DIAGNOSED WITH ULCERATIVE COLITIS AS A TEENAGER, JESSICA MANAGED THROUGH FLARE-UPS UNTIL A MALIGNANT TUMOR WAS FOUND IN HER COLON. WITH THE HELP OF USA COLORECTAL SURGEON, DR. SHAUNA LORENZO-RIVERO, JESSICA GOT A J-POUCH, AND IT CHANGED HER LIFE.
Jessica was diagnosed at age 18 with ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the large intestine, also known as the colon. The colon’s lining becomes inflamed and develops small open sores, or ulcers, that produce pus and mucous. Because of these symptoms, Jessica lived with abdominal discomfort and frequent trips to the bathroom.
“I was fatigued because of the colon spasms that made me double over in pain. I slept from the afternoon until the next morning, and a day of school or work was just too much. I thought it was just me, not that I was really sick,” says Jessica. “Then I had a flare up that included blood in my stool. That’s when I went to the hospital and they diagnosed me with colitis.”
Managing Her Condition
As part of her routine care to manage flare-ups of her colitis, she had a colonoscopy in February 2011. There they found a carcinoid in her colon – a slow growing malignant tumor. It was less than a millimeter in size, which was a relief, but it still meant further treatment was necessary. The next few days were a blur of blood work, scans and urine samples. The doctor monitoring her condition talked with her about her options that included resecting or taking out her whole colon. After that discussion, he referred Jessica to Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero M.D., at University Surgical Associates.
“Dr. Lorenzo explained that in my situation, if we chose to do a resection, there was greater probability that it would have be done again and again,” Jessica says. “I was already suffering from the polyps and ulcers in my colon due to the colitis, and the removing my whole colon was a way to take care of the tumor and these symptoms all at once.”
Making a decision to undergo a surgery like this didn’t come easy. Jessica and her husband, Terry, had only been married 11 months. It was a traumatic time. But Dr. Lorenzo offered an option that would make life after surgery much easier than living with a colostomy bag (at one time the only option for people who needed to have their colon removed completely). That option is called a J-pouch.
After Jessica’s colon was removed and she has about two months to heal, Dr. Lorenzo surgically created a “J” shaped reservoir out of Jessica’s own small intestine that acts as an alternate way for someone to store and pass stool. The procedure made it possible for Jessica to use the bathroom and not have to worry about the bag.
Life After Surgery
After Jessica’s surgery, she began to regain her strength and started feeling more normal again. She returned to work after two months with the ability to work a full day and still cook dinner when she got home. And she could eat anything she wanted without fear that it would cause her stomach to hurt and cramp, something she hadn’t experienced for more than 10 years of living with colitis. She also had control of her bowels and didn’t need to plan to be near a restroom.
“I didn’t realize how much colitis had drug me down and affected me until I started feeling better,” Jessica remembers. “When I started becoming active again, it felt so good to go to work, hang out with my husband – and then go to Zumba. The J-pouch procedure was definitely the right choice for me.”
The Highest Recommendation
A few years later, Jessica’s husband needed surgery to correct a problem he had with hemorrhoids. After a trip to the ER, they both knew immediately that Dr. Lorenzo would perform the procedure because of the level of personal attention and care she had received from Dr. Lorenzo and her nurse.
“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Lorenzo and my experience,” Jessica says. “If I had a problem or question, they called back in just a few minutes. In every instance, they went out of their way to ensure I had the best care. It’s something my husband and I won’t forget.”
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