I don’t think I’ve ever actually talked about the medical problem I have that means I’m raising money for ACT, the Cambridge university hospital charity, in blog yet, well here goes.
Two years ago I spent a week in the children’s cancer ward in the Cambridge university hospital, Addenbrooke’s, with a suspected appendicitis. For those of you who know a little about that you’re quite right it’s not a form of cancer it was just the only free bed they had. I then spent another week in a different children’s ward when a bed came available. The problem I had was a constant pain in my right side just above where the appendix is with guarding and all the other symptoms of an appendicitis. The only thing that prevented them from doing an operation was the lack of an infection in any of the many many blood tests they ran. After the second week the pain had started to ease and I was dismissed as a case that they just had no idea about. I was told that the pain would go away with time and that I should just try to go through my life normally and cope. What turned out to be something of my undoing in this case was that I’m quite good at just grinning and bearing it. This comes from a hernia that I had repaired when I was five.
This problem had always made things like walking and wearing trousers painful but as I had no experience without it I had never really registered it as pain until it was removed. As such I waited until almost the exact same time next year with the same pain level without ever telling anyone. At that point however the pain level began to elevate again and I did tell my parents. I was taken into the Nuffield health centre in Cambridge for an ultrasound scan and the consultant who did it recommended that I had my appendix removed immediately. The doctor running my case however was not convinced and ordered a barium meal. A barium meal is a kind of X-ray scan where you drink a foul tasting liquid that is opaque to X-rays an d then once it’s reached your intestine they X-ray you and can see the shape and movement of your intestine. What this showed up was an area of my large intestine right next to my appendix that wasn’t moving properly. This then lead to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. The endoscopy concurred with the barium meal. What it also showed was that that section of my gut was scarred from inflammation, but that it looked old. I was told that I had a mild inflammation of the bowel and that my intestine should repair itself within the next few years.
Until that point my motto was to grin and bear it again. I tend not to like using painkillers because I don’t think it’s a good idea to be drugged up all the time but I tried a short course of painkillers because it’s and discovered that on this I felt better than I had done in years, indeed so good that I went and fell out of a tree. Because of this I thought back to how I remember feeling over the past few years and how I felt on the painkillers. I then discovered that I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t feel pain from that area. That I had had this problem for years would explain why I had a history of suspected appendicitis and get diarrhoea a lot. What I expect is that I have had this problem for long enough that the only time I can remember not having it is when I had the hernia and was therefore preoccupied. The only difference between before my spell in hospital and after is that the elevated pain level from when I had the endoscopy has not subsided.
And there you have the reason I’m raising money to help fund research into inflammatory bowel disease. The reason I can say that I’m not entirely self serving in this is that I know that I have a mild form. I know someone at school who has crohns disease and had to have a section of his intestine removed. I haven’t exactly had a fun time over the past couple of years with my problem but it helps me understand the kind of hell people with serious IBD go through. The research I’m raising money for takes samples of gut tissue from children and grow mini guts from them so that they can study the organ, discovering what triggers the inflammation, and in the future it will be possible to grow mini guts for individual children to test to which drugs they best respond.
Addenbrooke’s have hundreds of samples to grow these mini guts, organoids they’re called. But the funding towards the research needs all the contributions it can get. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (different, and much more serious, than Irritable Bowel Disease) is currently growing in the number of children it afflicts and how severe these cases are, and children are developing the disease at a younger age. We don’t know why but they’re localised around cities. That is what the finding the trigger and trying to find treatments of a cure for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is what the research is doing.
Twenty thousand pounds would fund a researcher for the labs, that’s what I’m trying to raise for. If you want you can find out more on the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust website.
My fundraising page is www.act4addenbrookes.org.uk/supporter/benspolarchallenge