Following in My Father’s Footsteps as a Crohn’s Survivor

Emmeline Olson with her father, Sam Aguirre. (Photo by Patrick Olson)

I inherited many traits from my dad: my need for organization and order, love of math, problem-solving abilities, and powers of deduction. I also received his sensitive skin and delicate digestive tract. I became aware of my dad’s gastrointestinal issues in 1987 when I was 14 and he was 49. I woke up in the middle of the night to my mother calling an ambulance because my dad had collapsed when he got up to use the bathroom. At the hospital, doctors discovered a pinhole in his colon where the contents had leaked out and caused an infection. The surgeon performed a partial colectomy, removing an 8-inch section of his infected colon. The surgeon was surprised that my dad hadn’t experienced any pain before ending up in the emergency room. “Prior to the attack,” my dad said, “I was experiencing bloating and distension of my belly, but no pain.” He was released from the hospital with no follow-up gastroenterology appointment. In 2005, my dad had gastrointestinal symptoms again. “I was bloated and could not pass gas,” he said. “A common aftereffect of a colectomy is a tendency toward intestinal blockage or constriction.” My two sisters and I traveled to Oklahoma City to be with our dad as he underwent surgery to remove 6 inches of obstructed colon, and our family spent Christmas Day in his hospital room. When my mother had called to tell me that my dad was sick, I prayed to God to take away his pain and give it to me because I was younger and stronger. Ironically, I received my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease the following year. In 2012, routine b
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" Emmeline Olson : In addition to her weekly IBD News Today column, Intestinal Fortitude, Emmeline Olson is a freelance Communications Specialist, providing writing, editing, and graphic design services to her clients. With a Master's degree in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin, she worked in the industry for more than 15 years before joining the advertising faculty at Texas State University in 2010. She recently resigned from her teaching position to focus on her health after receiving a liver transplant in 2017, more than 20 years after being diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune liver disease. She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2006 and is in remission. Emmeline (an Auburn University fan) and her husband Patrick (a University of Alabama fan) live in a house divided in Austin, Texas, where they enjoy watching SEC football and spending time with friends and family. For fun, Emmeline brandishes a sword and hunts people for body parts – but not at the same time. She's a Kyo Sa Nim (2nd degree black belt) in Mu Sool Won and an advocate for organ donation through Donate Life and UNOS. With renewed health, Emmeline is determined to advocate for patients and educate the public on the impact of living with chronic and autoimmune diseases. She dedicates her work and her life to the 30-year-old woman who made the unselfish decision to be an organ donor.."