beep!!!!)

It was late at night. Of course. I was still groggy from sleep.

“Yeah, doc. I have an admit for you. She is 27. Nausea and vomiting for two weeks. Dehydrated.” Then a pause for dramatic effect. “And I’ll be damned if she isn’t vomiting stool.”

I sigh. Can’t turn away someone puking poop.

I check my hair and make sure mascara has not melded with drool and smeared across my face, then head to the ER.

Sure enough, the poor woman is hunkered over an emesis basin and bilious vomit mixed with poop is pouring from her mouth.

I get her a wet towel to wipe her face and put a nasogastric tube down to her stomach. Then I write admit orders, complete with three or four nausea meds and IV fluids, then head back to the call room feeling satisfied with myself that I have saved the day.

The next morning, she is still puking poop.

The next day she is still puking poop.

And the next day.

And the next day.

For a whole dang week.

We imaged her from head to toe and found nothing. Blood work was all perfect. The GI specialist was scratching his head.

Then one morning, while wearing silent tennis shoes, I burst into her room to find her hunkered over the emesis basin again. This time, however, she was eating the poop.

That’s right. Eating poop.

As it turns out, she would eat her poop and then force herself to vomit when she was sure a healthcare worker was watching.

This sort of thing, yeah… She was suffering, just not in the way we had thought. You are probably grossed out. You are probably writing her off as a looney. Before you do that, though, think about what kind of life stressors you would have to have in order to reach this point.

We ALL have that capability. We do what we think we have to do in order to survive. If faced with having to eat poop or death, I would absolutely eat poop. In a heartbeat. There are probably a lot more things I would rather eat poop to avoid if I sat down and thought about it for a while.

Food for thought, so to speak.


111 thoughts on “Poop

  1. Sympathy, empathy and understanding. In regards to mental health issues the civilized “we” are still barely out of the lock ’em up and throw away the key asylum’s of late night paranormal shows. While this is still a “gross!” and Things I Didn’t Want To Know About story, it is, as you point out, also a story on the human condition (collective).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Poor woman.

    My very favorite science teacher talked about poop a lot. I can clearly remember our entire 7th grade class being totally grossed out when he announced: “There is more protein in the toilets of America than in most of the rest of the world,” he paused for effect. “But I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to get mine!” He was wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kinda wish I waited until after dinner to read this, but watching someone puke up poop is probably still not as bad as watching someone puke up blood.

    I trust that young lady ultimately received the psychological help she needed? It so sad when someone needs attention badly enough to do something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my! Poor girl! She must have been at a really low point in her life to do such a thing… Making yourself throw up is already a huge thing for me (I mean, who likes throwing up???), but combined with eating her poo… I hope someone can help her get out of that place…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you are so right on this one. Eating poop is so extreme and it goes against instinct. If a person can overide an instinct like that something really awfull must be going on. Reading this blog has certainly relieved me of any romantic notions I may have had about doctors.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. And I thought teaching had its challenges especially my last few years of it, but I can honestly say, whatever I encountered was nothing like this. Bless her heart, I can’t imagine what would drive someone to do this and am so sorry she refused help and vanished. You are well suited for your job if you can roll with the punches as they say with something like this. Hugs, N πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good Lord. But that’s so true, what you said…there are things that I would rather eat poop than have happen. I can’t IMAGINE myself doing it, but I think I would, if it comes down to it — if someone said “eat poop or else I’ll make this happen.” And that poor girl…she must have gone through so much horrible stuff to have gotten to that point.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I had a feeling that’s where this was headed after the first or second day…. I appreciate your message about consideration before writing her off as looney. These things obviously tell a story bigger than the obvious…..something’s not write with this picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Urghf… there is so much in this tale. She was obviously trying to ‘digest’ something in her life she found impossible to do rationally. The idea of repeating this over and over…as a weight loss method, wishful I may be and more but no thanks.
    I just hope she survived whatever was eating her up inside.
    Way to go that you solved the riddle though…Go the Purple People Eater.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Truth. I especially consider children who didn’t have an adult to help them to care for their poop. I’ve seen the smearing, the throwing, the eating…the desperation. When dealing with my own children’s diapers, I may not have liked the task of clean up every day, but I never underestimated the importance of the task to the child. Some things just stay with you and make your better ❀ Really good post, thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I never knew that poop was so popular…by the time I got here there were already 77 comments here…
    Beautiful photo, btw. And beautiful post, which speaks loudly about your empathy and generous heart. Thanks.
    It is an amazing story. As a Psychology student I had classes at a Psychiatric Institute; I once witnessed a patient picking a fight with another, and before anyone noticed, she jumped and bit the ear of the poor woman. She was aggressive and tried to attack us as well. Fortunately all happened within seconds and nobody was hurt. I’d have preferred some poop around me…


  11. Glad I found you back in time to read the poop post! I must say, I enjoy your posts. Well, I don’t know if “enjoy” is the word. They are fascinating! What I can’t wrap my mind around is fecal transplant? Really?! Is that something that has to do with good bacteria? I don’t think I could ever be a doctor. Not that there is ever a chance that’ll happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. First of all, yes, that really grossed me out….and I just ate lunch! LOL!!!!

    That said, well I don’t know her circumstances, but maybe she is hiding from something or someone so she wants to stay inside the hospital. Or maybe she wants to get some benefits from the government or something as I know you have those sort of privileges in the US.


  13. Just to add, I feel sorry for her because no one needs to reach that point to achieve something. I don’t think it’s a real bad mental state in psychiatric sort of way as she knew when to exactly to vomit.


  14. Pingback: Follow Friday: Thoughts from Northern Ireland, A Doctor, and a bonus | Grasshopper Girls

  15. Oh wow. Poor woman. Reading about that kind of thing has always made me wonder what I am capable of if I ever met met my breaking point.


  16. Pingback: Yes, Vagina, There IS a Santa Clause! | Behind the White Coat

  17. Pingback: Follow Friday: Thoughts from Northern Ireland, A Doctor, and a bonus | Knocked Up - Knocked Over

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