Thursday, August 17, 2006

Imagine a life without farting.

My friend Heather never farts.

It's not one of those girly pretend to never have gross body functions things, either. She literally physically never ever farts. Imagine!

She wasn't born that way. About 5 years ago she had an operation to help manage her Crohn's disease and ended up with an ileostomy. That's right! Everything in her digestive tract below partway down her small intestine? Totally gone. Kaput. No more. No large intestine, no rectum, no butthole. And thus, no farts. (No poop, either).

I only mention this because Heather is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. One of my high school classmates, Heather was also in my dance classes for years and had the best sense of humor, told the best jokes. She has always had health issues (for example, one time she had viral pinkeye for like a year) but laughed about it most of the time (we all had a joke about how one day she'd marry a Chinese doctor because she spent so much time at USF and Stanford Medical centers that the only men she ever met were Chinese doctors).

About a year after we graduated she lost ~80 pounds in only a few months. NOT voluntarily; she was 5'10 and 85 pounds at her lightest. It turned out to be Crohn's disease, adding to every other health issue she's had throughout her life. The disease totally debilitated her for years, leaving her bedridden at times (leave it to Heather to get the worst case of anything). She spent years unable to eat any fat, trying every treatment out there, getting sicker and sicker. And then in 2001, after spending months in bed and very few good days interspersed with the mostly bad ones, she made a decision to have the operation that would totally change her life. Her fiance (not a Chinese doctor, amazingly enough) supported her throughout her illness and they got married a few months after her operation. I remember thinking when she had the operation that it would be a tough decision; she was only 22 and she'd have to go the rest of her life with a little bag attachment and give up half of normal digestion. How odd, to be missing all those parts. But despite a terrible recovery (again, leave it to Heather to have every possible complication), everything worked out OK and her life got a lot better once her troublesome parts were no longer there to keep her bedridden.

Heather and I lost touch over the years, primarily because I moved to Denver and she moved on with being married and such. She spent years doing the prerequisites for nursing school, making straight As, and had a daughter about 3 years ago. Heather was one of the people I was most hoping would be at the reunion on Saturday. Luckily, she was there and I got to see her in all her awesome, mom, nursing student glory. (She wanted to give back to other sick people what good nurses over the years had done for her. Plus, she's wikkid smaht.) She has a beautiful daughter, a great marriage, a promising career track - all made possible by that hole in her side that means she can't ever fart again. Because if she hadn't had the operation, she probably would have died.

Hulk and I spent a couple of hours with Heather after the reunion at a diner in Healdsburg. She can eat normal food again and we laughed like old times. And she mentioned how annoying it was that she couldn't get her husband back when he stank up a room. "It's the one thing I really miss," she said. We laughed. I'm so happy that her life has ended up so well - she's the same Heather, same sense of humor, same malicious half smile, same matter-of-factness about her health. Being married and a parent haven't changed her fundamentally, and neither have her illnesses - they've only made her more of what she was already. Except she never gets to fart anymore.

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