Confessions of a Pooter-Pack

It was about 5-1/2 years ago when I first recommended canonization of my husband, John, to the Vatican.  Even though I am a very lapsed Catholic, I’m sure they’ll go along with it.  Because he really does deserve it.  Good spouses of many people with chronic diseases deserve special recognition, but I’m pretty sure only John deserves sainthood.  Because all the good saints have been tortured, haven’t they?  And John absolutely fits that bill.

Saint Sebastian by Il Sodoma, c. 1525

Saint Sebastian by Il Sodoma, c. 1525
(Image from Wikipedia)
I couldn’t find any saints who were suffocated, so John has a good shot

Let me mention that I’ve been reluctant to write about this subject.  But after multiple requests following my last post about good hygiene and the New Jersey Turnpike, I figured I’d just get it over with and get on with my life.  

I knew from an early age that there was one moniker I never wanted to have.  I never wanted to be a “Pooter-Pack.”

It’s a bad thing, being a Pooter-Pack.  Nobody likes them or wants them around.  And nobody wants to be called a pooter-pack.

In fact, in possibly the only instance where my brother was caught doing something wrong, Fred’s mouth was washed out with soap for calling our paperboy a “Pooter-Pack.”

What, you might ask is a “Pooter-Pack?”

It’s a pack of pooters, DUH!  You know – farts.  Butt burps.  Cutting the cheese.  “Fluff” as my childhood best friend Liz’s family called them for no logical reason.

I did not want to be a pooter-pack.  No-sirree Bob.  And for the longest time, I wasn’t.  Those were golden years that I did not fully appreciate.

To set the record straight, I did not become a pooter-pack that day when all the kids in my 6th grade English class thought I did.  I was viciously maligned.  Tagged.  Ridiculed.  It was a hot spring day and my young, innocent, bare leg stuck to my plastic seat.  When I moved, I made a nasty fart-like sound with my leg.

Let’s be clear about this:  I did not fart.  I would have died first.

But Tommy O, the main bully in my life, led Kevin E and John L in a sing-song around me:

Elyse Farted!  Elyse Farted! 

She did she did she did!

I wanted to disappear.  Disolve.  Die.  It was so unfair.  I didn’t!  Not even so much as an SBD!    And it had no smell at all because I hadn’t farted.  It was a leg, umm, fart.  They’re different.  Somewhat pleasant, even.

I tried to defend myself, but the whole class heard the noise and believed the boys, not me.  I hate them all still.

Fast forward past many fart-free years.

In the early 1980s, I had a severe case of colitis-that-was-really-Crohn’s disease.  That was when I really started tooting my own horn.  Quietly, though, thankfully.  SBDs.

One of the treatments for many kinds of bowel disease is a drug called prednisone.  One of prednisone’s most notable symptoms is flatulence.  Prednisone does not give a girl delicate lady-like whiffs of something vaguely unpleasant that might induce a brief nose wrinkle.

Nope.  Waves of heavy, inescapable stink accompany a person taking prednisone.  Like Charlie Brown’s friend, Pig Pen, a smelly cloud hung around me wherever I went.

(Google image.  Done by Charles Shultz, of course.  Who, I am quite sure never had gas.)

(Google image. Done by Charles Shultz, of course. Who, I am quite sure never had gas.)

In the Metro.  On a bus.  In an elevator.  In my office.  I was engulfed in my nasty, stinky cloud.

In spite of the evidence of everybody’s senses, I never admitted I had a problem.  That it was me polluting the air.  Nope.  I didn’t say a word to anyone.  I just couldn’t bear another bit of humiliation.  (But frankly, unless there were a whole lot of lucky people around me suffering from anosmia, loss of smell, people were polite or stupid.)

I’m going with polite.  Because my friends and co-workers were truly terrific.  And they knew just how embarrassing life was for me.  You see, when you have bowel disease, you are constantly in humiliating, compromising positions.  I’ve written about that many times, including here.

