Before we tell you our case-study story about the Big Bowel Incident and dainty Ms. Lila Oberon, let us summarize the blogs of March. As we close our Colorectal Cancer Awareness topic for the month, the Digestive Disease Consultants hope you do not forget about this disease just because the designated awareness month has ended.
Parting Wishes For Colorectal Awareness Month
We hope you will file the risks in the back of your mind. Learn about the behavior oriented risks that you can change. Be mindful of the risks you cannot change. We are striving all year-long, to help you stay alert to the threat of this type of cancer.
And above all, talk to your doctor about getting screened. Remember, if you wait for symptoms to appear, it might be too late. But early detection has a very high cure rate—as high as 90 percent!
And now we open a new blog topic for you, beginning with the story/mini-case study of:
The Big Bowel Incident and Little Ms. Oberon
Miss Oberon, at 60 years old, is a very delicately boned, petite lady who is shy and unassuming. A retired librarian, she doesn’t want to make a fuss or have anyone go to any trouble on her behalf.
She is a person who has avoided high drama, extreme excitement or conflict in her life. Always gentle and endearing, Miss Oberon is a peaceful soul who loves good books, comfort food and gardening.
However, if you were to have tea with her, she would tell you all about her recent trauma and humiliating problem. She relates a story of a recent time when she was helpless to act with her normal lady-like delicacy.
Although she doesn’t like to say bowel or bowels, much less “bowel obstruction,” she has a story to tell. And it could save your life.
Bowel Obstruction: A Calling-Card of Acute Pain
We gave you the above glimpse of Lila Oberon’s personality so you could be aware that she was not being the least bit, overly dramatic. One cold and rainy night, her husband half-carried her into the emergency room. She could not help weeping loudly and writhing in pain.
Now, she says to you as she stirs her tea, “I could not believe how much it hurt. I kept making these awful squealing and crying sounds. You know I never raise my voice. But it’s not like I don’t know pain. I’ve had two children, a hysterectomy and an appendectomy. But this bowel obstruction thing I had was the worst. It hurt so badly that I screamed at my sweet husband, and the nurses and then…well… that poor ER doctor.”
Her intensity deepens as she adds, “And dear, it came on me so suddenly. It was like knives in my stomach. At first I just thought it was cramps. I thought it was constipation but I couldn’t move my bowels. It was like my insides were paralyzed. Then I threw up my Sunday dinner and swelled up like I was going to have puppies.”
Sudden Occurance of Acute Pain
She blushes. “And then, right in the waiting room of that big beautiful hospital Emergency room, in front of everybody, the pain ripped through me and I had diarrhea, right through my pink summer dress on the couch, the coffee table, the floor.—I couldn’t make it to the ladies’room.”
Then, Miss Oberon will pat your hand and say, “I bet you wonder why I have to tell you about all of this in detail, don’t you?”
You might shake your head, a little dazed by her honest drama. She continues, “Well, here’s why, sweetie: I want you to know the symptoms of a bowel obstruction. If you get a bowel obstruction, I want you to know what’s happening.
And I want you to know the doctors can fix it, but only if you go to them. I was terrified because I thought it was a heart attack and some kind of cancer attack all at once. More importantly, however, I want you to know the signs; I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
They told me that hesitation and embarrassment over going to the doctor or the ER could have killed me. Now, a bowel obstruction is not a chronic thing. The pain doesn’t sneak up on you. It comes all at once. They call it “acute.”
Indeed, a recent article states, “A bowel obstruction impairs the body’s ability to move food through the intestines for proper digestion. It’s crucial to know the warning signs, because this acute condition requires fast medical attention.”
Bowel Obstruction 101: The Signs and Symptoms
Although you have now heard Ms. Oberon’s graphic description of what happened to her, here’s a brief list of the actual medical signs and symptoms of a bowel obstruction.
Cramping abdominal pain,
Inability to move bowels or pass gas,
Loss of appetite
Swelling of the abdomen
Because of the deadly complications that can develop from intestinal obstruction, the Digestive Disease Consultants advise you to find immediate medical care if you have these symptoms and severe abdominal pain.
The Causes of A Bowel Obstruction
In the case of Ms. Oberon, the cause of the bowel obstruction was adhesions. Adhesions are “bands of fibrous tissue in the abdominal cavity that can form after abdominal or pelvic surgery. This is a very common cause, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most people think of diverticulitis or cancerous polyps growing inside the intestinal walls, as causing the bowel obstruction. However, Dr. Richard A. Desi, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore says, “A bowel obstruction is not really anything on the inside of the bowel.” He explains that most commonly, bowel obstruction can twist “the bowel into a funny position, thus closing it or clamping it off.”
“A bowel obstruction is not really anything on the inside of the bowel,” explains Richard A. Desi, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “It can twist the bowel into a funny position, to close or clamp it off.”
Identifying Bowel Obstruction Symptoms
Some people worry needlessly about bowel obstruction symptoms because they mistakenly believe infrequent bowel movements or hard ones indicate obstruction. Contrary to popular belief, these symptoms do not usually indicate obstruction. They indicate constipation.
Dr. Desi says, “Obstruction and constipation are two different things. Bowel obstruction is nothing chronic — there’s usually a very dramatic progression of symptoms.”
Bowel Obstruction: Treat It Immediately!
After a CT Scan and/or abdominal x-rays, the doctor will know if you have a full or partial bowel obstruction. If you have a full obstruction of the bowel, no food is being passed through the digestive system. This condition mandates immediate surgery. The twisted, kinked or blocked part of the bowel could die.
There is an alternative treatment if the bowel obstruction is partial. We will tell you more about that treatment and about partial bowel obstruction as well as pseudo-bowel obstruction in next week’s blog. We genuinely thank you for reading the Digestive Disease Consultants’ Blog, and we wish you a Happy Spring Season!