Digestive health

Novel therapy helped Melissa overcome digestive disorder

Melissa struggled with gastric illness since she was a teenager. She experienced chronic abdominal pain, vomiting, extreme bloating and severe constipation for many years.

After enduring many trips to the emergency room, questions, tests, medications, diet modifications and misdiagnoses, she finally came to UW Health.

"I was at my wit's end," said Melissa. "I was so bloated people thought I was pregnant, and I was frustrated and exhausted from dealing with my illness."

She was referred to Eugene Foley, MD, a colorectal surgeon. After further testing and evaluation, Melissa was diagnosed with colonic inertia, a motility disorder in which there is an abnormal passage of waste through the digestive system.

"Because UW Health Digestive Health Services is part of a highly specialized center where our team offers a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating intestinal problems," says Dr. Foley, "we were able to offer a novel therapy to help Melissa."

Many people, especially young women, experience constipation and symptoms similar to Melissa's but generally are not candidates for surgery. However, Melissa's symptoms were so severe and difficult to control that she underwent a total colectomy, a surgical procedure that removed her entire colon, or large intestine. For Melissa, the laparoscopic procedure offered a 50 percent chance of improving her condition, and ultimately her health and lifestyle.

Through her journey, Melissa found her voice as a tireless advocate for her health, searching for answers and treatment for her condition. She is thankful she was able to have the surgery, and is doing very well.

"I am able to live a normal, pain-free life," says Melissa.

Melissa is able to follow a normal diet, is off medications and was able to return to work as a CMA. She is committed to helping others who may be experiencing the pain and frustration of a prolonged illness, and encourages patients to work with their providers.

"Stay hopeful and committed to getting the help and treatment you need," says Melissa