It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

I have Crohn’s disease.  So, does Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, actress Shannen Doherty, and the late U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.  It’s not a particularly well known disease, there is no cure, the cause is not understood, and relatively little research funding goes toward better treatments or a cure.

With the help of a good doctor and modern medicine, I’ve managed to keep Crohn’s mostly in control.  I try to compartmentalize the disease, and not let it control me.  That, I’m sure, is how most people try to deal with chronic conditions.

For those of you who don’t know much about Crohn’s, one of the many icky things (for lack of a better term) about the disease is you get used to seeing an occasional bit of blood when you go to the bathroom (#2, not #1).   So, for the last few days seeing blood on porcelain was not alarming. 

To skip a lot of gory details, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. last Thursday, stumbled to bathroom, passed out, lost about 1 to 2 pints of blood on the floor (based on after-the-fact estimates of trained medical personnel), or maybe a litre of blood.  That’s maybe 15-20% of my total blood volume.

I spent the night in the E.R. and U.N.C. Hospitals, had a flexible sigmoidoscopy to trace the problem.  It turned out to be an ulcerated colon, near the site of a previous surgery.  My doctor found that it was not Crohn’s related, although perhaps, due to recent Crohn’s activity, partially triggered by the disease.  She cauterized the ulcer, and, despite feeling anemic, I’m back at home.

Needless to say, the whole episode was quite traumatic and scary.  But the most unusual part was that many years ago, my mother, a nurse, told me out of the blue (well, that’s how I remember it)  “If you ever see blood in your stool, call an ambulance right away.  You could have a perforated colon and die within minutes.”  As I lay on the floor trying to stay awake in a pool of blood and fecal matter, that momentary conversation from literally 20+ years ago came back to me. 

What does it mean?  I don’t know.  Are are mom’s prescient in some strange way, or do we just remember the prescient moments?  In either case, I was glad to have that memory.  Of course, given the circumstances, I would have called 911 no matter what, but I was glad that mom, somehow, reminded me to do so. 

I also thought of the title to Bob Dylan’s song, that I’ve borrowed for the title of this post.  Oddly enough, the title lyric doesn’t show up in the “official” version of the lyric.  But the title is a good response to my mom, I guess.  I don’t really believe in an afterlife, but we do carry on a lifelong conversation with our memories, so this is my answer.

If you have Crohn’s or are interested in just helpfing find a cure for this somewhat orphaned diseased, please visit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America to learn more, and maybe donate to finding a cure.


About Chris van Hasselt

I eat, sleep, play guitar...but wait, there's more!
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