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During his senior year of college, Michael Martin was busy studying, having fun, and looking forward to life after graduation when he started experiencing mild episodes of abdominal pain and stomach cramps. Having no clue what this could mean, he kept quiet and figured it was nothing to worry about. Until a few years later, when the pains became so bad, that he could no longer hide his symptoms.
In 2001, Michael’s primary care doctor diagnosed him with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers of the lining of the large intestine or colon. There is no known cause of ulcerative colitis and symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, weight loss, and severe abdominal pain.
“When this started happening there was nothing I could do but go to the hospital,” says Michael. “I was in the hospital almost every three months and I had absolutely no quality of life.”
When his condition did not improve with medications, Michael’s primary care doctor referred him to the UPMC Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Center. In 2004, he began seeing the center’s co-director.
After a series of visits, Dr. Reguerio diagnosed Michael with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease has very similar characteristics and symptoms as ulcerative colitis and is very complex condition that can continue to cause symptoms even when the disease is in remission.
“This was very difficult and concerning to hear but the doctor had a plan and really took a personal interest,” says Michael.
In an effort to offer continued support to patients, like Michael, UPMC is partnering with UPMC Health Plan to pilot UPMC Total Care-IBD, a program that offers accessible, integrated care to help patients manage the daily challenges of IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. As a part of the program, patients are given increased access to a multidisciplinary team of experts to help them cope with their disease, and also the other medical conditions that accompany it, such as anxiety or depression.
Michael began seeing Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD, director of the UPMC Visceral Inflammation and Pain (VIP) Center. As a board-certified psychiatrist, and co-director for the UPMC Total Care – IBD program, Dr. Szigethy helped Michael learn to manage his disease and also the added stress and anxiety.
As a result of his Crohn’s disease, the blockages in Michael’s digestive tract became so severe that his doctor’s suggested a second surgery. While he was hesitant at first, he knew that it was his only option.
In November 2015, Michael underwent his second surgery and with the help of the UPMC Total Care – IBD team he is doing much better.
“The entire team coached me through it,” says Michael. “They gave me hope that change was going to come and I would eventually feel better and be able to have fun again.”
Since his surgery, Michael is doing well and excited to return to his old life. He continues to work with the UPMC Total Care – IBD program to treat and manage his Crohn’s disease.
“For years I was stuck at home or stuck in the hospital but they gave me my life back,” says Michael.
Michael’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.