“Jared you have irritable bowel syndrome, a simple stomach condition. But if you take these pills before every meal, your symptoms should improve drastically. You’re seventeen, Jared and have a long life ahead of you. Taking these pills will prevent pains. You shouldn’t have anymore trouble from now on,” the doctor said as he wrote out a prescription.
“Great,” I said. I thought back to the piercing pains I was getting in my stomach, pains so intense I would pray to God to just end my life, and the cause was so simple: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.), difficulty digesting food. I could handle taking a little pill every once and a while. Shoot, I should’ve said something sooner, like maybe back in eighth grade when the pains had first come about. Thinking back, I had noticed that there had been something wrong with my stomach even when I was younger, but as a child, adults tend to not want to listen to you. “Oh Jared, they’re just growing pains, every kid goes though it,” were all too familiar statements I heard as a in my younger days.
By early January, as the snow was falling endlessly and my junior year in school was at its peak, the pains had not subsided. At times, the pills I had been given didn’t touch the pains and they had become progressively worse. One night at home, after a twenty hour day, I found myself looking down into the toilet in dismay. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked down at the bright, crimson fluid that had been forcefully expunged from my already drained body. I looked around in horror, scared that someone else would notice. No one was there, and the slurping sound of the flush removed the evidence. “There, no one will ever know,” I thought, worried that something was wrong. “Hey, the doctor said that it was a simple stomach disease. I have the pills. Why worry right? Plus I just drank some red soda, so that’s why it was that color. No need to say anything to anyone.”
A few weeks later, I had rushed into my French class, barely making it on time. Everyone had already had their books out and was going over any questions that they had from the night before. “Monsieur, you need to be prepared for class a little bit better,” Madame Juengel scolded me.
“Madame, pardon moi, I was just coming back from an emergency drama meeting for this year’s production of ‘Hair.’ Nathan decided that he didn’t want to do a play that protests the Vietnam War and Stephanie hasn’t made it to one practice. The directors are so upset that they just back out themselves. I am trying to act and direct this show that is scheduled to be performed next week and I’ve lost my two lead actors. You know me, I always bite off more than I can chew,” I breathlessly replied.
“Monsieur Kovach!,” my teacher blared later in class. My eyes popped opened just as fast as they had closed and I was suddenly awake. I had gotten about two hours of sleep the night before, having stayed up late to prepare for a presentation I was to do for the Board of Education, studying my lines for the play and composing my agenda for a Student Council meeting. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I didn’t like French class, I did. I was a natural and I wanted to learn as much French as I could, so that in the summer when the annual French Club trip to Europe came around, I would be prepared.
Once school was let out for the day, most students went home to do homework or practice for some sport, but I on the other hand, was off to work. During the week I was the manager trainee that always had the closing shift. “Jared, man you look like crap,” Reese said tenderly.
“Reese, I’ve been up for almost twenty hours today. I got up at 6:00 a.m. and look at the clock now, it’s quarter to twelve! The scary part of it all is I have so much to do when I get home. I have three quizzes to study for, I have some editing that I need to do for the school paper, and I’ve got a killer sore throat,” I responded depleted. My stomach hurt again, and I wondered if I had taken a pill that day or not. As I thought about my entire day, I realized that the only thing that I had eaten was a few chicken nuggets when I first got to work.
A few weeks before the French Club trip, I had been feeling a little under the weather. I had put my body through limited sleep and little to no nourishment, because of excessive nausea. I had too many obligations to take care of. The school play had fallen apart, or the Student Council was winding down, I had to prepare to take the reins for the next year, not to mention working semi-full time at McDonalds as a manager-trainee. So many things were going on at once and at times the most important, sleeping and eating properly weren’t even on the list! The hectic school year was now over, summer vacation was on and I was getting excited about going to Europe.
The day I was to leave for Europe I woke up late. I felt so unbelievably sick. So sick that I almost didn’t want to go. My mother saw my condition and told me that I had two options. The first was to cancel the trip. “Jared, you could always go when you feel better. Maybe you can go next year. Graduation will be here in a few months. You can always go then, honey,” she said, in a compassionate voice.
