Today on StomaStories I will be sharing with you a story about a young man named Andy and his battle with Crohn’s Disease and how he wants to fulfill his dreams and kickstart his future of doing front line ambulance work. Andy is looking at training to become an ECA (Emergency Care Assistant) or AAP (Associate Ambulance Practitioner).
Andy is a 31 year old Cornish man, born in Penzance now living in Truro. Andy has had bowel issues from a very young age, he has spent a lot of time in hospital when he was three years old. Doctors claimed his bowel issues at such a young age was due to the stress of his parents splitting up. Throughout Andy’s battle he had to regularly visit his GP having numerous of blood tests done, he was put on Anti inflammatory tablets which Andy states; ” The anti inflammatory tablets made me worse.” His blood test results would never show anything wrong they always came back ”OK.”
When Andy left school he wanted to join the British Army he claims that he did sign up but unfortunately left training due to personal reasons. Andy says ” I always planned on going back to the army but due to my poor health I couldn’t physically or mentally do this.” Andy eventually got fed up with the Doctors telling him everything was ”OK” because Andy didn’t feel well at all. They didn’t listen to Andy when he told them his pain had worsened and has now developed other symptoms due to these tablets he was prescribed. Andy’s pain became that bad he phoned up his Doctors and demanded to see another Doctor, there was a locum Doctor on call that day at his surgery so he got an appointment to see him. Andy states ” My grandfather had drove me to the doctors, I was so scared as the pain was that bad I didn’t know what it could be and I knew that the pain I had been having most of my life wasn’t all in my head as the GP had been saying. I was sat in the waiting room crying the pain was that intense and I was struggling to take pain killers, I hated taking tablets or the sight of needles. ” Andy explained to the locum Doctor all of his problems; abdominal pain, watery bowel movements, passing of blood in stools. The locum Doctor after examining Andy admitted him into a surgical ward in West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance. When Andy arrived at the ward he was seen by a gastro specialist and a surgeon. They talked through options and discussed things with Andy whilst putting him on IV pain killers to help his pain. The specialist told him he had been booked in for blood tests, stool samples, x-rays, CT scans and a colonoscopy. Andy states: ” I didn’t have a clue what the colonoscopy was and when I was told I wasn’t too keen on having that done but I was in so much pain that I would let them do anything they wanted to so we knew what the issue was.” The specialist told Andy we hope its none of the three c’s (Crohn’s, Colitis or Cancer.) After Andy’s tests he was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
Now please take the time to read below the rest of Andy’s story in his own words and why he needs your help to kick start his career.
I was happy to finally know what was wrong with me and so treatment could start but I was wrong, the doctor said to me I need surgery. He told me that he wanted to try and make me a bit better before taking me into theater and so surgery was booked for the 5th of January. I didn’t know anything about Crohn’s disease and so the specialist pointed me in the direction of the NACC which is now Crohn’s and Colitis UK. Crohn’s and Colitis UK were amazing to me and provided me with information about the disease, about what to expect in surgery, what treatments are available etc. I didn’t realize just how much of an effect this would have on my life. In the lead up to Christmas I was getting very poorly but I refused to go to hospital as I knew I was having surgery in the early new year. Unfortunately my body didn’t like to wait that long as I collapsed on Christmas Eve on the way home from a family party, my friend that was with me called an ambulance but as it was Christmas Eve and there was a lot of drunk people out so the ambulance service was very busy. Just short of an hour later the ambulance arrived but I don’t remember much of this as I wasn’t totally with it. I hadn’t had anything to drink at the party, the ambulance crew took me to West Cornwall Hospital and then I had more tests done on me in A&E before being moved to the surgical ward in the hospital . I was told that I would be staying in for Christmas and New Year with the possibility of having surgery between Christmas and new year it just depended on whether there was emergency cases that had to have surgery before me. I was allowed home for a couple hours on Christmas Day and then returned to hospital after Christmas dinner and that’s where I stayed till the 10th January. They operated on me on the 28th December and even though my recover wasn’t good after a number of issues I was happy because they had removed the bowel that was bad and I should be able to go back to being normal. When I came home I did everything the hospital told me and rested. After a couple weeks I was feeling better and managed to return to work and back to playing football again. Football is a big part of my life, I could be either found watching or playing football. I was a goalkeeper so I didn’t rush back to playing as didn’t want the blows to my belly. Sadly nearly 4 months after surgery the symptoms started coming back and again they got really bad, my IBD team started new medications to try and get it under control fast to stop me getting worse. They tried a number of medications of which none of them worked on me. They then changed treatment to infusions, then injections again both failed and by this point it was 18 months post surgery. I had again given up work and my hobby to focus on my health and to get better as by this time my first child had been born. My daughter was born in may and then my IBD team told me they wanted to