Today’s guest post is from James Gunter. He lives in Sheffield, UK, and he loves fitness. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in December 2014. This is his story.
Fitness has always played a big role in my life. I was very active, I did parkour, climbing, squash, was about to get into the national squad for the aikido martial art and had never even drank alcohol or ever tasted it. I was the healthiest person I knew and most that knew me were very surprised when it happened to me. My life revolved around my fitness and self improvement, both physical and mental.
I was born in Sheffield and continue to live there simply because I have the best train facilities for my sports within 5 minutes of where I live. I work as a rope access technician, which to most people means nothing at all, but I’m basically one of those crazy guys you seen abseiling down the side of buildings on ropes for cleaning/inspection/maintenance purposes. But I do much more than that, like abseil inside giant furnaces, climb around power stations or steel mills doing all sorts of work that needs to be done. I love my job and really could never imagine myself doing anything else.
I had no idea that I had Crohn’s or any sort of problem, again, I was the healthiest person I knew. The only small signs were that for the last 4-5 years I occasionally got really bad stomach pains maybe once every 1-2 months. They would only last a day or maybe a day and half at most. They felt like intense cramps in my abdomen region that would be in timing with the peristalsis movement of my bowel. Every minute or so I would get a really intense pain that would make me stop in my tracks and bend over, and the rest of the time is was a really bad ache. I was never sick or had un-natural bowel movements, so I was always curious as to what it was. Doctors told me it could just be food allergies or IBS, so I just ignored them and continued with my life.
On the morning of october 30th, I was working for a few days in London. It was about 1am and the pain woke me up in the hotel room which I was sharing with my work colleague who I’d not met before the start of this job which was 3 days prior. It was the same, familiar pain that I’d felt before, but what was different was that this time I was actually sick in the bathroom. This was alarming, since I’d not been sick in years- I very rarely got even a cold. I knew something was different. I managed to get a different room so that I didn’t wake my colleague with my retching and groans of pain.
I woke up after managing to get a few hours sleep and headed to work as normal. I skipped breakfast because of the pain I was still in, even though it had subsided at least a little bit. At work, I continued as normal. It wasn’t actual rope access work, so I wasn’t hanging off of a rope this time, I was just placing roof anchors on a new apartment building, which involved drilling into the roof. I had to stop every 5-10 minutes to be sick and the pain got gradually worse throughout the day. My colleague and I thought it was food poisoning as I’d had chicken in the site canteen for lunch the day before. We managed to finish the work just after midday, but we were asked to work somewhere else in London on the following day (Friday). I told my contract manager that I really couldn’t and was too ill. My colleague kindly offered to drive me back from London to Sheffield even though he had to be back down in London the next day.
The 3.5 hour journey seemed to take for ever, we had to stop at a service station where I only just made it to the toilet to be sick – it was getting to the point that I couldn’t even keep water down. By the time we had got back to Sheffield I had managed to cover the seat, floor, myself and some of the outside of the van in sick. I felt so bad as it was my colleague’s van and I’d only known him 4 days. My mum had left work to meet me as her house, as going back to mine was no longer an option as I was in too much pain to barely walk straight. I managed to get upstairs and into bed while my mum helped clean the cab of the van and apologising on my behalf. After he had left, she came up stairs and seeing the state I was in, she decided to call the paramedics for advice. They sent people out within 30 minutes. When they arrived they really weren’t sure what was up with me, and tried giving me oral pain killers, but it wouldn’t stay down longer than 5 minutes. They had no other options and were actually considering to leave as there was nothing they could do. But all of a sudden the pain got worse, a lot worse. I think this was the point where my intestine actually ruptured, instead of pulsing pain it became constant and I’d felt nothing like it before. It was a burning type of pain as the acidic stomach bile was eating its way through my soft tissues in my abdomen. At this point they decided to get me to hospital. They half carried me down to the ambulance outside and gave me two doses of morphine, 10mg each. This eased the pain, but it was still very much there. The paramedics weren’t allowed to give me any more so they set off to hospital.
When I arrived the standard procedures happened, lots of name and wrist-band checking, lots of pressing on my stomach and seeing different people and being wheeled around for different tests, including X-rays. They came to the conclusion that they thought it was an appendicitis and that they would have to operate soon. They gave me all the painkillers they could and some anti sickness medication and said they would operate the next morning. By this time my dad had also joined my mum at my bedside. From here on my memory is pretty blurry, and I’m relying on what my family have told me happened. But when I awoke I did not find what I expected.