I didn’t mention that I’d become a pooter-pack to my parents, who were, luckily for them, safely in another state.  I couldn’t mention it to my sisters, including Beth, the nurse, who would have known the reason (I didn’t)  or Judy, who would have laughed herself silly and taken me along with her.

I also didn’t mention it to my roommate, Keily.  Keily lived with me.  She was exposed to the ill effects of the prednisone but never once broached the subject (she is the biggest-hearted person in the world, my friend Keily is).

I’m pretty sure that my dog, Goliath, loved me more because of the smell.  Dogs are gross.

The only person who ever mentioned flatulence to me was my gastroenterologist, Dr. C., the guy who gave me the damn fart pills.

“Are you having any gas?” he’d ask.  It was always the last in the usual lineup of embarrassing questions.

I would look him straight in the eye and say:

“Gas?  Me?  No,” I lied, every single time.

Dr. C would tilt his head like Goliath and look straight at me as we sat together in my stink cloud.  Every time he’d wait for my answer to change.

It never did.

As far as my medical records from that time are concerned, I have never ummm, fluffed.  Dr. C surely wrote me up in a medical journal somewhere.  Or perhaps he went to a doctor to have his own sense of smell assessed.

Anyway, I had my surgery and for years I lived up to what I told Dr. C.  I did not pooter.  Truthfully this time.

I’m not sure that that was what first attracted John to me, but I’m sure the fact that I did not have a stink cloud around me didn’t hurt.  We’d been married about 20 years when my Crohn’s symptoms, ummm, re-erupted in about 2006.

I felt fine, actually.  But something peculiar happened whenever I would go to bed.  It started out slowly, gently, and then progressed to putrid:  Whenever I lay down, my bottom end erupted.  The most noxious substance passed out of my body and into the air in the bedroom.

It never happened if I was upright.  Ever.  Only John had to deal with it.

“There’s actually some comfort in it,” John said towards the beginning.   “Not every husband can be sure that their wife won’t lay with another man.”

I pursed my lips and glared at him.

Still, I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be happening.  But then I started to worry.  You see, when I had my surgery in 1982, which was for documented colitis, the doctors disagreed after the fact about what I had. If it came back within 10 years, it was Crohn’s; if it didn’t, it was colitis.  It turned out that it was Crohn’s that came back over 20 years later.  And it came back with a bang.

The first person I told my gaseous problem to was my late sister, Beth.  Beth was a nurse, and she was incredibly smart.  Amazing, in fact.  She could diagnose any malady in a nano-second.  So I told her about my problem, and that it was getting worse.

“I really don’t know what to do,” I told her.

“Gee, Lease,” she said sympathetically, “It sounds like you could clear Walmart.”

“Thanks, Beth.  That helps.”

“Try some GasX,” she recommended a bit more helpfully.

And I did.  GasX works.  It really does.  It even works on weird gas problems like mine.  Sort of.

At that time, GasX was available in two forms.  One that claimed it kept gas away for 4 hours, and the other said it kept it away for 6 hours.  Never was a drug label more accurately written.  Because exactly at 4 hours plus one second, all that stored up flatulence would burst out into my bedroom, like a neutron bomb.  In the middle of the night, and into the place where my poor husband tried to sleep with me.

He never complained.  Occasionally, he would moan “Oh, Lease,” but I’m sure that was just his way of searching for oxygen.

My boss, a physician, noticed me researching flatulence one day, and asked me why.  I confessed my problem to her.

She stood in my office and laughed until her belly hurt.

It’s never good when a doctor can’t stop laughing after you’ve described your symptoms.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t help me either, and she’s brilliant.  She’d never heard of reclining flatulence, either.  Nor had Google, my bible.

Unlike my previous time as a pooter-pack, this time there was no cloud of stink.  Instead, this time the stink formed a curtain, a wall around the bed.  It was truly horrible laying there in the poisonous air.  But I would, being the good wife I am, try to rid myself of the gas by going to the bathroom.