Option two, was to go into the family clinic on a Sunday morning, and see if the doctor had a bag of magic that he could sell me. I chose option two. I wasn’t going to miss going to Europe.
I was the first person into the doctor’s office. “Yes!” I thought, since I still hadn’t packed. That’s how hectic my life was.
“What seems to be the problem today?” the small Asian doctor questioned.
“Well, I’ve had this sore throat for almost two months and I can’t seem to get rid of it,” I replied in a quite scratchy voice.
“open wide Jared,” he asked as he reached for a tongue depressor. After looking into my mouth he asked me a few more questions about the sore throat. “Now Jared is there anything else bothering you?” the doctored inquired.
“No doctor that is all,” I remarked. My mother however felt that he needed to know about what my family doctor had said about my stomach, which was that I had I.B.S. Then the questions arose. I guess right there would have been the best time to bring up the stomach pains so intense that I would gag and the constant accounts of bloody stool. However, he never specifically asked me about them. So, I didn’t tell him. He scribbled down a few notes, gave me some magic and I was on my way. Back home, my sister had packed everything that I would need for my European vacation, and I was off to meet the group for the trip of a lifetime.
Europe was terrible. I couldn’t enjoy it. While others were seeing historic sights that I had dreamed of seeing, I suffered constant cramps, bloating, and pains were so intense I could barely walk and frequently verged on passing out. As the days passed on I left my trail throughout the land: the scarlet blood sitting in the loo in London, the ruby vital fluid of life in la toilet in Paris and the cherry color hemoglobin in el inodoro in Spain. I couldn’t say anything to anyone. All I knew was that death would have been a welcomed remedy. By the time I returned to the States my ‘simple condition’ had only gotten worse. I had dropped from 160 to a mere 120 pounds in almost two weeks. I was so weak that climbing the twelve oak steps to my upper level bedroom was impossible. The couch would have to do. My pale complexion was like that of a vampire, in contrast to my usual dark olive tone. The bones in my once full face were so defined, an anorexic would have been jealous. After seeing me go on like this for a few days, my mother, shocked by the barely living skeleton of her son, made an emergency doctors appointment.
The doctor did some blood work, and at 9:30 p.m., he called my house. “I need to see Jared in the office, now!” the doctor said.
My parents shaken by this call, packed me into the car and we were off. “What doctor is in his office at 9:30 at night, this must be serious?!?" My father stated.
Once we arrived, I was taken into a private exam room, and the questions arose. This time, from pure horror, I told the truth. The truth of the pains, the blood, the diarrhea, everything, and all I wanted was it to end. I told the doctor of the feeling of acid eating my intestines, the times I virtually passed out on the floor from the cringing, twisting pain, wishing that I would just die. Then he asked the question I still hear in my head today, “Jared,” he asked in a very serious, yet compassionate voice, “just how much blood and for how long?”
With tears rushing down my face I responded “Doctor, this has gone on for so long that I don’t remember when my stool wasn’t pure blood.”
Concerned, he decided I should be taken to the hospital. My parents and I were informed that the doctor didn’t know what the problem was, but he knew it was serious.
Once I was at the hospital I was assigned to a typical drab room. The walls were painted a whiter shade of pale, the bed was made up with sheets and blankets made of blue sandpaper. The window treatments were not like the lace ones that I had at home, but were the standard issued blinds that are in every hospital room. The smell of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol filled the air. A long netted curtain which didn’t match anything in the room, hung from the ceiling to provide some petite amount privacy. Here I thought that the best summer of my life was upon me, and I was stuck in a hospital!?! After many different specialists took a look at my charts, two days after my hospitalization a colon scope was ordered.
I remember being wheeled into the room, freezing from the cold hospital and open gown. Putting a sick person in a small clung dress, with no back is just stupid. I was put on a frigid, sterile table, as the doctor was prepping the I.V.
“Jesus Christ that burns like holy water!” I screamed, as he filled the tubing in my arm with a clear solution.
