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Crohn's & Colitis
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Personal Story

Embarrassment over illness led to blood transfusions and urgent surgery


John Davidson is using his own experiences to raise awareness of ulcerative colitis.

By James Gould

John Davidson’s symptoms became so bad that he was bleeding in the bathroom 20 or so times a day – and now the 24-year-old man has asked people in a similar situation to head for medical advice as soon as they can.

John was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when he was just 19.

The lesser-known condition causes inflammation and ulcers within the large intestine and can have serious complications, leading to huge life changes.

It is estimated to that around 1 in every 420 people in the UK has the condition.

In February this year, things for John progressed and took a sudden turn for the worse.

John told Belfast Live: “In the beginning in 2015 I was able to live a normal life.

“Of course, I had occasional bad days, where I would be needing to use the toilet around 10 times per day and suffer extreme tiredness, but I was on medication that I had to take each morning and night, which kept severe flare ups at bay.

“On the surface I was just your average guy, I went to work, came home and then played football or trained at the gym and saw my friends.”

Around last Christmas, John began noticing a change and his symptoms started to appear more aggressive.

Instead of recognising there could be a problem John said he took the “it’ll be grand” approach.

“I was going to the toilet around 20 times a day. It was usually urgent and always bloody,” he said.

“I was embarrassed about it and didn’t really tell anyone about how bad it was, and I was still in denial about my condition.”

After a trip to the hospital, doctors discovered that John was anaemic due to the blood loss. It was then that he required the first of three blood transfusions.

A few weeks later, John ended up in hospital again, this time worryingly with heart palpitations and chest pain.

“On this occasion I had lost so much blood that my heart was working overtime and struggling,” he said.

“I required another blood transfusion, but this only papered over the cracks and kept me going for a few weeks before the replacement blood was lost again.”

A week later came a frightening experience where John’s fiancée had to phone an ambulance as things again became progressively more serious.

“I woke up in the middle of the night unable to use my legs and being in extreme pain,” he said.

“This time they discovered that I had picked up an infection in my large intestine which was almost working alongside my already active Colitis and making everything even worse.”

Johns only realistic option for a more comfortable life was surgery and on May 4, he chose to have it.

“The surgery is called a total ileostomy,” he said.

“What they do is basically remove the infected area, in my case, the large intestine so now I am left with only the small intestine to digest any food I eat.”

“The end of it comes through an opening made in my tummy and is called a stoma. I have to wear a special bag over the stoma, and it collects any waste I produce.”

A surgery of this nature for anyone is a traumatic and life-changing experience but John decided to turn a negative in to a positive by raising awareness for his condition and his document his recovery journey by starting an Instagram page called @ileostoplates.

“On the page I plan on documenting my road to recovery, living life with a bag and also raising awareness for IBD [Irritable Bowel Disorder] as it can be an embarrassing topic, no one wants to talk about poo,” he said

“There were two options for me. I could curl up, sulk, and feel sorry for myself and my situation,” he said.

“Or I could be positive about it and use it as a platform to raise awareness and help others experiencing a similar journey. I chose the latter.

John paid tribute to the support he received after going through such a life-changing operation.

“I’ve been helped by the most supportive friends, family and fiancée I could ever ask for. It has been difficult to adjust, but they have all played a big part in helping me through,” he said.

He recognises that if he had addressed his symptoms properly earlier, he may have been able to battle the condition in a better way and urges people if they have any of the symptoms of Inflammatory bowel disease to seek help and guidance.

“Personally, I was in denial about the seriousness of my Ulcerative Colitis and didn’t tell anyone of how bad things were,” he said.

“I sometimes think things could have been different if I got on top of my condition earlier, but I have no way of knowing.”

“Do not do what I did. Listen to your body and if something does not seem right go and get it checked out with your GP or at the Hospital immediately,” he said.

“If unchecked and untreated Colitis and Crohn’s can get out of hand fast so seek medical help at the first sign of any symptoms.”

Original source here.

Posted on: June 3 2021

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