When I came back?  Getting back was like walking through a brick wall.  There was literally a physical wall of stinky bricks.

Which brings me to the reason my husband should be canonized.  Because for 2 years, and until the third of three different doctors poked and prodded and tested, did the third one figure out what was wrong with me (an internal abscess that required surgery), my husband did not complain that I was not exactly a dream wife.

And never once did he call me a pooter-pack.

*   *   *

In a last-ditch effort to save a little bit of my nearly exhausted pride, I will tell you that since that surgery, I have not been a pooter-pack.  Honest.  Would I lie?


Filed under Childhood Traumas, Climate Change, Crohn's Disease, Dogs, Family, Farts, Flatulence, Global Warming, Health and Medicine, Humor

88 responses to “Confessions of a Pooter-Pack

  1. LMAO – glad (?) there was a real underlying cause for all of that! Just hope you’re ok now and so glad to hear your pooter-pack days are in the past! Funny cuz I’ve always called them “pooters” as well – just sounds more dignified, right?! Like us ladies “glow” instead of sweat…I’ll bet I see a link on that topic too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Long Hall | FiftyFourandAHalf

  3. I am now in awe of your strength and feel a little bad about some of my jokes…


  4. I love his thinking, that you couldn’t possibly lay with another man. I’m glad things are under control now. Sounds like you’ve been through it!


  5. Clinton

    I’m speechless. My already immense respect for John has grown immeasurably. As for you — call Mel Brooks. He might be able to come up with a screenplay for this.


  6. Elyse, this is a riot! I laughed out loud a couple of times and giggled several times because I suffer from Celiac disease and have had similar experiences (I once caused three actors to gag in unison onstage as I crossed upstage left to deliver a line). I feel your pain! I’ve certainly learned not to take myself to seriously and like your husband, my husband should join the saint club with him. Anyway, this was a delightful post!


  7. Pingback: Cleaning Up The Old Blogs: Carols And Farts | Johnbalaya

  8. First reading your post was killing me… then you and Lorna here finished me right off… screeching funny. Wow. My pooter pack is tired. Love you later, wonderful women. Goodnight and thanks again, Elyse, for another “glimpse” of your world, lmao 😀


  9. It takes a courageous woman to admit (or lie) about her pooter packing days. I admire that. Ever since I had my second hemorrhoid surgery, little pooters pop out of me in the most inopportune moments. Laughing, hoisting myself up, sneezing. I guess I have pooter incontinence. I need a muffler.


  10. This was a very brave post to write, Elyse. I’m glad you’re feeling (and breathing) better.


  11. Oh, Elyse. Poor pooter-packing fluffy, Elyse! This was hysterical. And you KNOW I love a good fart story.

    Aside from all the pain and suffering and humiliation you’ve dealt with over the years, to make your story funny takes real talent. I laughed out loud several times while reading this, enough to make my leg fart.

    But I find this disturbing because my husband also suffers from “reclining farts”. He only lets ’em rip after I’m safely tucked in bed right next to him. He’s also afflicted with “car farts” as he only seems to fart once I’m safely inside a small confined space with him with no ventilation. Is there any remedy for this? Please? I’m begging you.


    • I wouldn’t worry about any health implications for your husband, Darla. Men just like to fart. Especially when there is no escape for the victim.

      But GasX works. You have to take it though.


  12. Oh, I love this one! My niece has Crohn;s and I’m going to send it to her.


    • She may not experience this, ummm, aspect of Crohn’s. It doesn’t happen to everybody. The disease is really quite weird and different people have very different symptoms, which is why it is so difficult to diagnose.

      But if she DOES, let her know that the 12 hour GasX is a godsend!


  13. You’re the second or third person I’ve read talking about flatulence today. I don’t know what’s causing me to run into these type articles. Must be some kinda sign.


