Some of my friends have recently confided that they love gross medical stories. The more gross the better, and they are always probing for revolting tales of yuckiness.
Unfortunately/ Fortunately - having been constantly exposed to patients and their bodily fluids for a few years now, my gross-o-meter has been rendered completely useless. I am not sure what is actually revolting or yucky anymore!
I rely on other people's reactions to my stories and then realise afterwards that, "oh yes, that festering pus-filled abscess probably was pretty gross!"
One thing these fascinated non-medics cannot fathom, is the concept of the digital rectal exam. The mere mention of it sends their facial muscles into disgusted spasms.
(Which manifests in their mouths pursing up to look something just like the aforementioned revolting sphincter. So cute!)
May I just clarify - the anus ( that's right, ANUS, say it out loud) is an amazing organ.
It. Is. Amazing.
It is a very complicated piece of machinery that involves an external and internal sphincter, and nerve endings which are sensitive to pain, touch, temperature and stretch. It has lubricating glands which help to lubricate the stool on its way out of the body. It has a voluntary and involuntary part, thus allowing one to maintain dignity when desiring defecation.
It is the last border post between digestion and the porcelain throne. It can allow air to pass through it in the form of a beautiful sometimes thunderous rectal whistle, while simultaneously holding back solids.
Like I said, amazing.
Furthemore, the digital rectal exam is a LIFESAVING PROCEDURE!.
One can tell loads from the rectal exam. One can diagnose haemmorhoids, one can assess neurological function by the tone of the anal muscles, one can determine intestinal bleeding by the contents of the rectum - and in fact determine the site of the bleeding depending on the consistency and colour of the blood on the glove. One can assess the state of the prostate and screen for cancer. One can assess posterior wall of the vagina.
Sometimes one can even determine the state of the thyroid. (Just kidding)
Consolidate it: the rectal exam is lifesaving and the anus is amazing.
Get over it.
What I must mention though is that very rarely - I do encounter things that stimulate my barf reflex.
Yesterday, a rectal exam was indicated on an eighty year old man with urinary obstruction. At the point of actually wanting to perform the digital rectal exam, I noticed that my finger was obstructed in its purpose by a large wad of toilet paper covered in old faeces still stuck,fiercely, between the man's gluteii.
The man was completely oblivious of this fact.
I threw up a little in my mouth and spared him some embarrassment by not saying anything,and removing it myself before proceeding with the examination.
Satisfied now my buddies - was that gross enough for you guys?!?!
Not much induces my vomit centre anymore - but day old loo paper, post -use, most certainly does the trick!
Please my dear patients, us doctors don't mind probing in supposedly disgusting places. Really, we'll do what it takes to keep you healthy. But you must also play your part. Endeavour to make things a bit easier for us.
Like wiping properly.
It's the right thing to do.