“Well it’s not water, Jared” the doctor replied. Just as soon as the mysterious fluid started to enter my veins, I lost consciousness. I was taken to a world where there was no pain. I was back on the playground of my small private school. I was Superman and nothing could stop me. The kryptonite was gone. I was no longer like a small baby left to deal with the pain alone. I was unstoppable, invincible! The foggy, distant voices and dreamlike visions were irrelevant. I was a child again, healthy and without pain. I was on the merry-go-round spinning, spinning, spinning!
I opened my eyes, but I did not see the sky, only a bright florescent light. Suddenly I wasn’t on the merry-go-round, I was on a freezing table, feeling something was going on, but not remembering what. I looked around the room, but I could not tell what was happening. Everything was so distant. I desperately searched for answers, but my in-coherent voice was getting no response.
When the Demerol had worn off, I awoke in my disinfected room. The doctor left a pamphlet for me to read, describing my disease. It wasn’t I.B.S. after all I had Ulcerative Colitis (U.C.). “What’s that?” I questioned my parents, the nurses, anyone who came into my room. The only answer I got was that my life would never be the same again.
Finally a nurse, who also happened to be a friend of the family, gave me the answers in such a warm voice, “Jared, you have a stomach condition called Ulcerative Colitis. In simple terms its millions of bleeding ulcers up and down your large intestines. This is incurable, Jared.”
“Where did it come from, Brenda?” I questioned more frightened than before.
“It’s genetic, something that runs in your family,” was her response.
I was kept for a few days afterwards, to see if the drug therapy would work. I improved and was sent home with pages and pages of prescriptions. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized just how much my life would change. I experienced more than frequent rushes to the doctors office to make sure everything was all right, constant trips to the bathroom praying that I would make it and tears of embarrassment when I wouldn’t, not to mention, suffering the same cramps, diarrhea and bloating.
Only weeks after being sent home from the hospital, my senior year of high school started. One night my mother walked into my room and said, “Jared, you’d better get to bed, it’s almost eleven o’clock. You don’t want to run yourself down again. You really need your rest so that you don’t get sick again.”
I looked over at the clock and then back down at my copy of “Lord of the Flies.” I had a few more chapters to read for the next day, but I knew that she was right. My late nights were over. “Okay, Mom, lights out,” I reluctantly replied.
The next morning at breakfast, I greeted my father in the breakfast nook. “There’s some scrambled eggs, toast and bacon all ready for you,” he offered.
“Dad, I really don’t have time this morning,” I stated.
He shot me a look. “Okay,” I gave in and sat down in the cubbyhole.
At school I was the first one in homeroom. I sat down next to my best friend Theresa and she asked, “Jared, since you’re not working as much anymore, ya wanna go camping? A group of us are thinking about going up to Sleeper State Park this weekend.”
“Theresa, I’d love to, but you know now I have to be more careful. I can’t be away from a bathroom,” I whispered. I hated letting my friends down, but I had to refuse. Not having a handy bathroom is just asking for trouble.
Life has changed so much for me from U.C., that at times I can not remember my carefree life as a child. This disease has limited many of the things that I once loved to do. I must be continuously searching for the closest bathroom. An attack can occur at anytime, and I would rather make it to the bathroom than have a sudden loss of control of my bowels. Before, my life was a constant whirlwind. Days would go by with little or no sleep. I didn’t have time to eat, or enough time to take care of myself. Now as a result of Ulcerative Colitis I realize that I am a human being, and that I need to take care of myself. After dealing with U.C. for some time, I have learned to live with it. I can hold a job, go to school and do almost anything that a ‘normal’ person can do. The only catch to it is I need to be close to a restroom at times. One of the key parts of beating Ulcerative Colitis is that the person suffering from it needs to make sure that they are taking very good care of themselves. The first step in improving Ulcerative Colitis is getting the proper amounts of sleep and eating the suitable foods. These key points are what helped me get on the track to feeling better. The only cure for U.C. is removal of the colon. In the future I will have this procedure done, but not until many different drug therapies have been tried. Once this process is done I will too be able to say that I have beaten and succeeded Ulcerative Colitis.