  14. Reblogged this on Johnbalaya and commented:
    I promised my friend Elyse that if she wrote about being a pooter-pack, I would stand proudly beside her, a fellow suffer of my own pooter-pack adventures (mostly from 20+ years of HIV drugs which have pretty much screwed my digestion system up for life), and re-blog her post, for all the world to see — in order to help dispel the prevalent myth that women don’t fart.

    (On a side note: this is a pet peeve of mine, this sense of shame that goes along with flatulence. Flatulence is a natural bodily function. Yes, sometimes it’s odiferous and can clear a room. But, why we have created such a sense of shame about it, I just don’t understand. Farts happen. Let’s learn to live with it.)

    Love you, Elyse!


    • Sigh. I’m not really sure this is the way I wanted to be known as a writer, John!

      But I think we’ve all more or less learned to live with them — that’s why we laugh at them. What else can you do with them? Unless, of course, you have a prednisone cloud, and then you can take it along wherever you go!


  15. As I read this post surrounded by clear air, I think about what you have done …. a tribute to your husband, educating others through wit, and being able to laugh at yourself … of course without a single lie. But I don’t think you would have done well in this situation.


  16. Long live St. John!! It’s good to laugh about such difficult things. Glad to hear you are on the mend.


    • St. John is now smiling over his coffee. He doesn’t read my blog so doesn’t know that he has gotten this posting.

      As for being on the mend, there are good and bad days. Far fewer stinky ones, though. And that is a good thing.


  17. Thanks for making farting funny again. It’s a little scary, though, that you were walking around with an internal abscess for 2 years without anyone figuring it out.


    • Yes, it was pretty annoying. Apparently, it kind of came and went. It had to get large enough to be visible. Until it did, it just polluted the atmosphere. Oh well.


  18. John is lucky to have a great wife. But in the award winning pooter category, let me just say that my old dog – since deceased – had the worst gas in the world. Loved her to bits and pieces but room clearing if not house clearing. And people who didn’t know that would likely just think – oh sure, blame it on the dog!


    • Did you ever see the episode of All Creatures Great and Small with the farting boxer? Hilarious (I tried to find a link but only found full episodes and can’t figure out which is the correct one.)

      Our current dog, Cooper, puts my pooter-ing abilities to shame. I always blame him, regardless of whether he’s in the room.


  19. Awww, I know this story is all about mean kids (who I hate, too, now), and tons of doctors visits and awkward moments (both of which I’ve had my share of, so I can doubly appreciate the grace in which you skipped by the hardships), and farting (no comment)… it was still just so sweet. Like a love letter to John. My only real response is “awww!”.


    • I am careful to include fart references in all my love letters, Rara. That’s what makes me such a special wife. I’m very much like one of the guys (although my husband, bless his over-educated heart, is not like one of those guys).

      Thanks for watching my back with the mean kids, Rara. But where were you in 6th grade?


  20. i believe that leg farts were the reason that girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school. i’ve always had…let’s call them intestinal issues, and the answer to my problems is taking fiber every night without fail. fiber can make you quite a pooter-pack. maybe that’s one of the reasons i never remarried. better to just have sbd contests with the dog at night.


    • I bet you’re right about the pants, Nonnie, it happens much less often now!

      Have you tried Citrucel? It makes me less dog-like in that respect. I wish I could give it to my dog, though. P.U!


  21. Elyse true love is a wonderful thing isn’t it. I am fairly certain true love should get your husband sainthood. Yep, fairly certain.

    Ask yourself this, what do you think happens when you have a seizure? That is what happens to my husband. Should he join yours in the sainthood line up?


  22. At least your husband has a good sense of humour about it. It’s too bad we can’t colour those clouds something pretty, sort of camaflouge


    • He has an even better sense of humor about it now that it’s over, actually. He was mostly pretty stoical about it.

      You want a colored cloud of stink? Are you nuts? The only thing that aided me in my denial was the fact that it was invisible!