operate again to take out he bad part and rejoin the bowel again. I refused this option as my daughter was so young and I wanted to help my partner out in caring for our daughter and I didn’t want my partner having to do everything for our daughter and then having to look after me as well. I agreed to have the surgery when my daughter was 4/5 months old so she is a bit easier to look after for my partner. I ended up having surgery again on bonfire night, the 5th of November. The surgery went well and I was recovering in my side room, then all of a sudden I started being sick and I couldn’t stop being sick, the more I was sick the more the pain came on as I was using my stomach muscles that had just been cut when I was being sick, after a couple days this passed and then a couple days later I was discharged and allowed home. Between going into hospital on the 4th of November and Christmas Eve I was only home in my bed for one night, each time I went home I would get bad again and be rushed back in. Finally they got me under control and I went home and enjoyed my daughters first Christmas and my first one with my partner. Then again after a while I went back to work and playing the sport I loved, football. I wouldn’t say I was completely pain and symptom free during the next number of months but I was better than I had been for most of my life but again this was short lived. I started to get bad again in early 2014. Again we went through the process of tests including colonoscopy and treatments but nothing was working, shortly after I got bad again we found out my now wife as got married the year before was pregnant, again this made me make my mind up and turn down surgery till my son was born and a little bit older, My son was born on Halloween, 31st October. I agreed I would have surgery 4/5 months later. I managed to have a good Christmas with my wife, two children and also my gran and my father as they came to stay for Christmas. Sadly in February 2015 my wife and me split up and the day that happened I was taken into hospital due to the pain being so bad and because I was having so much watery stools I needed IV fluids. I was kept in a couple days and then allowed home, not that I had a home to go to as I told my wife she could have the house and everything in it as I wouldn’t make my children homeless. I went to stay with a friend for a while and slept on sofa till I found somewhere to live, my Crohn’s Disease was continuing to get worse and worse and one day in late may when visiting a friend on the surgical ward at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth my pain got really bad and I started being sick. The nurses then helped me into a wheelchair and took me to A&E where I was seen by the Gastro on call doctor, he told me I was being admitted onto the surgical ward that I was on when this happened. After a couple days they managed to find me a slot in theater to have surgery. Before surgery I had a visit from the stoma nurse and she went through everything I needed to know about having a stoma, she gave me a pack with samples of the bags in, a lot of information and a couple other things, she also stuck a bag with some fluid in it onto where I would have the bag so I could get used to it for s couple days. Then came the day of surgery, I was first on the list which made me happy as I hate waiting around to go into theater. The stoma nurse came back to see me and took the bag off me that I had been wearing for a couple days, she marked where they will fit the stoma and then I was taken to theater, I was in theater a lot longer than I was due to be and then had some issues while I was in recovery and finally got back on the ward at about 17:50. They had given me pain killers and made me as comfortable as they could, the next day I was allowed to start eating which was great and I was starving but I was surprised as was 4/5 days before I could eat at previous surgeries but I wasn’t going to complain, then two days later things were going well and so the doctor said I could go home the next morning, my body had other ideas and I started being sick but it wasn’t just sick it was what is meant to come out the other end, this continued for hours, I had IV fluids and anti sickness but it never works. About 3 am the doctor came to visit me and said he wants to put something up my nose and down to my stomach to drain off what’s in there to try and stop me being so sick but due to a previous bad experience I didn’t want it but I tried but kept having a panic attack so this was stopped. This continued for two more days, after two further days of being in hospital but not being sick I was allowed home. After a while I returned back to work but I had decided to retire from playing football as I couldn’t handle the blows in my stomach and so I applied to become a referee, I was put forward for the courses but I got poorly just before the first one and this happened s fire the two times before I finally managed to get on the course and complete my referee training, I’m currently a level seven referee but I am being promoted to level six very soon. I have always tried to make sure my illness doesn’t control me but at times it does, I was working as a security officer along side the refereeing and I was sub contracted to a company as they needed staff and while I was with them I took on more work and then joined them properly and so work for them direct, they also run a medical/private ambulance company. They spoke to me about training to be an ACA (ambulance care assistant) as security work gets less over the winter but the ambulance work is still busy but I told them I couldn’t afford to retrain and so they made an agreement that they would cover the cost and pay it back out of my wages. I never for one minute growing up thought I would be working on an ambulance but when I started I loved the job, I don’t do front line ambulance work it’s moving patients all over the uk. I would love to complete my ECA (emergency care assistant) or