Crohn’s Disease Patient Says Doctor Saved Her Son’s Life

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be a debilitating condition that not only affects the digestive tract but can impact other areas of the body including the skin, eyes, liver, and joints.

Crohn’s disease was wreaking havoc on the life of Sherry’s son, a patient of J. Timothy Tolland, M.D., a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon at the Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates.

“I knew what my son’s physician had said wasn’t right. I called Dr. Tolland, and he saw us the same day. He diagnosed my son with Crohn’s Disease and saved my son’s life. Dr. Tolland got right on top of it, and he knew what the problem was before we got the exam done.”

What Is Crohn’s Disease?

Perhaps the worst form of IBD manifests as Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the digestive tract that can cause significant abdominal discomfort, extreme diarrhea, and a host of adverse health effects. The disease was named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, the first to document the condition in 1932 as chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.tolland colonoscopy

Crohn’s disease differs from another form of IBD, ulcerative colitis. The two conditions have similar symptoms; however, they affect different parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s is most prevalent in the ends of the small or large intestine while the presence of ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon.

Roughly 1.6 million Americans have IBD including more than 780,000 patients with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s-related inflammation can penetrate deeply into the bowel tissue causing crippling pain, and lead to a disabling loss of function. Depending on the individual, inflammation from Crohn’s disease can appear along different areas of the digestive system, from the mouth to the esophagus to the rectum. At its most extreme, Crohn’s disease can lead to fatal complications.

Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

With Crohn’s disease, the immune system mistakenly “attacks” normal, harmless bacteria in the digestive system causing inflammation of the GI tract. The swelling affects the ability of the body to absorb water and process specific nutrients and minerals.

Crohn’s symptoms vary depending on the patient, the location, and severity of the disease. However, the most common symptoms of the Crohn’s disease include:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Immediate bowel movement urges
  • Abdominal cramping and discomfort
  • Feelings of unfinished evacuation
  • Constipation or bowel obstruction

Other symptoms typically associated with IBD include:

  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Losing weight
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

Diagnosis and Treatment

Crohn’s disease is a fairly complex illness that requires proper examination and testing by a physician to correctly diagnose the condition.

“When my son was 16-years old, we were visiting colleges, and he got very ill,” says Sherry. “I called his physician and got an appointment, but the doctor misdiagnosed him.”

When Sherry was at her most distressed over the roadblock in her son’s treatment, Dr. Tolland stepped in, found a solution and the family has been with him ever since. “When it’s your child, it means a whole lot,” she says. “And when I was panicking and had been in the hospital, Dr. Tolland came to see me. He knows (exactly) what he’s doing, and his staff is amazing. For over 25 years they’ve been fabulous.”

Being a chronic condition, patients usually go through periods where their symptoms wax and wane — Crohn’s disease may flare up for a specific period followed by an almost complete lack of symptoms.

Researchers believe the onset of Crohn’s disease results from is an interplay between a person’s genes, the immune system, and environmental factors. While there’s no known cure for Crohn’s disease, restoring and maintaining proper nutrition as well as reducing stress are essential for properly managing the illness.

Perhaps the most critical aspect of living well with Crohn’s disease is a patient’s relationship with their healthcare team. Being comfortable with, trusting, and having the full support of one’s physician is critical for effectively managing the illness.

“Dr. Tolland and his staff either have an answer or they get you an answer quickly,” Sherry continues. “If I’m scheduling an exam or something (routine), it usually will take a couple of weeks to get in, but if I need to see Dr. Tolland urgently, they usually get me in the same day. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever not gotten me in the same day if I was having a problem. At the very least one of the physicians would call me.”

Sherry appreciates Dr. Tolland’s ‘old-school’ professionalism, friendly bedside manner, and the close rapport he has with his patients. “I’ve been seeing Dr. Tolland for about 25 years, and he’s very personable,” says Sherry. “He puts you at ease; he’s funny, kind, and extremely knowledgeable. Sometimes I think medicine has come to the point where it’s not personable anymore, but Dr. Tolland makes it so, and his staff makes you feel like you are a close friend or a relative. You don’t feel like a number being shuffled in and out. You mean something to them.”

Grateful for all the care and support that Dr. Tolland and his staff have provided her family over the years, Sherry is proud to sing their praises from the rooftop.

“Of all the physicians, Dr. Tolland and his practice are second to none,” she says. “I’ve been to Gainesville, North Carolina, New York, and all over (the country) for physicians, and when it comes to what Dr. Tolland and his staff do, I wouldn’t go anywhere but here. He’s the best at what he does.”

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