We first noticed Sophie was having problems going to the toilet when she was two. I noticed she was straining when she wanted to poo.

The GP prescribed a laxative called lactulose to soften the poo to make it easier for her to pass. We gave Sophie lactulose once a day for about a year. We took her off the medication when all seemed to be working fine but after a couple of months the problems flared up again.

Constipation diagnosis

Sophie has additional needs and it was during a needs assessment that her nursery nurses said she had a constipation problem.

Sophie’s Paediatrician prescribed one sachet of Movicol per day for the constipation. After about six months of taking Movicol, all seemed well again, but Sophie was still soiling herself regularly. Her Paediatrician said the soiling was fine and it would take time for her to poo normally again.

Discussing soiling with school

We had a meeting to discuss Sophie’s toileting with her primary school. I had become embarrassed about telling others that Sophie was still soiling herself at nearly 5.

I felt even more embarrassed at having to ask the school to help and just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. I really don’t know how I didn’t break down in the meeting.

Finding out the soiling was overflow

Last July, I received a phone call out of the blue from the school nurse. She explained that the headmaster had contacted her for some advice for how to help Sophie. It was during this conversation I mentioned that Sophie was taking one sachet of Movicol a day.

The nurse explained that the soiling was ‘overflow’ from Sophie’s constipation. She also said that Sophie was ‘impacted’ with poo which needed to be ‘flushed out’.

It all suddenly became clear why Sophie had been suffering. I’d felt guilty all these years for telling her off for soiling herself, whilst not realising that there was an underlying problem she couldn’t control. I was riddled with guilt and cried my eyes out.

The nurse explained that I needed to increase the Movicol dose until Sophie’s bowels had completely cleared the blockage of poo (also known as disimpaction).

Finding Sharron from ERIC’s helpline

One afternoon when chatting to my neighbour Sharron, I mentioned Sophie’s problem and that I'd been given details of an organisation to contact for advice called ERIC. To my surprise and enormous relief Sharron said she worked for ERIC.

Sharron brought home leaflets from ERIC so we could read about how constipation affects children.

She explained what I needed to do with Sophie, how to prepare Movicol, the right dosage and what to look for when Sophie had a poo.

The disimpaction process

At the worst point, Sophie was taking eight Movicol sachets a day to clear the blockage – I never realised how much poo could come out of a five year old!

It was the worst experience that I have ever been through – seeing my daughter suffer for four weeks whilst we went through the disimpaction process.

Because Sophie had been constipated for such a long time, her bowels had stretched and it would take about a year for everything to get back to normal again, and for her to recognise the sensation of wanting to go to the toilet before she soiled herself.

Real progress

It has now been four months since Sophie’s disimpaction and she is doing well. We still have some soiling issues, but nowhere near as many as before. She is now telling us, most of the time, when she has had a poo, which is real progress.

She is doing really well at school and has her own toilet and toilet seat. I don’t feel embarrassed about talking to her teachers anymore. The teachers have been fantastic right from the beginning.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, we haven’t quite reached it, but I am extremely positive that one day we will get there.

I wish to thank Sharron for her support, not just with Sophie, but the emotional support she has given me too. If it weren’t for Sharron, I don’t think we would have gotten through the hard times. Sharron was my saviour.

I hope Sophie’s story brings hope to other parents who are in the same boat as we were. Have courage and hope, and trust people around you for help, especially the wonderful people at ERIC.

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