I’m walking to empower patients and families living with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. We are a community dedicated to improving the lives of the 1.6 million men, women, and children who struggle with digestive diseases in the U.S.
Please join me in supporting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) by donating toward my fundraising goal for this year’s Take Steps walk!
Your donation will directly support critical research projects, as well as groundbreaking patient programs like Camp Oasis, a summer camp just for kids with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Take Steps is the nation's largest event supporting vital research, treatment, and life-enriching programs for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Our walk includes food, music, and family activities that brings people from all across the community to join together in fun, solidarity, and purpose. Since its inception, Take Steps has raised more than $75 million nationally to improve the lives of those affected by these diseases.
Please donate $50 or more to support my fundraising efforts in celebration of CCFA’s 50th anniversary. Better yet, take it a step further and register yourself! It’s not only deeply important to me, but to many others whose lives are impacted by IBD.
My Ulcerative Colitis Story
It was October 2010 and I was on top of the world. Our
little miracle baby was almost 2 months old. We had waited so long to have a
baby and Nathan exceeded our every hope and dream.
On October 10th on the way home from my parent’s
house from a weekend visit I started feeling ill. It felt like a stomach virus
was on the way. I toughed it out for 3 days at work but finally stayed home on
Thursday. I knew something was wrong but kept hoping it would resolve itself.
On Saturday, October 16th at 6:00 in the morning I went to urgent
care. It was a cold morning and I was sweating like a pig!I had the windows
open in the car and the air conditioner on but I just couldn’t cool down. I saw
the doctor and he immediately told me to go to the emergency room. I was a
little scared at that point but drove myself to the ER. There they diagnosed me with a severe stomach virus. I
was given 2 bags of fluid and a prescription for some anti-diarrhetic medicine and
was sent home. I stayed at home for over a week. I was not getting better.
I went to the emergency room again on October 24th
and was admitted into the hospital. An
infectious disease specialist was assigned to me because none of the doctors
could figure out what was going on. Cultures were being grown to determine the
cause of my illness. They tried to put a tube down my nose to drain my stomach,
but I was so delirious at that point that I pulled it out. Finally, after two
days of waiting for them to figure out what was wrong, the doctor ordered a
round of tests. First, I was taken for a stomach x-ray. While lying on the
gurney, I watched the x-ray technician and a doctor examine what they had seen.
I will never forget the panicked look on the doctor’s face as he quickly picked
up the phone. I remember thinking, “This doesn’t look good”. Shortly after that
they wheeled me into the hallway and I was met by a surgeon, named Dr. Gutman.
He told me I was very sick and that I needed surgery right away. That is the
last thing I remember for several days. I later found out that the concerned looks on
the doctor’s and x ray technician’s face was because they saw that my large
intestine had perforated. I was literally full of crap. (Most of my friends
have known this for years!)When I woke up, I was alone in a bed in the ICU. I
looked under the blanket and was horrified by the bandages and seemingly
countless lines attached to my body. I had a large incision going down the
center of my stomach, 2 drain lines coming from my stomach, a catheter and the
thing that scared me the most, an ostomy bag. I remember thinking “That’s it,
I’m going to die”.
My recovery was a long, slow process. I had an accelerated
heart rate and a very high temperature. I was put onto an ice blanket to help
control the fevers and still my vitals were off the charts. Eventually, they realized that I had fluid in
my lungs and pulled 2 liters of fluid from my right lung. This was the turning
point where I finally started coming out of the woods. It was during my time in
the ICU that the doctors asked my wife if I had made any lifestyle changes. She
informed them that I stopped smoking and they stated that is what brought the
disease out of remission. I’ve since researched what they referenced and learned
that a known treatment for ulcerative colitis is nicotine therapy. I had been
treating myself for 20+ years and never knew it!
My wife, son and parents were at the hospital every day to
encourage and support me. I also had many visitors in the hospital. Most were
not allowed in but an old high school friend was able to see me on multiple
occasions. How he got in is still a mystery. I was able to check in on Facebook
on November 1st and was overwhelmed by all the posts of love and
support. Those messages truly inspired me. I was not able to receive phone
calls but I was able to receive one from a high school friend I hadn’t spoken
to in 10 years. I had to contact him after I was home to verify he actually
called. He seemed confused since we had in fact talked. I had to explain to him
that I was under heavy medication and wasn’t sure what was real during that
time. What may seem like a simple gestures meant the world to me.
After spending 13 days in the ICU, I was moved into a regular
hospital room on November, 9th. I was taught how to care for my ostomy and
incision and was also told there was a chance I could have my small intestine
connected to my rectum and would not have to live with a bag. I was hopeful for
the future at that point but I had a lot of work to do. Atrophy had set in and
my legs were useless. I had taken some steps with the help of a walker in the
ICU but had never pushed myself. I was told in order to go home I had to prove
to the physical therapist I was ready. I hadn’t seen Nathan in just under a
month at that point. My Mom and wife had tried to bring him in to see me and I
caught brief glances of him but he was my motivation to get home. I was missing
out on being a part of my son’s life and I knew I had to push myself. For him,
for my wife and most importantly for me. I pushed harder than I have ever
pushed in my life and passed the tests. I was able to go home on Friday,
November 12th, after almost 3 full weeks in the hospital.
I am still not sure how I made it into the house that day. I
had not walked without the help of a walker and the 3 steps to go into my house
seemed like 10 flights of stairs but I made my way into the living room. Once
inside, I finally got to take a long look at my pay off, my son. I collapsed on
the couch and burst into tears. I had finally made it home to Nathan!
It took several months before I was finally feeling like my
old self. Small victories were the key to my recovery. Getting off the couch by
myself, taking the garbage out, picking up Nathan and other tasks I took for
granted before were now major milestones. My wife was helping me a great deal during
that time. The one thing I hated her helping me with was changing my ostomy
bag. I was embarrassed that she had to see me like that and I know it was not
something she enjoyed doing but she did it because she loved me. Then one day, I
was home by myself and a leak had started. I was frantic. I needed her to come
home NOW! I calmed down and thought, “Why not just do it yourself?”. I was
nervous trying to do it alone but gave it a shot and succeeded and she never
had to help me with that again. Want to know what true love is? Helping your
husband change his wound dressings and helping him change an ostomy bag.
Later, I was given the green light to have the reconnection
surgery. I was so excited to finally get rid of the bag! On February 9th,
2011 I had the surgery and was in the hospital till February 12th. It
took about six months after the surgery before my new plumbing had stabilized.
Since then I have had 2 additional surgeries for incisional hernias.
Life has become normal for me again. I still go to the
bathroom significantly more than most folks, I take a very powerful probiotic
and I have to keep hydrated constantly due to not being able to absorb water as
efficiently as before but those are the only issues I deal with on a daily basis.
I’m still here so I have no right to complain.
That’s my story. I tried to not be dramatic but convey how I
was during my illness. I have not thought about some of these issues since they
happened. I am so grateful to still be here.