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.
At 9, Natalie Rosenthal started having terrible stomach pains, fatigue, and diarrhea. She had dark circles under her eyes. She stopped growing taller or gaining weight.
“I had spasms whenever I ate anything,” says Rosenthal, now 40. “The pediatrician at first told my mom that I had a nervous stomach.” Meds to calm muscle spasms didn’t help, so her mother pressed for another diagnosis.
“She was a real tiger mom,” says Rosenthal, who lives in Atlanta. “She kept taking me back to the doctor. She said...
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.