A Stockton man is our first patient to have undergone a leading edge transplantation technique for a bowel disorder.
Len Barnes, 75 from Eaglescliffe, suffered from constant pain and diarrhoea as a result of the bowel infection Clostridium Difficile (CDiff). He lost his appetite and over three stones in weight; weight which he couldn’t really afford to lose. Numerous courses of antibiotics during long spells in hospital were not making a difference. When consultant gastroenterologist Chris Wells suggested a faecal transplant, Len thought he was joking.
“I’d never heard of it before,” he said: “I thought, come on, you’re taking the mickey. Dr Wells explained that mixing healthy poo with my poo and transferring it back into my bowel mixed with warm water would give someone’s healthy bacteria the chance to fight with my bad bacteria. He said one transplant should do it but it might need a second to fully sort out my bowel.”
The next thing was to find a donor but daughter Debbie, who’d do anything for her dad, didn’t hesitate. Fifty-two-year-old hotel general manager Debbie’s stools were tested to make sure they were suitable and free from harmful bacteria. On the day of the transplant in the endoscopy suite at the University Hospital of North Tees, Debbie’s stools were mixed in warm water and put into Len’s bowel. The procedure took about an hour.
Len said: “I had a bit of sedation but watched it all happening on the screen in the endoscopy unit. It was interesting! I knew it had worked straightaway. The next day Dr Wells said I could go home and I said hadn’t been to the toilet. He said, you will! I was almost looking forward to it! Sure enough, when the time came I was fine and everything was back to normal.”
Chris Wells said: “Faecal transplantation doesn’t sound very appealing but it’s a very effective remedy in patients like Len who have a serious CDiff bowel infection than hasn’t responded to first and second line treatments. It’s great to see Len looking well after all the suffering he has been through.
“Transplanting faeces from one person to another does seem a bit unusual but actually it’s using healthy gut bacteria to fight off infection. Our bowels are packed full of billions of bacteria and these play an important role in maintaining health. Treatments, such as antibiotics, can disrupt this balance and allow bad bacteria to grow in the bowel and upset health. This seems a sensible way to restore normal balance.
“We are pleased to be able to offer this treatment in the trust. We have seen a significant reduction in the number of CDiff cases in the trust over the past few years. Prevention is obviously preferable to cure but it is reassuring to know that we now have availability of faecal transplant treatment in the future if we need it.”
When asked what he’d say to other people offered this treatment Len said: “Go for it. Admittedly it’s a bit of an out of the box idea but it has changed my life.”