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Ripping Through my Pain

As told to Malkie Schulman by Meira (Marci) Reiss

The day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease was one of the worst of my life. Yet it ultimately led me to help thousands of people around the world cope with the disorder.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Seventeen years ago, I had been married for several years but not yet blessed with children. After a number of unsuccessful fertility treatments, our rabbi suggested we take a vacation before the next grueling round. My husband planned a wonderful trip to a beachfront resort in Dana Point, California. Before we drove down, I developed a bad headache and took some over-the-counter headache medication. As we arrived at our destination, I could feel the pounding worsening, so I popped a few more pills. Late the next day, as we were strolling along the beach, I was hit with stomach pain so intense, I could barely breathe. I doubled over in a cold sweat. I managed to get back to the hotel where I locked myself in the lavatory. I was in terrible pain and hemorrhaging from my intestines. It’s hard to believe now that my husband and I — two intelligent young adults — let this go on for hours, but we were in shock. Finally, after ten hours of bleeding, I called my older brother, then a young doctor. He told me to get to an emergency room immediately. At the hospital, I was admitted and stabilized with fluids and pain medication. They prepared me for a colonoscopy to check for Crohn’s disease. Right afterward, the doctor told me the results. As I lay recovering in the endoscopy suite, I had no idea that my life was to irrevocably change as he informed me that I did indeed have Crohn’s disease. One after another, thoughts went tearing through my mind. What was Crohn’s disease? Anything with the word disease sounded ominous to me — would this stop me from having a family? Could I hold down a job? What would happen to my marriage? Was I going to suffer? Was this going to kill me? The worst part was that the doctor gave me no further explanation after the initial pronouncement. My husband and I were left to figure out the implications on our own. I left the hospital 24 hours later with a diagnosis of an incurable disease and a Hep-lock (the end of an IV in my arm to administer countless little vials of steroids). Oh, and a follow-up appointment for the next week.

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