Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What I got

It's called "complicated diverticulitis." And there's no pretty way to talk about it.

Whatever you call them - intestines, vicerae, bowels, entrails, guts - everybody's got 'em.

The human small intestine is a tube about 18 - 23 feet long and 1 inch in diameter, jumbled up in the middle of our bodies. It extracts most of the nutrients from our food after it leaves the stomach.

Whatever's leftover passes into the large intestine, or colon, which is about 5 feet long and maybe 3 inches in diameter.

The large intestine runs in a kind of squared circle around the coil of small intestines, then drops down to - well, the exit hatch. The colon extracts water so that the final product that leaves the body is relatively compact and manageable.

The inside of the intestine is a tube lined with cells that do different jobs. Some cells secrete lubricants to smooth the material along its way. Other cells have multiple folds that increase the surface area exposed to the material. There are layers of muscle that contract to propel the material along; also elastic cells that help the intestine stretch and contract to accommodate varying capacities. Blood vessels feed oxygen to the cells of the intestine.

The intestine's outer walls contain padding to protect them from friction damage from the body's other moving parts, and a final covering that further cushions and separates them from other organs, and keeps them in their proper place.

It's like a hose with multiple layers; some for protection, some for strength, some for flexibility. Then it's padded and enclosed and strapped down for stability.

For some people, the inner layers of the large intestine develop little pouches. Maybe during some of the roiling contractive movements, a bit of the inner membrance pooches in between lining muscle fibers and make a little outward dimple.

These little dimples or pouches are called diverticulae, and diverticulosis is the word used if you have them. People with diverticulosis live normal healthy lives without incident - unless the diverticulae get sick.

What would make them get sick? Well, with all that matter coursing through the gut, some gets trapped in the diverticulae, and impact them like food particles stuck in your gums irritate that tender tissue. Whatever the reason, a large intestine with irritated diverticulae triggers the body's defense mechanism, causing nausea, vomiting, fever, cramps and pain. When you have inflamed - or sick - diverticulae, it's called diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis most commonly appears in the sigmoid colon, which is the portion near the end of the run, where the colon turns the corner and makes a horizontal kink before feeding into the rectum. Why I don't know - probably gravity has something to do with it. Perhaps it takes more pressure to move material along, perhaps sludge collects along the bottom of the tube.

When diverticulitis goes untreated, bad things happen. An infected area can become so weak it perforates or ruptures. When it ruptures, it releases the matter from the pipeline into places it's not supposed to be.

You'd think the term medical professionals use when this happens would be some big Latin word. But it's not - the term is a simple vernacular phrase "complicated diverticulitis."

I was lucky. For me, the trouble happened in a place where the leak was contained; my immune system kicked in successfully; and the timing was fortunate.

Next step? I'm on a course of antibiotics to heal the inflammation, and I'm following up with my doctors. Not all cases of diverticulitis result in surgery, but complicated diverticulitis increases the likelihood. We'll see what develops as I continue to heal.

There's a lot more to diverticulitis than what I've said here. It will be a learning process I'm going to be following for the rest of my life. If you're interested, stay with me as I go through it.


Janet said...

You are so creative! I loved the way you explained this. My Aunt Mary had this too...she had to stay away from things with small seeds, strawberries, raspberries, that sort of thing.

smalltownme said...

Your pictures are great. Good luck with managing this.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

You've done a great job explaining the process *AND* your pictures made me smile. :)

I live in constant awareness of diverticulitis, thanks to my dad. The good news is, once you change your diet a bit and get the current problem cleared up, you can usually return to normal.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

No more sesame bagels... I also commend you for the pictures- you handled a pretty gross situation beautifully!

Max Sartin said...

Very good explanation, and I'm truly impressed with your pictures that go with it! Informative, helpful and not disgusting. Creative too!

Whale Chowder said...

This makes you just like Ken Griffey Junior. Aren't you lucky?

Get well soon. What you have sucks but at least it's manageable.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Good luck, Aunt Snow. It's a not a happy circumstance, but I just learned a lot.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That was a great visual tutorial!

I didn't know you were sick and I certainly hope everything heals well.

The Old Parsonage said...

Oh, I'm praying for you...Mr OP had to have surgery last year and it wasn't pleasant. All is well now though.

All I can say is watch your diet.

Thanks so much for stopping by The Old Parsonage. I don't know the history of the head vases, but would love too.

Enjoy your week!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the club, it's a large one. Good luck on your journey to good health. Your pictures and explanations were very creative. Thank you for writing about this, most people don't talk about it because the subject is a sensitive one. If you helped one person to talk to their doctor about problems with their intestines you have done a great service.

Anonymous said...

I wish you had been a teacher of mine. Would have been a lot more fun!

Gilly said...

I just loved your creative pictures - so much more interesting and understandable than the average medical text book.

Think you might have a new career here........

Hope you soon get those diverticulae under control, and begin to feel better. Not a nice thing to have to suffer.

Anonymous said...

I was just diagnosed last night and was in great pain. I am taking antibiotics. Thank you for making this subject less scary. I hope you and both recover.