My name is Stephen and I’m proud to tell people that I’m a poop donor.
Some years ago I read that it’s wise to keep an eye on your poop as a true indicator of your internal health – something important to us all. Oddly I never heard of the practice again, which is strange given the western world’s obsession with good health. I wonder how many people actually take a peek before a part of them disappears down the toilet? It seems the Chinese have known about it for thousands of years. Have you watched the brilliant film “The Last Emperor”? There’s a scene where the toddler Emperor’s private physicians hold a bowl as they closely inspect a tiny poop; a daily ritual to check if the Emperor is healthy or in need of intervention.
Now you and I know there are a whole lot of good things about poop, but the stigma attached may make securing a donor outside of your family tricky. Yet family donors are often unsuitable and male donors are recommended over females. In addition to this your donor will need to be someone willing to open his mind to your bizarre request. This limits the field of choice for most. This is my story about how I became a donor and why I volunteered to help a friend. I hope that my experience sheds some light on the perspective of a non-family donor.
The strangest request I ever received
Tracy and I have been friends for over ten years. When it comes to health we’re complete opposites. Whereas I’m a healthy athletic type, Tracy is more intellectual and less inclined to exercise. Over the years, whenever I’ve enquired about her wellbeing as friends do, she almost always mentioned an ailment of some sort. Mostly some innocuous malady that didn’t register to me as being anything to worry about. I assumed she was just naturally a sickly type with a weak constitution. It’s impossible to comprehend another’s suffering so I guess I’d filed away her ailments in the ‘too hard drawer’. I’d even figured she was even a tad neurotic. Not a nice thing I know, but I suspect she would not disagree. Whenever we’d catch up I’d ask about her health and offer some naive advice without remotely comprehending the magnitude of her condition. After all, there wasn’t anything physically wrong with her that I could see and she didn’t provide any recognisable label for her ailments. Then one day, out-of-the-blue Tracy started talking about poop transfusions. Something called fecal microbiota transplant or FMT. Yup, I could see she had now completely lost her marbles. Until she dropped a name. . .
As I attempted to grasp what she was on about and more to the point why Tracy was planning to undergo this bizarre and expensive treatment, I recall a moment of clarity. The treatment she proposed was via Professor Thomas Borody’s clinic in Sydney and as she told me about Borody’s ground breaking work in the 80’s with helicobacter treatment I realised that’s where another of my friends had undergone successful treatment for stomach ulcers 20 years prior. It is now widely acknowledged that Nobel Prize winner Barry Marshall discovered the bug and Prof B discovered the drug. Barry Marshall won a Nobel Prize for discovering that stomach ulcers were caused by bad bacteria and not, as was the common belief at the time from diet and lifestyle (stress). Like many scientists through history to prove his point he infected himself with the bad bacteria and developed gastritis, a precursor to stomach ulcers. After trying 36 combinations of antibiotics Prof B found the drug that would conquer it. At the mention of Prof B’s name I knew FMT was a serious and cutting-edge treatment. Okay, now my Tracy really had my attention.
This is a critical moment for a donor. I’d connected with Tracy’s experience, but this poo idea? Curious, I Googled FMT and Prof B and filled an hour reading what I could find on FMT – fascinating stuff. I recall reading about the screening of donors and at the time thinking that with my record of almost perfect health and a self-proclaimed ‘stomach of steel’ I’d be an ideal candidate to donate. But I still didn’t see Tracy’s condition as serious enough to have to confront my own prejudices against poo.
It takes a complete paradigm shift to embrace poop. As I’d expressed interest in FMT practice Tracy would sent me links to articles about FMT (I think I was being ‘groomed’) which was okay because it was a intriguing topic. I believe any potential donor needs to read mainstream articles like this as it’s important to give FMT credibility in the eyes of the uninitiated. After having just read this article myself for the first time I was blown away to read:
“Contrary to popular belief, stool has no waste in it – it’s a mass of good bacteria,” says Prof Borody.
Amazing! This is a useful fact to pass on to any potential donor.
The singular most important moment for me as a potential donor was when I read Tracy’s blog The Power of Poo. Tracy had started her blog to chronicle her FMT experience, but what I wasn’t expecting to read was her heart rendering account of her personal fight against years of poor health and suffering. I was shocked and genuinely distressed to think my friend lived in such a dark place and yet I was largely unaware. In my mind from that very moment I was a donor. Mr Iron Guts could easily pass any screening test they could throw at me! Without a moment’s hesitation I was now Tracy’s donor and a better, more understanding friend. I was committed and it felt right. It felt unbelievably right. That such a small gesture could make a dramatic improvement to the quality of a friend’s life seemed to be almost unbelievably selfish of me not to join Tracy in her journey back to good health.
Tips for Donors
- Do your research. This site is a good place to start but do some independent research too.
- Consider it an opportunity to stay motivated to maintain a more healthy diet.
- Consider that you might have something to learn from your sick friend. Everyone needs to know more about their internal health and Tracy has taught me the critical role it plays.
- Ask yourself if embarrassment is good enough reason to withhold a treatment that could dramatically improve your friend’s life.
- If you’re not a suitable donor but would still like to help, become a poop activist. Talk about the topic with friends and ‘like’ poop related items on facebook. Help your friend think of others who might be willing to donate and how to approach them.
- Get over it. Why are we all squirming at poop, because it stinks? That’s life-giving bacteria at work. With this knowledge and since becoming a donor the aroma is less unpleasant, which proves that perception is mind-over-matter.
Tips for Donation Seekers
If you need to enlist the help of a donor from outside your family, remember that it will take a complete shift in their thinking. Here are a few tips to help you find a donor and be more confident in your approach. Start with a positive attitude, look at it from their viewpoint and consider what’s in it for them.
- Knowing more about the importance of gut flora leads to a stronger commitment to improve eating habits.
- Information about FMT and gut flora could help the donor and potentially their family and friends reach better health.
- Nobody likes to feel pressured. A blog diary was a stroke of brilliance on Tracy’s part. It allowed me to ‘learn’ about Tracy’s condition without feeling pressured.
- Make it as easy for the donor as possible. It will help extend the time a donor may be willing to donate. Tracy and I have an arrangement where I’ll text when there’s a pick up ready and she’ll drive to my house to pick it up.
- Don’t give up.
It’s now been over a year since my first donation. Tracy still seems to believe it’s an imposition on me, but it’s not. Not in the slightest. I feel guilty whenever Tracy expresses gratitude. It really is such a unremarkable thing for a donor to do. It ain’t no big deal people – So be confident when approaching a potential donor, because giving health is an amazing feeling!
The human mind is like a parachute, it works best when open.