Please excuse the crassness of this post, but I feel it is my duty to pass on my experience of taking a stool sample to other unfortunate foreigners in Japan who find themselves in the same position.
“Behind” the scenes
The other day I went for a health check. This was something I wanted to do since I hadn’t had a medical for such a long time, and I’m getting old… I’m in my thirties!
They weighed me and measured my height. They made me drink barium and took both chest and stomach x-rays. They ran a few tests, took a blood sample and also needed a urine sample – which, having not eaten or drank since the night before, was exceedingly difficult to provide. I was in the washroom for about half an hour and even managed a number two before I was finally able to provide some number one.
Instructions for taking a stool sample
Because of the barium (a milkshake type drink which I quite enjoyed), I was told to wait a few days before taking a stool sample. Barium turns poo white, and I had to wait until I could provide a more natural colored sample.
Taking a stool sample is much more complicated than you would imagine. Fortunately, the clinic provides instructions with a picture for each step of the poo-scooping process:
A plop-by-plop account of my experience
I have a western-style toilet, so that makes things a bit tricky. First, I laid toilet paper all over the basin to catch the poo. Second, following the picture in the instructions above, I pulled my shorts down to my ankles and sat down facing the opposite way to how you normally sit when you relieve yourself of your dinner.
PROBLEM: Since my shorts were round my ankles, they wrapped around the base of the toilet, preventing me from sitting forward enough and putting me in danger of releasing my stool on the toilet seat.
SOLUTION: I removed all garments from below the waist completely.
The actual activity of stool production is one I have mastered through the years and this particular specimen was well formed and would be perfect for use as a sample… or so I thought.
PROBLEM: Having relieved myself, and avoiding the toilet seat in the process, I went through the usual cleansing routine, however realised that since I had covered the basin with toilet paper, I had nowhere to dispose of the soiled paper in my hand.
SOLUTION: Without the hindrance of any pants, that might otherwise trip me, I trotted downstairs to our other toilet and finshed the cleaning and flushing process there.
With my clothes back on, I was now ready to take the sample. So while the washroom became increasingly smelly, I followed the instructions and tried to swish the stick through the stool, forwards, backwards, and to the side.
PROBLEM: This was one turgid turd, and any attempt to “swish” it only helped it slide down the side of the toilet and into the water.
SOLUTION: Stabbing the stool with the stick, I was able to prevent it from a watery doom, but only momentarily. When I removed the stick, the stool continued it’s journey and was lost, wrapped in toilet paper in the murky depths of our stained toilet. Fortunately, the stick was now covered in faeces.
PROBLEM: Way too much faeces, with no clear way to reduce the load.
SOLUTION: A vigorous shake sent most of it to the other side of the paper-laden bowl, but…
PROBLEM: …there was still a bit more stool on my stick than the example in the provided instructions. Stroking it on toilet paper only caused the paper to stick to the poo on the stick.
SOLUTION: With a clean sheet of toilet paper, I separated the stick from the paper…
PROBLEM: …but in doing so, I removed most of the sample I had collected.
SOLUTION: I eventually salvaged some stool from the previously flung dollop stuck to the other side of the bowl, but…
PROBLEM: …in the process managed to attract a stray pubic hair to the end of the stick.
SOLUTION: At this point, I felt I had developed enough of a relationship with my stool to use my own fingers to pluck off the pube.
Completion of the stool sample process involved returning downstairs with a stick of poo in hand to show my wife, seeking confirmation that I had indeed gathered enough to satisfy the clinic (my wife is a nurse so she’s somewhat of an expert in this field). Given the green light, I popped the stick in its tube, being careful not to get poo on the rim.
Finally, I put it in the fridge alongside the cheese and fresh vegetables… and went upstairs to flush the toilet.
Only one more sample left to go.If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!