Growing Pains

In 1970, I had a fistula form between my rectum and the outside, near my anus. Talk about teasing! We won't go there. The doctor deemed me healthy and did no follow up.

Symptoms develop young

The next couple of years, I had steadily growing cramps and nausea. I was at the tender age of 15 when my mother took me to the same doctor who declared with pomp authority that I had a case of "growing pains." In my father's mind, this meant case closed and quit complaining.

My mother heard me moaning at night but couldn't defy my father. I learned to sleep in school with my eyes open, thankfully I got good grades and never got called on!

A life-changing accident

That summer, I sprained my knee in a bike accident (my brother didn't tell me his bike had no brakes!). Back to the knee, the swelling wouldn't go down and it was drained repeatedly for the next few months. My other joints began acting arthritic. My mother took me to a recommended practitioner for the knee and I couldn't get my snow boots off due to swollen ankles. Mind you, I probably weighed 100 lb soaking wet, so it wasn't a weight issue.

We got the boots off, the doctor examined my joints, and on a hunch pressed gently on my abdomen. My body sprang up off the table in reaction! After a quick phone call, I was taken to the hospital just blocks away for emergency surgery for a possibly ruptured appendix.

An unexpected Crohn's diagnosis

Heavily sedated, I knew pretty much nothing for the next few days. The exploratory surgery I had, at age 16, revealed regional enteritis and the infected portion of my intestine was removed.

This was the first I had ever heard of Crohn's disease. I was in the geriatric section of the hospital because it was categorized as an old people's disease.

After 10 days of hospitalization, I was released to go home, with no attempt at school for 6 weeks. My mother and I were on the elevator, with me in the required discharge wheelchair, when the door opened and the doctor from 1970 got in. He courteously inquired as to why I had been hospitalized.

My mother, chin high, told him "She just had 32 inches of growing pains removed!" I can still envision him, 49 years later, with his mouth hanging open as we departed.

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