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Seth Leone: Crohn’s disease

Image of Joe and Seth Leone.

Meet Seth Leone

For most of Seth Leone’s life, he had little trouble with bowel health. But at the age of 25, something changed.

“Keeping food down became a problem,” Seth recalls. “I wasn’t eating much, and the pain was severe.”

Doctors close to Seth’s home in Somerset County, Pa. thought there might be an issue with his gallbladder, but tests revealed no concerns there. The culprit was ultimately determined to be Crohn’s disease, which commonly causes inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding in the digestive tract.

Seth lost about 80 pounds of body mass over the course of the next two years, becoming bedridden two or three times a week due to his intestinal distress.

Seth’s dad knew he had to take action for his son, who has autism.

“I couldn’t sit back and watch Seth starve himself,” Joe Leone explains. “We needed to put a plan in place.”

The Path to UPMC

The Leones were referred to the UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, comprised of experts with many years of experience. But with the team based out of Pittsburgh, more than two hours away from where Seth and Joe live, attending a series of in-person appointments would be far from convenient. The option of telemedicine put their minds at ease.

“Seth is sensitive about driving long distances, and it’s challenging to get into the city,” Joe says. “Making those trips would require me to take several days off of work.”

Instead, Seth used video visits to meet with Andrew Watson, MD, who carefully explained how he could surgically treat this condition by removing the inflamed portion of Seth’s intestines, where scar tissue was extensive, and nothing was passing through.

“He told me about the procedure and the expected results,” Seth recalls. “It was very reassuring.”

Joe sat in on the first meeting with Dr. Watson but says afterwards, Seth was able to take control of his own health care, simply providing his dad with updates at the end of the day.

The Day of Surgery

After completing his virtual appointments and receiving support from the UPMC Center for Perioperative Care, Seth’s surgery was scheduled on Oct. 20, 2023. The Leones made their way to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, finally meeting Dr. Watson in person.

By the end of the operation, 10 inches of Seth’s intestines were removed.

“The surgery was just shy of miraculous,” Joe says. “Dr. Watson was angelic, and the nurses took such great care of Seth.”

“Everyone at the hospital was awesome,” Seth adds. “If I needed something, they had it for me. And Dr. Watson kept my dad informed on my progress and recovery. He really went beyond what he had to do.”

The Road to Recovery

Seth says he was able to get out of his hospital bed and start walking around two days after his surgery, prior to being discharged on Oct. 25. Now back at home, the 28-year-old is finally returning to his old life.

“I feel like I felt before my Crohn’s started acting up,” Seth explains. “I’m eating normally, putting on weight, and not having problems keeping food down. I’m not in pain. Life is wonderful.”

And while Seth and his dad are both thrilled with the surgical outcome, they’re also incredibly thankful for the ease of the journey that got them there.

“Telemedicine saves so much time, gas, and money, especially for people who live out in the country,” Joe says. “For us, we would have been on the road for about five hours, roundtrip, each appointment. And when you’re already feeling anxiety over a health concern, it’s nice to have one less thing to worry about by eliminating several visits to the hospital.”

Seth’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

For more information about telemedicine services and the UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, please visit or call 412-647-1705.