One woman with UC shares how hyperbaric oxygen therapy helped her recover from a severe flare.

There is no cure for ulcerative colitis. It took me a long time to realize that the chronic condition is a lifelong journey with a number of therapies that can help along the way.

After my last surgery in the three-step series (proctocolectomy with ileal pouch–anal anastomosis, or IPAA) in February of 2014, I thought I would be cured. I didn’t realize until the fall of 2016, almost three years after my final surgery date, that the ulcerative colitis was here to stay forever.

I began feeling symptomatic in August of that year. I was going to the bathroom a lot again — probably close to 25 to 30 times a day. My bathroom trips were painful, with cramping in my lower abdomen and rectum. There was also a lot of blood in the toilet, which scared me. I was also nauseated and had severe fatigue. I knew the way I was feeling wasn’t normal, especially since I have quite a few friends who also have J-pouches who were not experiencing anything like that. My primary care physician immediately recommended that I see my GI at the Cleveland Clinic for a pouchoscopy. One month later, I was back at the clinic to see Dr. Bo Shen.

The results of my pouchoscopy were not good. Even though I was under heavy twilight anesthesia, I can remember Shen pulling my father aside. I could only make out a few words of their conversation: “Not good” and “Needs to lose weight.”

I’ll never forget the look of concern on my father’s face.

In the recovery room, my father approached my bed and said, “Things are going to change. Your J-pouch is dying. The tissue surrounding your pouch is severely inflamed from poor diet and stress. Your J-pouch is not receiving enough blood flow and oxygen due to the inflamed tissue surrounding it, and you also have severe pouchitis. Your J-pouch looks exactly like your colon did.”

Shen prescribed 30 treatments of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help put my pouchitis and ischemia of the J-pouch into remission.

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