If I was a seven year old I would just come out with and ask a paralysed person how they go for a poo. That was the first question my nephew (7 at the time) loudly asked SA in the hospital ward on his first visit. You could see the cogs turning in his probing little brain as he first took in all tubes and medical paraphernalia and then the catheter bags hanging off the ends of all the beds. The next question was obvious. It raised a chuckle from the other inpatients, perhaps glad to have the refreshing candour of a child breaking up the tedium of their stay.
But grown-ups can’t really get away with that level of innocent bluntness (although some adults do blindly experiment with it). I’m not going to linger on this subject, it gets enough coverage I’m sure whilst you or your loved one has been going through rehab following the illness or accident that left them with an SCI. In fact it became clear very early on in SA’s process of rehab that toileting was somewhat of an obsession between spinal patients – always up for discussion, always generating questions and best of all lots of funny stories. As time and experience, goes on, the questions and issues lessen but the funny stories keep on flowing . . .
So to answer your question that you may be far too adult and polite to ask, paralysed people do go to the toilet. The same organs create the wonder stuff and for most people, it comes out the same way and then is flushed away into the Thames. Shockingly they use the same kind of toilets as non-paralysed people – the cubicles are bigger because wheelchairs can be tricky to navigate in small spaces sometimes (unless you’re a seasoned pro). They are not bigger because paralysed people are particularly messy or have massive bottoms.
Going to the loo doesn’t necessarily happen randomly and haphazardly, As SA testily once told someone who asked him if he carried wipes “Actually, no – I don’t just wheel around leaving a trail of sh*t behind me”.
For the most part it is just another feature of the day, in fact for my SA, still the highlight of his day. As is the case I’m sure for many other couples, most decisions are made when one or both of us are on the toilet and it is still when most of our more productive conversations take place. Some things change, some don’t.