I remember lying in my hospital bed watching a commercial for iced tea. Everyone was running around in the sunshine listening to happy, uplifting music. Never before had I been so jealous of people doing something so simple. I was 16 and it was 2006, five years after I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. I had an intestinal blockage and was hospitalized for five days while hooked up to a nasogastric (NG) tube that sucked out bile that was blocking my small intestine. It was my first time being admitted to a hospital, and every day there was the possibility that it would also be my first time undergoing surgery to remove part of my intestine. I remember feeling terrified; I had never been in such a severe medical state. Fortunately, the NG tube prevented surgery, and I was able to go home five days later.
Doctors call Crohn’s an autoimmune disease, which means your body's defense system mistakes your own tissues for threats. It sends a rush of white blood cells to the area, usually your intestines, and that leads to inflammation. Over time this can also affect your heart.
Five years before, when I was in seventh grade, I started losing weight. I wasn't really having stomach pain, just constant diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. My pediatrician had an inkling that it could be Crohn's disease but sent me to a gastroenterologist to find out for sure. I had a colonoscopy and was officially diagnosed with moderate to severe Crohn's disease in my large intestine. I was in such bad shape that I had to go immediately from the colonoscopy to an infusion center in the same hospital, where I spent five hours hooked up to an intravenous device that injected medicine to reduce the inflammation in my intestine. I had to continue the infusions for a while, plus I was taking almost 20 pills a day. When friends came over and saw the collection next to my breakfast cereal, they were stunned.
Learning to live with Crohn's
I went back almost 10 times to get the infusions, and then my doctor suggested another colonoscopy to check in on my (hopefully, no longer) inflamed intestine. I was so relieved to learn that the infusions had been doing their job and my colon was healed. I started a new medicine that I took only once a month and had an injection that took no more than 10 seconds. I've been on that medicine since my hospitalization in 2006 and haven't had any major problems.