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I Didn't Know That Chronic Constipation Could Kill!

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Ask Dr. Christina

Dear Dr. Christina,

My grandmother, who was 92 years of age, was one productive woman who was alert and loved life. She lived independently, loved to read, cook for the family, and go for walks with her walker.

I am writing to you because it pained me to see how she died, and to later learn that her death could have been prevented. She really did not have any medical issues other than aging and suffering from chronic constipation all her life. She was one of those stubborn women who used laxatives or gave herself enemas to make herself have a bowel moment daily.

If I would have known what I know now, I would have been more alert to her bowel movements and paid more attention to her constipation. I just thought this was an aging issue and never gave it any thought.

You see, due to the loss of another family member, my grandmother went to live with my sister in another state and no one really checked in on her. Because of her pride and her desire to be independent, my grandmother never complained. One day, she began to have abdominal pain and was struggling to have a bowel movement. She began having diarrhea, which my family members were grateful for, for at least she was having a bowel movement. Instead, she had what I have since learned was a fecal impaction. This is a large lump of stool that got stuck in her rectum and caused her to have a sudden condition of overflow diarrhea.

For three months, she finally could not stand the bloating, nausea, vomiting, and the abdominal pain. She was finally taken to her family doctor. A CT scan of her abdomen was done which revealed that her entire large colon was huge and full of stool. The doctors tried enemas and digital removal of her impaction, but nothing worked. The doctors told us that she was too fragile to undergo a major surgery, and that she died of a perforation of her bowel and a painful death. She was such a good woman and didn’t deserve to die in such a horrible way.

I feel so guilty about all this. Had I just paid more attention to her bowel movements and her constipation, it could have been so different.

Sally Keep reading...

This article was originally published at Dr. Christina Charbonneau. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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