To some, it will be the butt of many jokes, but a Baltimore woman is crediting a Fecal Transplant with saving her life.
To Ellen Blackwell it's a medical breakthrough, allowing her to live a normal life. But the procedure that cured what ails her may leave some feeling squeamish.
Our fecal matter contains hundreds of different kinds of good bacteria that can cure our bodies from superbugs, which is bacteria that's immune to antibiotics.
Doctors say human waste contains the same type of bacteria or probiotics you find in yogurt.
But would you be willing to take someone else's excrement and put it in your body?
For Ellen Blackwell it was a no brainer. She says, "It saved my life. I was dying."
Ellen was so sick she couldn't eat for almost a year, all she could stomach were crackers and water. She says, "Not being able to go out and eat at all was really punishing."
Ellen had a life threatening form of bacteria called C. Difficile. It's similar to MRSA and largely resistant to antibiotics.
Ellen says, "At the end of 2010, I was taking $7000 a month in antibiotics… I wasn't able to eat at all. I lost a significant amount of weight. I was very, very sick."
Treatment options are slim. Either remove your colon or risk death. But Dr. Sudhir Dutta at Sinai Hospital was willing to try something radical, a fecal transplant.
Dr. Dutta says, “Dealing with stool has never been a pleasant thing, nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to look at it."
But results can be lifesaving.
The only thing Ellen needed was a donor. Dr. Dutta says, "The people who can donate the stool sample are generally children or spouses."
That's where Catherine, Ellen's daughter stepped in.
"I'm thinking this is a really good idea. We have all this bacteria in our colon, it's like a super probiotic, it's pretty cool… Everything was dependent on when I could show up at the hospital with the sample so I just brought it down to the lab," said Catherine.
Kenda Koerner was the lab technician who prepared the stool sample at the lab. Surprisingly, all she needed was a simple kitchen appliance.
"We blended it in a blender that was purchased from Target.”
The stool was then poured through coffee filters to purify it so only the good bacteria would be transplanted.
Nurse Belinda Mason assisted Dr. Dutta in the surgery room. She says, "It's poop and it smells like poop and then you figure you actually have to introduce it to the patient and so we had to go through the mouth and then run it through the whole colon."
For Ellen, it was well worth it. She says, "I wanted to eat food within 24 hours, I felt normal."
Ellen and Catherine were able to get past the ick factor and see it as a bonding experience.
"Catherine and I now have bacteria in our guts that matches like a fingerprint," said Ellen.
Since Ellen's procedure, Dr. Dutta has performed a second fecal transplant at Sinai Hospital. That patient is also doing very well.
The procedure is common in Canada and Europe, but not yet here in the U.S. because it hasn't gone through rigorous medical testing.
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