It was not until she was in her mid-30s that Crystal says her stomach issues escalated out of nowhere. She began to feel terrible discomfort and severe dehydration. Nothing she ate would stay down and the issue seemed to only be getting worse; so much so that Crystal decided to go to the emergency room one day when the pain became too great.
That visit resulted in a 10-day hospital stay where she was subjected to three separate colonoscopies and an exploratory surgery. The diagnosis – a parasite.
However, after continuing to experience the same issues a year later, Crystal began to suspect that a parasite could not be the cause.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t do anything. If we were at the grocery store, I’d have to leave a cart full of groceries to run home and use the bathroom,” said Crystal. “My life was turned upside down. I lost 55 pounds just from using the bathroom so much and my eyes were sunken in. I did not look well.”
As the mother of two young children at the time, Crystal found that she could not partake in normal activities with her kids. Every outing, no matter how small, was terrifying as she never knew when the urge to use the bathroom would hit.
Terrified of being subjected to more colonoscopies or stomach surgeries, Crystal and her husband begin researching doctors online who could provide clarity on her diagnosis and, most importantly, relief from her debilitating symptoms.
“That’s when we found Dr. Brunson,” said Crystal.
Brian Brunson, M.D., is a board-certified gastroenterologist in Gastro Health’s Alabaster, Grandview and Gardendale Alabama locations. He has special interests in gastrointestinal oncology and pancreatic diseases.
It was Dr. Brunson who finally provided Crystal with a diagnosis that would explain her years’ worth of suffering – Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract and impacts as many as 780,000 Americans. The disease causes inflammation and swelling deep into the affected area, resulting in pain that can make the intestines empty frequently, causing diarrhea. As was the case with Crystal, symptoms of Crohn’s disease often develop gradually and become worse over time. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, blood in the stool, fatigue, weight loss, feeling a frequent need for bowel movements, and loss of appetite.
“I was relieved that Dr. Brunson was able to pinpoint a cause for my discomfort because that meant I could finally treat what was ailing me,” said Crystal.
Finding the right treatment plan often varies from patient to patient which is why Gastro Health prides itself on providing customized treatment options. At first, Crystal was placed on different oral medications to see if those provided any relief. When they did not, Dr. Brunson placed Crystal on a medicated infusion treatment. By the third infusion, Crystal started to feel a noticeable difference.
“I recall walking through the zoo with my children when it dawned on me – I haven’t had to stop to use the bathroom!” recalls Crystal.
It then took some trial and error to find the right dosage of medication for Crystal after she began to experience some pain in her joints. Because one of the staples of Crohn’s disease is inflammation, it is not uncommon for the inflammation to impact other areas of the body, as well. In fact, as many as 30 percent of people with Crohn’s may experience inflammation and pain in the joints at some point in their lives.
Turns out, a simple adjustment of the medication frequency – from every eight weeks to every four weeks – was exactly the customized treatment plan that Crystal needed in order to keep her joints from hurting and her stomach under control.
It has been six years since Crystal has been on regular treatment for her Crohn’s disease.
“Dr. Brunson gave me my life back! I was withering away to nothing and losing all function,” said Crystal. “He consistently remains on top of my treatment and frequently checks in on me to see how I’m doing.”
With her newfound freedom, Crystal says she is just happy to be able to run normal errands and have a normal day-to-day life.
“I feel like I lost many years with my kids and now my goal is to just make it up them and spend more time with them.”
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