Franz’ Story – Diverticulitis / diverticular disease
‘Diverticulosis’ is when pouches are formed along the bowel wall. Most of the time, these pouches are completely harmless. Sometimes, they can cause symptoms for people, which is referred to as ‘diverticular disease’. This affects 1 in 3 to 1 in 2 people in the UK in their lifetime. When these pouches become infected or inflamed, they are referred to as ‘diverticulitis’.
Tell us a little about yourself Franz:
I’m Franz, I’m 78 years old and I have two dogs at the moment as I’m looking after my granddaughter’s dog, which encourages me to do lots of walking every day. When I can, I’ll go back to see my friends and family in Germany, plus relatives in Spain.
I want to share my story today to help inform others. It’s important to pay attention to your symptoms, listen to your body and seek help if you don’t feel right.
Talk us through the time you first experienced diverticulitis symptoms:
When I first started experiencing symptoms of diverticulitis, I’d just had my left hip replaced. I was in hospital and I began feeling unwell. I had a fever, and I woke up one morning in the hospital bed shivering. I expected to feel unwell after such a big operation for some time, and the hospital didn’t seem too worried. They did an ultrasound on my stomach, but didn’t seem worried, so after five days I was sent home.
Did you feel better after you were sent home?
My symptoms continued, so I called my GP, who prescribed me with antibiotics for a suspected urine infection. I didn’t feel any better. I still had awful abdominal pains and an overwhelming fever. Throughout, I’d been speaking with an endocrinologist that I knew. He called back a couple of times to check up on me. He said that since I still feel and sound so terrible, to ask my daughter to take me to A&E.
What happened at hospital?
In A&E, they did the relevant tests and found out that I had a perforation in my bowel (a tear) that had been caused by diverticulitis. I didn’t even know I had these pouches (diverticulosis) in my bowel, so this came as a huge shock.
The hospital told me I needed an operation, and this ended up taking five hours. They had to give me an ostomy bag. This is where waste from the bowel is redirected into a bag that sits on the stomach. Though this all came as a huge shock, and I was still recovering from my hip replacement, I found getting used to the ostomy bag quite easy. The hospital do think they could reverse this if I wish, but at the moment I’m happy living with it. ‘Don’t try and fix something that isn’t broken’ comes to mind.
How do you feel now?
I’ve gone on to develop trouble with hernias following the creation of the stoma, which I’m currently speaking to my medical team about.
When Guts UK told me that there were over three times more people admitted to hospital with diverticulitis than appendicitis, I was shocked. So few people have heard of diverticulitis, but so many know about appendicitis. This is one of the reasons I support Guts UK.
Last year, I signed up to give Guts UK a monthly donation, which I just see as my small contribution towards their great work. I find their magazine really helpful in understanding how digestive diseases have affected others too.