Eileen's Story

March 21,2011 is the date when my journey began and changed my life forever.  I have rheumatoid arthritis and had been on Remicade infusions every 8 weeks and methotrexate injections that I gave myself weekly. The purpose was to turn off my immune system so it would stop attacking my body.  It worked great for about 7 years, I think.  I developed a case of diverticulitis in 2 spots in my colon so the surgeon decided I needed to have that “small” area removed.  All went well.  Over the week I got sicker and sicker.  On March 21st my temp spiked.  They put a drain in and really ugly drainage came out.  I was rushed into 6 hours of emergency surgery.  My colon had perforated(exploded) since I had no immune system to fight off the infection. My family was told that I may not make it through the night.  I was in ICU for 7 days-3 days in drug induced coma. I woke up to being on a vent, several drains, my abdomen gutted(looked like prime rib) and open, and a colostomy.  I once asked Scott(my husband) if I tried to talk to him.  He said my first words with tears in my eyes were “help me”.  Can you imagine how awful that had to be for him. I can't imagine how helpless he felt.  Our lives totally changed that day. Scott did research on line and found the Ostomy Association of Metro Denver, Inc because he thought it would be good for me to have some support.  I talked to Steve Johnson, the president at the time and he welcomed me to a support meeting.  I was in the hospital for 2 ½ months.  I am sure that the day I was released, Scott took me to my first support meeting.  He insists it was the next day.  All I remember is he helped me into the meeting room.  I had several drains, a wound vac and a colostomy. I was on lots of pain meds so I was just happy to be able to sit up straight in a chair.  Steve greeted me with open arms and introduced me to many people who opened their hearts to me.  All I remember is all these smiling people.  They were talking about all the things they had done in the past month since they had seen each other-they had been on cruises, run marathons were enjoying life. Some were sharing their Ostomy events of the month. All I could think was that all I wanted was to be able to smile again and wondered if it really would ever happen.  As time progressed my body healed and with the unbelievable support of my family and the members of this group my mind healed.  Before I knew it, I was welcoming new members.  Before I knew it I was on the board(I still don't know how that happened) and now look at me.  I am the president.  I go and talk to nursing students about being an ostomate and visit other new ostomates in the hospital or their homes or on the phone.I know it sounds “Pollyanna-ish” but in addition to being so grateful that my colostomy saved my life, it opened a new door in my life. I met some of the most incredible people that I would never have met otherwise.  I am so lucky.  Believe me, my journey has not been an easy one.  Over the past 5 years I have had 7 surgeries, several hospitalizations and many melt downs.  My journey still continues. I celebrate March 21st every year as another birthday.  I mean you can never have too many birthdays or excuses to party and eat cake.  I share my story because I never thought I would laugh again.  I never thought I would have a life again.  But through this group and my husband, daughter, and friends, I am the luckiest person alive.  I hope that as each of us goes through their own journey, they will reach comfort with their “new norms”.  Thank you for letting me share my story.  It is a marathon not a sprint.  I used to hate that expression but now as I look back, I realize it does get better.  Please hang in there.  We are strong people with “fighting spirits”.  Eileen