Diverticulitus and Upcoming Surgery - Advice Welcomed

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Hello everyone! If you are like me, you spent a lot of time on blog/forum sites when you were first diagnosed with Diverticulitis. I thought I would share my brief story, which is not anywhere close to some of the more severe posts you may have read, but still wanted to share as there isn't a ton of research out there.

If you have done research, you have read articles that state the research is still light on this disease. There is no exact certainty of why it happens or when and to who. You will find that older people have more cases and some have diverticula without ever knowing. They believe it is mainly caused by low fiber diets and stress, but more so low fiber diets. They push antibiotics to help combat inflammation/infection, but not as much as they use to. Some believe just changing to a liquid diet etc. can help without antibiotics - it didn't work for me. They try not to do surgery unless they strongly believe it's the only thing that will help. Otherwise it's antibiotics, liquid diet followed by low residue diet to eventually getting back to a high fiber diet. They use to say no seeds, but they have since then changed their theory on that as there has never been proof that seeds get stuck and cause an infection. Some still use caution and still avoid anyway as they say they only get flare ups when they eat popcorn whereas others will say other types of food set them off.

Okay, now on to my story. I am a 43 year old male and had my first Diverticulitis flare up On October 23, 2017. I woke up at 6:15 AM and turned to my side. At the same time I turned, I felt like someone stabbed me in my lower left abdomen. The actual sharp pain only lasted for seconds, but it hurt bad. I thought I tore a muscle or something. I ended up having a lot of gas shortly after, but knew it was not a gas pain, but my wife gave me some alka seltzer to see if that would help. I later got up and sat in the recliner for a couple of hours. That did not help as the pain got worse and worse. I drove myself to a clinic and they barely touched my stomach and I jumped in pain. He immediately sent me to the ER. They did all the basic stuff and gave me some pain meds that did not seem to help until they gave me dilaudid, which made me a little loopy at first, but helped. They did a CT scan, which included contrast and dye into my IV (this is all easy stuff...worse case is that you can't hold the barium that they squirt into your backside and the dye they use in the IV will cause a warm feeling in the back of your throat and possibly other areas). The trick to the barium is to really relax and breath slow - if they push the tube in far enough, you can usually hold it in. The first time I had it done, the person doing it was awesome. The second time I had it done, the lady didn't push it far enough in and it drained out immediately, but I could tell that she didn't do it right compared to the last person. If it happens where you can't hold it in, don't worry about it. They will normally continue on with the scan, but don't feel embarrassed, it happens and did to me...I actually laughed it off and said something along the lines of "I guess my butt wasn't that thirsty."

They confirmed based on the CT scan and blood work that I had diverticulitis. I almost still didn't believe them, because it really felt like a tore a muscle. They prescribed Metronidazole and Ciprofloxacin for 10 days and Vicodin for pain and sent me home, but not before giving me another dose of Dilaudid. I had to have my wife drive me home due to the stronger pain meds.

The first week after returning home from the ER was horrible. My body didn't adjust well to the antibiotics, constantly smelled metal and felt like getting sick for the first few days, but never did. I had to push in and hold my stomach up anytime I walked or the pain was much worse. I stayed on a liquid diet for 7 days, which weakened me and then switched to a low residue diet for a couple of weeks gradually increasing to a high fiber diet. I still had twinges of pain for the first month after my original flare up, which is scary because you don't want it to come back. I had a colonoscopy on 12/11. If you haven't had one, it's nothing. The prep work is the worse, but even that was not so bad for me. I took the pills they provided and drank the solution and went to the bathroom throughout the night. The worse part of my colonoscopy was the IV, they always have difficulties with it, but they eventually got it. They gave me some stuff to help me relax, wheeled me back to the room and gave me some drugs to knock me out and the next thing I know, I was back in my room with my wife looking at me. I didn't even realize that they did it, it was awesome. I was nowhere near as gassy as what some people say so don't worry about that.  Al in all, it took from the day I went to the ER up to the week of Christmas before I started to feel like myself again and then it happened...

