From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to serve my country in the Air Force. My father is a veteran, as are my uncles. I had waited my entire life to step-up and enlist, and in early 2017, my time had finally arrived.
But just a week before leaving for basic training, I experienced the recurring stomach issues I had been living with since the age of 16. However, this time felt different. It became clear later that what I always thought of as just an “irritable stomach” was something more serious: IBD.
Right before shipping out, I experienced one of my most horrific flare-ups yet, completely unaware that I actually had a persistent bowel disease. I was rushed to the emergency room after my condition didn’t improve and I began showing some concerning vitals.
After a few initial tests, my doctors decided to order a colonoscopy. Their inspection found that I actually had Ulcerative Colitis and that my colon was basically DOA. Just a few hours after their initial diagnosis, I began to feel more severe pain, which led to an MRI.
As it turns out, my colon was so damaged that the removal of the colonoscopy scope had perforated my large bowel and left me in a state of sepsis. I was told that I only had three hours to live unless I had an emergency colectomy and received a temporary ileostomy.
Deelia and husband, Josh
There was no time to think about my decision, so I quickly found myself going into the operating room with only a vague notion of what they would be doing to me. As I came out from under anesthesia and took stock of my situation, I remember looking down and seeing my ostomy pouch for the first time and asking, “What is that?”
After my doctors were confident I was no longer septic, I was discharged from the hospital as quickly as I had arrived. While the surgery had been a physical success, I was still reeling emotionally from the entire experience.
I ran the gamut of emotions as I began adjusting back to life. From fear to confusion to embarrassment, I was completely unsure of where my life was taking me.
I weighed only 78 pounds, struggling to navigate my new relationship and unable to now fulfill my life-long goal of joining the Air Force. I had no idea where to turn.
However, I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the love and support of my family, who helped me survive and thrive after my surgery. My boyfriend Josh (who is now my husband) was also instrumental in my recovery, and I’m forever grateful to have had such a caring partner by my side through this ordeal.
Almost one year later, I am now happily married, living with Josh and our two dogs. I am also working as a pharmacy technician as I make my way through nursing school.
Since my surgery, I am 100% clear of Ulcerative Colitis. And while I am very careful to watch my diet and keep an eye on my personal health, I am back to living my life pretty close to how I used to.
My ostomy saved my life and I will be forever grateful for the second chance it gave me.