  23. Interesting. The French cartoon bubble word for fart is “poot.” The difference between me and my husband? His are noisy and innocuous, mine are silent but deadly (SBDs). Men’s idea of gas, your doctor’s idea of gas, might be radically different than what we women experience. I think men fart to have fun, to relieve pressure. They love to keep fart jokes alive. Ours reasons perhaps are more diet related. Have you considered the divisions diet, a,k.a, Montignac, Suzanne Summers, South Beach? The next time you are in an elevator, just glare at the person beside you and get off on the next floor.


    • You’re probably right, Rossa, normally.

      But neither time written about here were my problems mere gas. The first was a primarily prednisone-induced stink. When I stopped the prednisone, I made more friends.

      The second time around, I had an abscess in my intestine that was infected and, umm, yucky. When I had surgery, the abscess was drained and repaired, and I didn’t have to sleep in your room as often. And never when you or your husband was in it. 😉


  24. Loved it! I am going to a GI doc next week for some issues. Last doc told me to take fiber pills so here I sit pooterpacking away at my computer. (Aren’t you glad you can’t smell through them?)


    • Thanks, Kate. Pooters are much better in writing, I’m quite sure.

      You might try Citrucel tablets if you’re taking another brand. They are much less explosive.


      • Unfortunately I’m on Citrucel. Can’t imagine what the other is like. I’m ready for the placebo!


        • Oh well. It was worth a try. Have you modified your diet? That helps too, depending on what is wrong. Lactose intolerant? Broccoli and all those veggies that are so good for your digestive system result in pooters all the time.

          In a word, it all stinks. Hope you get some relief!


  25. Thanks for the morning laugh, Elyse, and the new addition to my vocabulary. I will absolutely find a way to work “pooter pack” into my teaching day this fall!
    Now you’ve got me wondering if my dogs need to see a GI specialist, cuz they can wake us from a sound sleep with some of those SBD’s!


    • I am so glad to spread my good vocabulary. But you, as the teacher, calling someone a “pooter-pack” might require therapy. You might try to introduce “fluff” too, although I’m pretty sure that one won’t take. It’s pretty stupid.

      And I wouldn’t worry about those dogs. Eating anything and everything and drinking from the toilet tends to come back at them — and us!


      • Oh, I have lots of ways of working these things into my lessons, you’d be surprised at how subtle I can be! I wonder if this is why the kids often refer to me as “funny”…..?
        And believe it or not, my family used to say “puff”! Like, “OK, who puffed in here?!”


        • “Puff” makes much more sense that “Fluff” It’s a puff of smelly air, not a “Fluff” of it!

          I would love to be in your class!


          • One day last fall we were discussing ecosystems with their decomposers and producers and consumers. One of my little guys started to giggle, and when I asked him why, he said, “You’ve said “poop” about ten times!” After we all finished laughing, I said, “Can you believe they pay me for this?”
            I LOVE my job.


  26. If I ever meet him, it would be a privilege to buy John a beer.
    And then listen to all the funny stories!

    And this could have been worse – I thought you were going to admit to wearing something like a fanny pack! *shiver*

    Glad you have a great guy to travel along with!


  27. Luanne

    I know this type of love, from John’s side of it. I had to replace our mattress at one point. In our house it’s not spelled Crohns. It’s spelled Celiac. Lordy. I’m so sorry for you and all the others afflicted with these hideous GI illnesses. And I’m a bit sorry for myself, too ;).


    • Oh I’m sorry to hear that. These diseases really do stink in oh so many ways. Sorry for your husband’s trouble and for the impact these diseases have on everybody. John veers from incredible patience to denial that there is really anything wrong. But however he deals with his part is OK with me. Because it’s hard on him (and on you) too.


  28. bigsheepcommunications

    Hey, that’s true love.


    • It lets me overlook so much. It also led me to have a heart and sleep in the guestroom (which is tiny) more and more frequently as things got worse.


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