On January 13th the sharp pain returned and was getting quite bad. I called the 24 hour GI line my doctor provided.  The oncall doctor gave me 3 options, go on liquid diet and take my left over Vicodin for pain, he could provide antibiotics right now or I could goto the ER to get another CT scan and then most likely antibiotics. He did recommend for me to goto the ER if the pain worsened. I opted for the liquid diet. Things went well after a few days, but then about 10 days later, the pains came back and were getting works. On 1/26, the pains were awful and started to become constant. I drove myself to the ER and dropped to the floor at the desk. My GI drs office called and informed them that I was coming in. I arrived between 1 and 2 pm, but they couldn't get me back there until 5:30 as the rooms were full and other emergencies were coming in.

To cut down my story, they gave me dilaudid, which helped the pain, did another CT scan (this time I did not hold the barium in as mentioned earlier) and all the normal blood work. They confirmed the infection was back and my white blood count was over 21 and it should be under 10. They had to admit me to the hospital that Friday and I was released on the following Tuesday. They pumped me full of antibiotics and fluids. The doctor said I should have come in when I originally had the flare up on 1/13.

The pain for the first couple of days in the hospital was the worse it has ever been. I could hardly walk and my wife had to help me get to the bathroom. I forced myself to walk to try to help the healing process, but it was not easy. I wont go through all the details, but I was released on Tuesday and given another course of 7-day oral antibiotics. Before releasing me, the doctor was recommending elective surgery due to my condition and back to back flare ups at my age.

Skipping ahead after I followed all my doctor's orders after my release. I saw the surgeon for follow-up on 2/22. We discussed surgery and he said that it would be elective. He also went on to say that it was not required and I could go on with my life and possibly never have another flare up or could have additional flare ups. He was recommending at my age and since I had back to back flare ups, it may be a good idea to do it as elective verse having to do an emergency surgery later if it did come back worse.

I left out a ton of details in the above, but if you want to know more about what I ate, drank, weight loss, hospital stay etc. during my recovery, please let me know. As for surgery, I'm absolutely terrified. I've never had surgery before. I'm afraid something will go wrong or I will wake up with a bag because they couldn't reconnect my colon right away and so many other thoughts. I'm afraid of feeling the pain after waking up from surgery. I'm concerned that having type II diabetes and COPD will stall my healing process. I never smoked in my life, but I have COPD (mild for now). They are going to use the robot for my surgery unless something comes up where he has to do open surgery and make a longer incision. Any advice on the surgery portion, hoping for positive helpful comments...would be greatly appreciated.

It's hard not to be stress because right before I had my first flare up in October, I was let go at my job (marketing) after 17 years of service along with several others. Company did a reorg and changed things up and let many go that day. They provided me severance pay up to March 15th of this year. I haven't been able to get a job because of the diverticulitis issues. Once my severance runs out, things are going to get very tight and unemployment pays very little. I have concerns that when I have my surgery on the 22nd of March that my recovery is going to put a hamper on me finding a job. I know I wont find a job in the area that pays as much as my last job, but I can't stand being home and want to get back out there. Does anyone have anything they can share about recovery and going back to work? Anything will help me. As of right now, my wife has a good steady job with insurance to help us some, but unemployment will not cut it and need to get back out there. Would like to know what things I can do to recover faster and if I have to have a temp bag, what do I tell my future employer...hey I accept the job, but in 3-6 months, I'm going to need some time off to have my colon reconnected. I know that is worse case, but it's still on my mind.

Sorry my post got a little sloppy at the end, just have so many things running through my mind right now regarding the surgery and supporting my family etc. Best of luck to all of ussmile

2 likes, 7 replies

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7 Replies

  • Posted

    Sorry you are having a tough time. I spoke to someone in a different forum last week starting on the night of his surgery. He had it done laparoscopically. He was in the hospital only 3-4 days was sent home on low residue diet. No complications. His pain was well controlled on meds. No colostomy!

    I too am seeing a surgeon next week. I am 60 yo and in good health except this. 

    I am afraid but I’m more afraid of complications of not having it done! If the surgery is done while healthy less likely you would have a colostomy.

    As far as stress goes I believe it plays a big role in dd disease. 

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  • Posted

    Thank you for your detailed post on what you experienced during and after your two attacks of Diverticulitis in the USA.  I think what you have described is totally typical of attacks, recovery and treatment in the USA, and will help many people there to see the whole picture.  Some of the latest research also suggests that genetics play a part in the development of the disease, as it occurs also in people who have always followed a healthy diet and lifestyle.  I have two relatives who developed the disease many years ago before the Western diet of processed low fibre food became common.  It is very different from treatment in the UK.  Here you are rarely admitted to hospital during an attack, and elective surgery is not offered, only emergency surgery for complications. 

