alt=a woman bemusedly remembers a memory while shopping in a grocery store and holding a box of Raisin Bran.

The Summer I Couldn't Go

When you’re a tween, pretty much everything is embarrassing. But being a tween who has to go to the hospital for severe constipation? Well, that’s just a nightmare.

The first time my stomach caused concern was when I discovered eating breakfast made me sick. I frequently left school early due to unexplained stomach pain. After a visit to our trusted family doctor and some eliminations in my diet, it was agreed that I was dealing with slight lactose intolerance. My mom changed up what she made for breakfast, I decreased my dairy consumption (shout out to rainbow sherbet!), and things started to look up. Whatever was going on eventually went away and while I still have an occasional reaction to dairy, it’s not a constant like it was that spring.

Luckily, my stomach waited till summer for Act 2…

The worst season for my IBS

My memory is a bit cloudy, but I was 11 or 12 at the time. It was summertime, which I now recognize as the worst season for my IBS; the heat does a number on me. I wasn’t necessarily eating badly but I was eating like a kid on summer break in the 90s.

Then the pain started. It was manageable at first. I’d let it work its way through me and hope that I didn’t have to use someone else’s bathroom. If I twisted my torso or hugged my knees to my chest, the pain moved through quickly and I’d be okay again. (Still use these methods!) Those minor inconveniences quickly turned into sharp pains that felt like someone was stabbing me in the side. I cried to my mom, who continued keeping an eye on me, probably still thinking about my last dalliance with stomach pain.

My constipation sent me to the hospital

The next thing I knew, I couldn’t hold anything down. We tried different foods, hoping something would make me have to go, but nothing worked. I ate a lot of salad! But after a day, nothing changed so my mom called the doctor who said to take me to the ER immediately. My dad was at work but luckily my granny lived close by, so my mom quickly got my baby brother ready, dropped him off, and we made the 2-minute drive to the neighborhood hospital.

I’d been in the hospital for problems related to my ears before but not since I was a little kid. I was hooked up to an IV and the ER doctor went right to work, asking lots of questions to rule out any more nefarious possibilities. I shamefully talked about my bathroom habits in front of my mom and these medical strangers. The next thing was to get x-rays done to see if anything was obstructing my bowels and we’d go from there.

Well, something was obstructing them. Poop. I admitted I couldn’t remember the last time I went to the bathroom. I was severely constipated and it was a good thing I went to the ER when I did. The doctor sent me home with suppositories and instructions to eat Raisin Bran for the next 3-4 days. I did exactly that and the problem quickly resolved itself as I rotated between my bed and the bathroom.

My mom couldn’t contain herself when we went back to pick up my brother and told my granny “She’s full of sh*t!!” while absolutely cracking up. At the time, I remember being so embarrassed but now? She’s right, I was full of sh*t! And over 20 years later, I still can’t see Raisin Bran without thinking of the summer I couldn’t poop.

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