I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my personal life in my articles, but the past seven weeks for me is an adventure worth sharing. At age 16 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which is an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract caused by a bacteria related to tuberculosis. The bacteria creates scar tissue, which in turn leads to partial (and eventually complete) blockage of the intestine. Fun stuff. My terminal ileum (the joining of the small and large intestines) was nearly fully blocked, which made eating a meal incredibly painful. I’ve been in sometimes severe pain from the disease since well before I was diagnosed, but this pain was virtually crippling – I had days where I could not walk simply because I had chosen to eat.
The cure for the blockage is surgical. They open you up, cut out the diseased portion of the intestine, and sew you back together. Based on scans of my innards, the initial goal was to make a laparoscopic incision and remove about five inches. They got the scope inside of me and found that the damage was far more extensive. They stapled the initial incision and instead cut me open from the bottom of my ribcage down to my pant line, then proceeded to remove a full fifteen inches of intestine. Also fun stuff. It takes considerably longer to recover from a full incision, so basically I was a cripple for a little over three weeks. It’s demoralizing at my age to depend on my elderly father for something as simple as walking my dog, but 90 pound labrador mixes don’t mix with ten inches of staples across your midsection.
Fast forward the full three weeks. I’m able to walk again. I’m down to a minimal number of pain pills every day. I don’t feel good, but I feel better. It’s around this time, however, that I began to experience a sharp pain in my lower left flank. The surgery was entirely on the right side, so there is zero possibility that this is related. A quick internet search reveals that lower left flank pain is usually a strained muscle or a kidney complication. I’m barely moving, so a strained muscle seems out of the question. Kidney complications, however, are somewhat common with Crohn’s disease. I’ve had kidney stones before and suffered through a lithotripsy to break them up. No big deal, right?
Wrong. Two trips to the emergency room later, they discover that I have an infection of the large intestine called diverticulitis. The pain from diverticulitis is comparable to that of the pain post-surgery, which is to say considerably greater than the pain associated with natural birth. This time I was given the luxury of a broken hospital bed, which did an excellent job of compounding the pain. Five days later I was released from the hospital, yet again nearly unable to walk. For two weeks I took what can best be described as a borderline unhealthy quantity of antibiotics, one of which can lead to tendon rupture. As of yesterday I have an odd twinge in my elbow. Fun stuff.
Oh, and as it turns out, five weeks of taking pain meds produces its own special side effects. They give you more drugs (blood thinners, specifically) to combat the elevated blood pressure, anxiety, inability to sleep, and inability to regulate external body temperature. I was always under the impression that I took a lot of pills every day for the Crohn’s disease. I was wrong. I presently take 19 pills over the course of 24 hours, which is down a hair from the 22 I was taking when I still needed heavy doses of painkillers.
All fun stuff.
Ergo, if you ever have the opportunity to have Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis, I advise against both. I advise against having parts of your intestine removed unless truly medically necessary. I advise against medical conditions which require you to take more pills than a 70-year old woman. People often say of debilitating diseases like this that they would not wish them on their worst enemies. I’m not as kindhearted, I guess, because if I really earnestly disliked you, I would totally wish all of this on you, especially if it meant I could get rid of it and sort of pawn the whole thing off.
You, however, are my faithful readers, and I love you all. Well, no I don’t. But I like you. Therefore, I would not wish this on you. For a price, however, I will wish this on your enemies for you.
In the meantime, I’m back in the saddle again. Scott and Todd better have my football team in the same condition.