    I am not in a position to judge about your surgery, but would say you should take your other medical conditions into account.  Type II diabetes and COPD in a non smoker are both very rare in such a young person, I believe.  Are they related to other medical issues, such as weight, or are you just very unlucky?  You need to be aware that once the affected area has been removed, the Diverticular Disease can then come back in other areas, so it is not necessarily the end of problems.  Against this you should balance the fact that COPD is also a progressive disease and you may not be in such a good condition if there are flare ups later.  Your surgeon does not sound as though he is the sort to rush straight into surgery, but has offered you alternatives.  Have you questioned him about recovery time?  I wish you all the very best, whatever you decide.  Katealso and Corey on this forum might be your best sources of information.

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    • Posted

      Thank you Felinia for your response. The doctor and I discussed in great detail the benefits and risks. Since I have my COPD under good control right now, he sees no problem with it impacting surgery. However, if I’m having any sort of breathing issue, he will reschedule the surgery. The same goes for my diabetes. The new dose has seemed to help regulate my sugar levels. Plus my change in my eating habits since my first flare up has assisted me in losing 55 pounds since October of 2017. If I’m not walking outside for 30 to 45 minutes 5 days a week, I’m walking on the treadmill at an incline along with a light round of weights. I’m thinking that all of these things together has assisted me in addition to a high fiber diet. I guess I’m just nervous to have surgery, wondering if I really need it right now. However, I’ve had 3 doctors recommend it. More so because surgery is better for me now due to my age and health. They are hoping if I can remain on a high fiber healthy eating lifestyle change along with controlling my stress levels that I can avoid future issues with it developing in other areas, but there are no guarantees. I just want to get as healthy as I can prior to surgery in hopes that it will help my overall recovery. Thank you again for your response!
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    • Posted

      Well done on losing the weight.  You are clearly doing everything to help yourself and improve your health.  And with 3 people all recommending the surgery it sounds as though it may be the best option for you, rather than wait until your health has worsened.  Good luck.
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  • Posted

    As Felicia has said we have different options in the US. I know you must be very concerned about being put to sleep for the surgery due to your diabetes and COPDhowever your Dr should do enough testing to make sure you are in tip top shape for surgery. Make sure your Diabetes is under control that’s the most important!!! Especially for the healing process after surgery. Worse case you end up with a temporary colostomy  . You would not have to share that with a new employer. It usually is reversed 3-6 months but I’m not sure of that. Word of advice stay on your wife’s insurance. One because you would probably have to wait for it to go into effect and two with our new president he as looking at making pre existing again. That means the new insurance wouldn’t have to pay for that surgery! 
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    • Posted

      Thank you for your replies to my concerns as well as addressing the comments from Felinia. I won’t repeat everything I said to her since you can see those comments. I am glad to hear of speedy recoveries and success stories. I believe I have a pretty good surgeon and my GI, family and physician care doctor all seem to be in agreement, but are not pushing it on me at the same time. The care I received at my last hospital stay was unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for a better team right down to the CNAs. I trust their opinion and recommendation. They also gave me the option to wait and see what happens. I chose to opt for not having another episodesmile My wife has really good insurance so I plan on staying on hers anyway. It was $450 less than my last job offered for family even with the $50 fee for having me on hers. I’m just hoping to be one of the speedy recovery patients. I will expect the worse in hopes that in the end it won’t be so bad. Thank you again for your response, greatly appreciated!
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  • Posted

    As Felicia has said we have different options in the US. I know you must be very concerned about being put to sleep for the surgery due to your diabetes and COPDhowever your Dr should do enough testing to make sure you are in tip top shape for surgery. Make sure your Diabetes is under control that’s the most important!!! Especially for the healing process after surgery. Worse case you end up with a temporary colostomy  . You would not have to share that with a new employer. It usually is reversed 3-6 months but I’m not sure of that. Word of advice stay on your wife’s insurance. One because you would probably have to wait for it to go into effect and two with our new president he as looking at making pre existing again. That means the new insurance wouldn’t have to pay for that surgery! 
    Report

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