My struggle with Diverticulitis, its symptoms & my cure
Diverticulitis, a word I never want to hear again. I had never heard the term “Diverticulitis” before until one night in 2009 I went to sleep just like any other night, I was feeling great. During the night, I felt cramps in my stomach, I thought I might be having indigestion or something related with my period. However, in the morning, the cramps felt like spasm, similar to those I experienced when I was in labor with my first child. Okay, maybe not as strong but very painful. Somewhat worried, I got dressed and dropped my son off at school and decided to take myself to the ER.
Diverticulosis refers to the presence of small out-pouches (called diverticula) or sacs that can develop in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. While diverticula can be present anywhere in the entire digestive tract, they are most common on the left side of the large intestine, the area known as the descending and sigmoid colon. If not treated, it can become a serious condition, causing an abscess to form inside the pouch. The abscess may block the intestinal tract or rupture spreading infection throughout the abdomen.
The ER Doctor evaluated me and based on my symptoms he said that it might be appendicitis; however, they were going to do a Cat scan to be certain. By now I was convinced that it was appendicitis and Surgery was in my near future. I got the Cat Scan and waited for the results. The ER doctor came and said that I had diverticulitis. I had never heard of this condition so I tried to get as much information from the medical staff; however, I was referred to a GI Doctor. But not before getting a three-week dose of antibiotics, and a list of the foods that I couldn’t and could eat during the acute illness.
What I didn’t know was that the antibiotics were so strong that the side effects were giving me nausea and a metallic taste 24/7. I hated it ???? On top of taking two antibiotics for three weeks I had to take an heartburn medication to coat my stomach. I was asked if I wanted them to admit me so that they can start me on IV antibiotics but I chose to go home and start the medication. Although, I am not sure what was worse the pain or the horrible taste and side effects of the antibiotics. I hated it!
While I was healing from my first episode of Diverticulitis(I didn’t know that they would later come back), I found a Gastrointestinal Doctor. I asked him what is the reason that some people get this illness and he said that some people as they get older, develop pouches along the wall of the colon. These pouches are called “diverticula” and usually cause no symptoms. If the pouches become blocked, an infection may occur known as “Diverticulitis”. The symptoms cause lower abdominal pain and fever.
This GI doctor recommended that I stay away from seeds, peanuts and corn, he is a firm believer that this type of food is hard to digest therefore getting stuck in the pouches.
The first episode was over, finally my three weeks of eating bland food, no spices, no beef, no cured meats, no caffeine and no chocolate was over.
Unfortunately, two years later, I felt the same symptoms as the first time, I went to the ER and once again diagnosed with diverticulitis. I started the antibiotics as before. I went to see my doctor during this second attack, he suggested to have the Colon resection surgery to remove the affected area. Because I am in my forties, he felt that I am too young to keep having to go through this condition and said that once removed I can live a normal life. I told him that I would think about it in the hopes that this second episode would be the last.
Three times was enough for me
That was not the last of the episodes as in 2013 I once again was suffering from the illness. I was at a loss as I had stayed away from seeds and the foods that’s are on the list. I had been taking probiotic and was going to the bathroom on a regular basis. Wanting a second opinion on the cause and on the surgery I found myself another GI Doctor. He agreed on the having the surgery at my age is best. He referred me to Colon Resection surgeon within the group.
I decided to meet with the Colon and Rectal Surgeon, Dr. Marcos Szomstein and have him explain the surgery, the recuperation and the anything that would give me piece of mind. He said that location where the affected area happens to be is not common, I had read that colon resection surgeries sometimes require the patients to have a colostomy bag put in place, even if its temporary. He said that unfortunately, he will not be able to tell me until he performs the surgery. I took a few months to think about the surgery but I finally decided to go trough with it in the summer of 2014.
I decided to do the surgery during the summer when my kids were out of school and can help out in the house. I was lucky that my job allowed me to take three weeks off from work. Recuperation time was about three weeks, no driving for two weeks. A few days before the surgery, I was running around getting blood work and getting everything ready for the big day. I was a total wreck. A couple of days before the surgery, I had to prep as if I was going in for a Colonoscopy.
The day of the surgery was here and I was extremely anxious, nervous and scared. Woke up at 5:00 a.m., got my overnight bag(4 days) and headed to the hospital with my family. As they were prepping me, I put my life in God’s hand.
I woke up in the post-op room of the hospital, of course, not knowing how the surgery went, I opened my eyes, shivering from the anesthesia, I asked the nurse that was taking care of me for a warm blanket. I felt no pain when I woke up, I guess I was still under the anesthesia effect. I can feel discomfort and felt my stomach extremely swollen. I was cold and shivering. Dr. Szomstein, my surgeon, came to check on me and gave me the good news about my surgery. They removed the affected area and no temporary colostomy bag was needed.
When they moved me to my room, I can feel the anesthesia wearing off and the pain kicking in. I mean, every movement I made hurt, I was swollen extremely gassy(not sure that is a word, but you get my point). You see, in order to perform the Laparascopic surgery, they needed to put air/gas inside me in order for my digestive cavity to inflate and allow the camera to move around. However, if air goes in, air must come out and it did, painfully by the way. I had three small incisions on my stomach, the biggest one was by the belly button. The incisions were closed with a special glue and the colon was reattached with stitches that would dissolve with time. The first night was the worse in terms of pain and discomfort, I was given a pump with morphine where I had controlled of how much and when I would receive a dose of morphine. On the second day, the pain and discomfort was more controllable so I chose to take Tylenol instead of the morphine. I was also allowed to have clear liquids as part of my diet, the third day, they graduated me to solid foods such as mashed potatoes, rice, etc. They needed me to use the bathroom as they wanted to see if I can have a normal bowel movement. That was the scariest thing when it finally happened as the color of my stool scared me as I thought I was bleeding. I freaked out. I pressed the nurse’s button right away and in a panic voice I told her what was happening and she said that the color is normal as that is the blood from the surgery.
The Surgeon and his team would check my wounds on a daily basis and said that I needed to move around and ordered me to walk as much as possible in order for the gas that was trapped inside can come out. My wounds were looking good according to the surgeon and the nurses, of course, being the chicken that I am, I refused to look at the wounds or touch them. On the fourth day, I am going home.
Once home, I had to make some minor changes such as spending the day downstairs and only going up to the bedroom at night to sleep. No stairs allowed during the first three weeks, no driving for two weeks. I basically was a couch potato, but at least I was at home.
It has been a year and a half since my surgery and although now and then I feel some discomfort(like today) in the area where they performed the surgery. I pray and hope that I have seen the last of my stomach/colon issues. I have made a change in my bathroom habits, I make sure that I go to the bathroom every day as I truly believe that constipation was a major contributor to MY diverticulitis diagnosis. I also take a Live Probiotic on a daily basis and avoid the nuts, seeds of any kind, that included tomatoes, cucumbers, sesame, etc.
To those who suffer from constipation, seek help, as I believe that cause for my illness was constipation.
As a matter of fact, I have started to use a similar prop to the Potty Squatty. I found my bathroom waste basket works just as well as the potty squatty, I flip my waste basket on the side and place my feet on top. I am not trying to promote the Potty Squatty but I am planning on purchasing it. Having gone through this condition, I will try anything as long as it promotes a healthy digestive system.
This is my personal story, what I experienced and how I chose to deal with diverticulitis. If you are struggling with the same illness, I urge that you consult with your Physician. If you would like to ask me questions about my surgery, please feel free to email me.