I received many requests to see the images from my surgery. The days following my surgery have been extremely difficult, but I can finally sit up and type on my computer. I have decided to compile everything into a blog post. This way I can explain what it is you are actually seeing, and also give you a comparison to images of generic, healthy intestines for perspective all in one place.
I have been battling a severe Crohn's Disease flare up for 2 1/2 years. Medication, diet, therapies, nothing has helped bring improvement. Everything kept getting worse. So I chose to win this battle with surgery. In this surgery, I had approximately 1 foot of small intestine removed, plus the ileocecal valve and the appendix. The ileocecal valve is just the valve that pushes food from the small intestine into the large intestine. I also had about 6 1/2 inches (17 cm) of large intestine removed at the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon is the last piece of the large intestine before the rectum. Doctors did not remove my rectum, though it was also unhealthy. They stapled the top of my rectum closed from the inside. They took the remaining healthy large intestine and pulled it through an opening in my abdomen. This is now a stoma on my belly and it is how I pass poop. It empties entirely on its own into a discreet bag that I barely even feel. I empty the bag regularly into a toilet, keep the area clean, and no longer suffer in the bathroom. My colostomy is a beautiful, wonderful thing. We will see if my rectum can ever heal. Down the road, we may remove my colostomy and reconnect my colon to my rectum. That will not happen for quite some time. I will have my colostomy for anywhere from 1 year to 10 years or even the rest of my life.
To start, here are a few images of healthy guts for comparison.
This first image is obviously a digital depiction, but it is pretty accurate. The small intestine is smooth, both are faintly pinkish, brown, very pale.
This is the inside of someone's large intestine. you can see the smooth ridges, the pale pink color, smooth bowel walls, and thin veins that are barely visible.
And then, we have my guts.
This is my small intestine. It has been pulled out of a laparoscopic incision and placed on top of me so they can remove the diseased portion. This image was taken before they actually removed anything!
To the left, you can see some healthy small intestine sort of piled onto each other. The diseased portion is what is all stretched out and connected to the yellow fatty tissue. Everyone has fatty tissue connected to their intestines, but you can see mine has started to creep up the bowel walls and is already almost halfway around parts of the small intestine. This is from Crohn's disease and is not good.
My surgeon removed 30 cm, or 1 foot, of this diseased small intestine, plus the ileocecal valve and appendix.
In these four images above, my surgeon had removed the diseased portion of small intestine. She then proceeded to dissect it to show the insides and damage done by the disease. Remember that beautiful, smooth, pink small bowel image from earlier? Yeah, this was incredibly swollen, strictured, ulcerated, and very, VERY unhappy.
You can see a tiny portion of healthier bowel attached to the diseased portion on the left side of the last picture. The metal surgical tool is resting on the healthy piece. Right beneath it is a little tail, and that is the appendix. You can see the extreme contrast in size, color, and texture with the healthy and unhealthy parts.
In these two images, we are looking down from my belly button area into my pelvis. In the top image, you can see the rod is pushing up on a little red ball. That is my uterus! The two little white appendages on either side of it are my ovaries. Hi, future babies!!
The large intestine is where more of that fatty tissue is growing along. A surgical tool is pulling up the sigmoid colon in the bottom picture.
This is the sigmoid colon after it has been removed from my insides before she dissects it. You can see it is very swollen, red, a lot of fatty tissue growing oddly on it, and not that great looking. The inside was horrific...
This was the inside of my sigmoid colon. I have been living for several months with a little more than half a foot of my large intestine looking like this. Those are "rake" or "bear claw" ulcers. Long, stretched out sores that were getting deeper and deeper. The tissue in between each ulcer was very swollen, and this all bled very easily. On the bottom picture, you can see on the very left-most part of the diseased bowel, it turns more brown and pale in color and gets a little narrower. That is where healthy tissue started to return.
Nothing could have healed these organs at this point, save the literal hand of God. This was too far gone. It would never heal properly. In no time, this would have eventually perforated my bowel and potentially killed me with sepsis. We needed to remove it before it had the chance to destroy other healthy parts.
This disease could certainly come back. I am not cured of Crohn's. But the parts that went out-of-control are gone from my body. This is great news!
But nobody really understood the severity of how ill I have been feeling simply because, well, I wear illness well. My illness is invisible from the outside. Unless you were by my side every single minute of every day, there is no way you could have known just how hard this disease has been for me. Having these images is justifying for me. It is proof that I can literally show people what I have been struggling to live with.
Now I can also show the scars of what it is I have overcome and will continue to battle until a cure is discovered. This picture below was taken the day after surgery, so I look pretty miserable (because I felt pretty miserable).
There are 6 surgical incisions, plus my ostomy. Two of the 6 laparoscopic incisions are bandaged. So 7 total surgical sites on my abdomen for this surgery.
Thank you for being respectful, and for all of your love, prayers, and support.