Living life with Crohn’s Disease
Five years ago, Harrison Kefford was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. At the time, he’d never even heard of it, but the extreme and debilitating symptoms led him to the hospital, and the eventual diagnosis.
“I was in a really horrible way,” says Harrison, who was just 23 when he was first diagnosed.
“I couldn't eat or drink anything and it all came on pretty suddenly and fast.
“I lost a lot of weight, I had struggle sleeping, I was vomiting a lot and I also had incredibly sharp pain in my gut which led me to needing to go to the toilet. It was here that I discovered I had blood in my stools, which then lead me to going to hospital and that's how my diagnosis started.”
Crohn’s Disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that can cause inflammation anywhere in the digestive system, which can then result in redness, swelling, and pain. It’s the body’s response to injury or irritation.
For almost five years, Harrison tried to manage the symptoms with medications and other treatments but unfortunately, nothing worked.
“In February I finally went down the surgery route and they gave me an ileostomy which has drastically improved my life,” he says.
“I don't like to say it's given me a new life, rather it's just given me back my old one.”
Most of Harrison’s symptoms are now managed via his ileostomy, with the support of complimentary treatments, like heat application.
“In short, I had a sub-total colectomy and ileostomy. So, they basically removed my entire colon, which had been pretty much destroyed as a result of Crohn’s disease.
“It wasn't really working the way a normal person’s colon works, so they gave me a new one so to speak, via the ileostomy or stoma as we refer to it, which is part of my small intestine that has been brought forward to the surface of my skin and created in a way that sits on my lower abdomen.”
While Harrison can’t apply heat directly onto his stoma, using heat packs provides daily relief for his gut and back pain.
“I still get cramps every few days and I put my heat pack on my gut but nowhere near the stoma,” he explains.
“I also have a pretty sore back most days as adjusting to life with my stoma in terms of sleeping is proving to be incredibly difficult even though things are improving. So, I also use my heat pack on my back at the end of most days too.”
Harrison says the biggest lesson he’s learnt from the difficult journey he’s travelled throughout his twenties, is not to sweat the small stuff.
“The biggest piece of advice I have after living with chronic illness is that there are so many things we stress over that don't require as much thought or energy as we give them.
“I really do think stress is one of the worst things for our overall health, especially our gut and for something we tend to have some control over I think we could all do more in terms of just not stressing so much about a lot of things.”