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Brandt's Rants

Brandt's Rants

The Curse of the Colon

Brandt, Robert MD

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doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000476271.48990.04

    I recently had bronchitis. It was fantastic. The scratchy throat, the constant cough, feeling like I had a slimy baby hippo sitting on my face (especially while sleeping.)

    You'll be shocked to hear that when I worked my shift in the ED, I also saw people with — wait for it — bronchitis. Your surprise is palpable. It was fun walking into patient's rooms and predicting all of the symptoms like a Jedi.

    Them: “I feel terrible, I've been coughing and I've had —”

    Jedi Me: “You've had congestion, a sore throat, and facial pressure.”

    Them: “Yeah, exactly, and I've also had—”

    Jedi Me: “You've had a throat like you swallowed a light saber and a headache. And when you try to sleep, it feels like a wet womp rat is laying on your head.”

    Them: “Whoa, that's right. I think I need antibiotics.”

    Jedi Me: (waving my hand in front of their face) “You don't need antibiotics. Move along.”

    Them: “I don't need antibiotics. I should move along.”

    I would love to say that this was the only time I have had symptoms overlapping my patients'. It happened a long time ago in an ED far, far away. I did not plan on ruining her day or possibly her life. I had no intention to utterly defile another human because of my inadequacies.

    A Regular Guy

    It started as a typical day at work. I drove in, drinking my diet Mountain Dew for breakfast. Normally I eat breakfast bars in transit. Unfortunately, this fateful day, I grabbed two Fiber One bars thinking they would be about the same. Don't get me wrong. They were quite tasty, but the 23,503-percent fiber per bar should have been my first clue.

    I need to back up a little here.

    I am a very regular guy. I don't mean that I'm an average Joe, and I fit in everywhere. I mean that I poop regularly. Scientists considered setting the atomic clock at the Smithsonian to my bowel habits, pooping precisely 2.7 times a day, every day, but I really prefer doing my duty at home. I do everything in my power to make it home.

    Many people need more fiber in their diet. I am not most people. I should probably eat more Cap'n Brickos Mega-Constipating Cheezie-flavored Hummus Cement. Instead, I had two Fiber One bars. It took about four hours, but then I felt it. You know it. You've felt it. Try to deny, but we have all had The Urge at work. I battled The Urge with sheer mental and sphincter fortitude. The fiber bars continued fermenting toxic colonic-smog, but I kept busy with work, and despite the proctalgia fugax, I finished my shift.

    I would like to mention that treating 10 patients with diarrhea and abdominal cramping under such circumstances is a nightmarish irony I wish on no human. I had sympathy for them, and perhaps this allowed me to win the battle. I made it out of work.

    I walked to the parking garage. For some crazy, horrible, and semi-hilarious reason, I could not emit the seven gallons of gas in my colon while I walked outside toward the parking garage. I pressed the elevator button and got on to take it to the fourth floor. I got on the elevator. My dark nemesis, The Urge, returned. Fortunately, I was going up on the elevator and there was absolutely no chance anyone else would be getting on. Who would want to go up from a floor above the ground floor parking ramp? What were the chances?

    Deadly Fumes

    So I do it. I release.

    No, that does not do it justice. I exhumed a level of atrocious anus-swamp vapor that could have melted steel. It came out as a super-heated miasma more caustic than pepper spray. Even my eyes started watering a bit. Because I created the deadly fumes, I managed enough partial immunity to stay alive, but the sheer volume of it even surprised me. It literally filled the entire elevator with its presence. Because of its sheer size and presence, the fart nearly had its own consciousness as if it wanted to will itself into existence as a sentient super-villain; it was that amazingly bad. I then went up one level, suffering in my self-made stink-coffin. The monster that had been lurking in my colon for hours had been released.

    Then the unthinkable happened.

    The elevator stopped at the first floor. A nice looking lady in a business suit stepped toward the elevator. In a split second I had to make a decision. And, using all of the fast-paced skills of a trained emergency physician, I pounced on the best decision in that millisecond.

    I left the elevator.

    I watched the door close.

    I stood outside the elevator for a second, slightly worried that I may have just killed an innocent woman, but relieved that I did not have to ride up in an elevator and try to pretend that the whole area did not reek from the vicious disemboweled hell I had just unleashed. I then walked up the three flights to my car and went home.

    Please, random lady in the elevator from the parking garage, if you are reading this (and if your eyes still function), you have my sincerest apologies. I meant no harm. I blame Fiber One.

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