Senior year of high school for Emily Vest was supposed to be different – going to prom, competing in tennis tournaments, going out with friends. Instead, it was the year that Emily began to suffer from symptoms of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers (in the digestive tract). 

This condition can cause abdominal pain and cramping, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. 

“I was having stomach pain and blood in my stool,” says Emily. “It started to bother me in August of 2002 and by November, I decided to see a doctor.”

“I went through a lot of different doctors early on, some not so great ones,” she recalls. “I was young and didn’t fully understand my condition so I trusted that they knew what they were doing.” 

In February of 2003, at the age of 17, Emily had a colonoscopy which confirmed her diagnosis. The flare ups were miserable and her doctors at the time just kept giving her prednisone - a high dose steroid - each time she had a flare up. This caused her to develop avascular necrosis, the death of bone tissue. She had four inches of bone tissue die in each of her knees, forcing her to quit her college tennis team. She was told she would never be able to play competitive tennis again.

Eventually, Emily’s symptoms became so severe, she had to drop out of a semester of college. “This was ultimately the lowest point for me and I realized I needed to find expert help quickly,” recalls Emily. “I was losing hope and had no direction.” 

In 2015, after another flare, one of Emily’s friends recommended Dr. Brent Barranco, gastroenterologist with Gastro Health. 

“I remember meeting Dr. Barranco and Ginger (McDaniel, CRNP), his nurse practitioner in November. I had just gotten engaged in October,” recalls Emily. “I told them I was getting married in May and asked if they could help me get better by then. They said, ‘No, we’ll get you better by January,’ and they did.” 

“Ginger is truly one-of-a-kind,” said Emily. “It takes a special person to be in this field (of gastroenterology) and she truly is an angel.” 

Emily was immediately put on an infusion of Remicade, a medication that reduces the effects of inflammation on the body. This took place every eight weeks. 

“It was amazing,” recalls Emily. “I was able to return to work with no problems, hang out with my friends, have my wedding and start living a normal life.” 

After a year, Emily wound up having an allergic reaction to Remicade, something that was immediately noted by a nurse who oversees all infusions. Due to this swift catch, Emily’s medication was changed without a hiccup in her progress. 

Emily and her husband are now hoping to start a family. Before starting that process, they consulted with Dr. Barranco and Ginger to make sure they are able to do so under their safety and guidance. 

And, in case you were wondering, Emily finally did return to playing tennis! She is now in a tennis league, working full-time, and working on expanding her family. 

“If it were not for Dr. Barranco and Ginger, I would not have the life I do now,” says Emily. “They are both compassionate, determined, dedicated, and reliable. I trust them 100 percent. They have been my life savers.”
Tags Ulcerative Colitis