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Fitness & Health

05th Aug 2021

Irish radio presenter reveals 10-year struggle before doctors finally discovered the source of her extreme pain

Ann Cronin

Brought to you by Janssen Sciences Ireland UC and the Irish Society Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

You can listen to the Gutcast episode featuring Michaela and Professor Anthony O’Connor here.

“It was a very long, emotional, tiring 10 years.”

Irish radio presenter Michaela Hayes recently spoke about her decade-long battle with undiagnosed Crohn’s disease, and the surgery which she says has changed her life.

Speaking on Episode 4, of Season 2 of  Gutcast, an Irish podcast launched by the Irish Society of Colitis and Crohn’s Disease (ISCC) and Janssen Sciences Ireland UC , for people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the iRadio presenter revealed that she suffered ten years of pain and other symptoms before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

IBD is a term used to describe Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Both are lifelong conditions which are characterised by inflammation of the digestive system.

“I had a very long journey before I got diagnosed. Since I was 17, I was suffering with major issues and was very underweight. My GP was amazing and he kept referring me for different tests in the hope of a diagnosis.

“After 10 years and every test under the sun, I ended up hospitalised for a flair and the GI team were finally able to catch me in a flair, and that lead to my diagnosis.”

Following on from her Crohn’s disease diagnosis, Michaela says the symptoms she was experiencing were taking their toll, and in 2020 she began looking at surgical treatments for her condition.

“After lots of discussions with my healthcare team and looking at my options, it became clear that getting a stoma was the right option for me. I fully welcomed the idea and that being the only option. I was so frustrated with my symptoms and I was in pain a lot of the time. In my eyes, absolutely anything would be better than trying to continue with the pain I was in. 

Consultant Gastroenterologist, Professor Anthony O’Connor describes a stoma as “an opening created in the wall of the abdomen which allows waste to leave the body.

“It’s usually done after a surgeon removes a diseased portion of the large or small bowel, and it may be necessary to attach the remaining bowel to the outside of the body in a procedure called colostomy if it’s your large bowel, and ileostomy if it’s your small bowel. A plastic bag attaches to the stoma to collect the waste,” he adds. 

Professor O’Connor says a stoma may be needed if you cannot pass stools, or if your bowel is so severely inflamed that it can no longer function safely. This could be the result of an illness, injury, or a problem with your digestive system such as bowel cancer, Crohn’s disease, Colitis, or diverticulitis.

Michaela said that the recovery period post-surgery was challenging for her emotionally and physically. She had her surgery during the first national lockdown and struggled with not being allowed visitors during her hospital stay.

Adjusting to life with her stoma, which she has affectionately named Paloma, was also a challenge.

“I absolutely hated how the stoma itself looked. I’m absolutely fine with it now but it took a long time for me to be okay with looking at it. I also struggled to find a bag that suited me. There are loads of different kinds and thankfully I now have one that allows me to carry on as normal.”

Thankfully, the stoma surgery brought a massively positive change to Michaela’s life.

“Having Paloma, the Stoma has been amazing. Now that I have my routine and food balanced, I’m finally in harmony with stoma life. I can live each day relatively pain-free.

“I can’t express how much of a difference that has made to my life. I’m also able to travel and be out and about without worrying where the closest toilet is. It’s made me feel so much freer.”

Back for its second season, Gutcast is continuing to share stories like Michaelas to shed a light on life with Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis and to empower people to take control of their IBD. You can listen to Gutcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Audioboom.

You can listen to the Gutcast episode featuring Michaela and Professor Anthony O’Connor here.

You can listen to Gutcast here

Brought to you by Janssen Sciences Ireland UC and the Irish Society Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

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