Garry’s Story – Diverticulosis and diverticulitis

‘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 Garry:

Garry smiling next to a rose that has been named after Dame Deborah James aka bowelbabe“My name is Garry, I am 58 years old and I’m a keen runner and skier. I’m married, we’re about to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary next year and have two children together. I also recently became a grandfather.

I was diagnosed with diverticular disease in 2018. However, in 2021 I noticed things weren’t quite right.”

What happened when you were first diagnosed with diverticular disease?

“When I was diagnosed with diverticular disease, I was informed that it wasn’t that serious and that a large percentage of the population had it. I wasn’t aware of any of the uncommon risks that can happen with diverticulitis. So, I didn’t really think of the diagnosis all too much and carried on as usual. I even managed two marathons in 2019 and maintained a high level of fitness. I wasn’t overweight and I had no signs of any stomach pains or problems.”

When did you first notice something wasn’t right?

“On July 10th 2021, I started to notice air bubbles when I was urinating and I experienced a burning feeling. I went to a walk-in centre and at first they thought I had a urine infection. I was given a course of antibiotics on the Saturday evening. I didn’t think much about it, thinking the antibiotics would sort out whatever urine infection I had.

I then travelled to the Euros Final at Wembley the following day. I had no issues travelling down. Myself and my son Sam were both excited about the game and the urine infection was at the back of mind.

During the game I became really cold. I started shaking and I just generally felt really poorly. I managed to get through the game, however I can’t say the Italy win helped with the way I was feeling!”

What happened when you went to the doctors?

Garry and his son“When I got home on Monday, I felt terrible. I ended up going to the doctors. I was prescribed different antibiotics and referred that week to a consultant.

The consultant ran some scans and it revealed that the issue was a fistula breaking out from the colon and joining to the bladder, as a result of diverticular disease. It turned out the fever and shaking I experienced during the England game was due to an e-coli bladder infection resulting from contamination via the bowel through the fistula too. This was a real shock as I never would have dreamt that everything I’d been feeling the past couple of days could be connected to my diverticular disease diagnosis!

Three months after my first symptoms, I went into hospital for my operation. I had a bowel resection to remove a section of my bowel and separate the bladder from the bowel. Before the operation I was focused on trying to get into good shape to make sure my recovery was as easy as possible.

I was also taking preventive antibiotics up to the operation (to keep the bladder free from infection from the bowel) and drinking a large amount of water to keep the bladder flushed.”

What happened at the hospital?

“The section of bowel was removed and separated from my bladder. It was quite a large operation, it lasted around 5 hours. Apparently things got complicated in terms of the bowel resection.

Unfortunately it wasn’t plain sailing after my operation either. I went into something called post-operative ileus for 10 days (the inability of the bowel to contract normally, leading to a build up of food material). This is often described as the the gut ‘going to sleep’ after surgery. For most people, it resolves after two or three days with little medical involvement needed. For others, the symptoms last longer and can lead to serious complications. I lost 1.5 stone and got into a pretty bad state. I ended up staying in hospital for three and a half weeks.”

What happened when you left the hospital?

“When I came out of hospital I was really focused on a steady recovery. The dietary advice for diverticular disease online was contradictory. Finding Guts UK’s information was a relief.

After I had made a recovery, I found I had an increased awareness of the importance of what I put in my body, which I didn’t have before. People so often relate the consequences of diet to weight, but forget about gut health. I am eating much more fibre in my diet now, with plenty of fruit and veg and less meat.”

Why are you sharing your story today?

Garry looking happy with his hands in the air after completing a 10k run in his Guts UK running vest“It’s been around a year since my first symptoms and I’m recovering well. I had none of the usual symptoms for an episode of diverticulitis. This meant I didn’t notice anything was wrong until the fistula had broken out and made my bowel conjoin with my bladder. I want to raise awareness for digestive diseases, I hadn’t heard of diverticular disease before I was diagnosed in 2018. I understand for most patients diverticulosis is nothing to worry about, but I would have liked to know about the possible complications.

I also want to raise awareness for general gut health too and the effects our lifestyles can have. It’s not just about what we see on the outside, we need to take better care of the digestive system inside of us as well.

I found Guts UK by chance when I was googling diverticular disease. When I found them, I wanted to help them raise awareness and fundraise. I’m taking on the Great North Run for Guts UK. My advice for anyone thinking about fundraising for Guts UK is to involve everyone you meet. There’s a good chance they’ll support you if you’re passionate and enthusiastic enough about what you’re doing.”

Guts UK can only continue helping and reaching people like Garry with your support. Please donate today. Together, we will get to grips with guts! Thank you.

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