AAP (Associate Ambulance practitioner) course but I have Ken thing standing in my way, the ambulances I currently drive are smaller than the ones they currently use on front line and so I can drive in a car license but now I need to complete my C1 class driving licence now before I can apply to the ambulance service for a job, if I get s job with the ambulance service then they will cover the costs of my medical training and also my advance driver training otherwise known as blue light training. To complete my C1 class driving it’s going to cost roughly £1000 after I have done the theory and hazard perception, had a medical and then three days training and then the test. I have been saving for this but it’s not easy to save when you have bills to pay etc as I’m on a low income. There is the possibility I won’t be accepted to the ambulance service straight away but if that’s the case I can still work privately as an ACA and can also then drive the bigger ambulances the company I work for has allowing me to do different jobs like driving a very sick patient with a paramedic in the back, but I will make my dreams come true and work the front line ambulances soon. Also if I am not successful with the ambulance service straight away then I will try and cover the costs of medical training myself but the courses are between 3/12 thousand depending on whether I do my ECA or AAP. I am trying to show people that even if you have a chronic illness like I do, it’s not the end of your career dreams. I know everyone is different but I don’t want this illness to stop me doing the things I love like getting my dream job working on front line ambulances or getting as high up the referee ladder I as can. The refereeing will be health depending as I have to undergo fitness tests etc. The only thing holding me back from my dream job currently is getting the minimum of C1 driving licence so I can apply to the ambulance service for a job. I have applied for grants from different places but not sure I will get them. My partner has set up a crowdfunding page to try and help me get a step closer which has had some donations on which is amazing. So what I’m trying to say is don’t give up on your dreams, there maybe hurdles in the way but it will be worth it when you get what you want. And maybe one day you may see me on the TV refereeing, Joking, I would love to but it depends if physically fit enough to pass fitness tests the higher I go. Don’t let a chronic illness stop your dreams coming true. May take longer but you will get there.
ANDY TOOK PART IN THE LONDON MARATHON AND RAISED £5000!
In 2006, I ran the London marathon in memory of a friend that passed away and raised £5000 for a local hospice as they cared for him in the final weeks. I ran the 26.3 miles around London with no training and during a Crohn’s disease flare which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I wish I had trained because I couldn’t walk properly for weeks but I completed it in just over 5 and a half hours, this was one of the proudest things I had done. I have over the years raised a lot of money for charities and had a number of roles within local charities like area fundraising manager and shop manager for one and the other I was a co-founder of.
WITH A CHRONIC ILLNESS DEPRESSION WILL STRIKE
Since my teenage years I have battled depression due to my health, it was all started when my GP wasn’t listening to and saying it was all in my head and over time this got me down, I tried to hide things from people but people close to me knew I struggled at times. In 2006 in early December I was our drinking one night and I was really down, I couldn’t see a way forward, I got very drunk and with depression this isn’t a great idea, as I left the pub where I was drinking towards the end of the evening I said good bye to my cousins that were working there and my good friends and went home. When I got home I found all of my medication, I took the tablets out and when I had enough I took them all, luckily for me the cousins and friends worked out something was wrong and called the police and ambulance and the rest I don’t remember much of other than my door being kicked open, then being half way down the stairs of the flat and then waking up in ICU in hospital. I was in such a bad place back then and have still fought depression over the years with the help of doctors, medication and counselling, I found ways of dealing with it and coping. That was the one and only time I have been that low and since that day I have fought depression but now I have ways of coping for example, not bottling things up, that’s doesn’t necessarily mean I talk to someone a I find that really hard, I often right things down on the notes section of my iPad or text someone which I have found really helps. I haven’t taken any pills to control my depression in nearly 8 years, this was when my daughter was born, she gave me a reason to fight on, yeah I still have my down days but I will never let things get so bad as I did all those years ago, I now have a son as well and when I am down as I said above I write things down, I have a cry and I think of my two children and fight on. You could have a big family, loads of friends and an amazing support group around you which does help but living with IBD can be very very lonely at times, when your up most of the night crying in pain when the painkillers aren’t working, when you can’t sleep because too much going around in your head or the pain is keeping you awake or running to the bathroom all night. My family and friends have been amazing throughout my battle with IBD and I would be lost without them so a support network is a massive help, when I have also found helps for depression or feeling low or can’t sleep due to the symptoms of IBD is the number of support groups that have been set up on Facebook. I have made a number of friends through these pages who I talk to regularly, and we organize get togethers as much as possible.
Problem with going out and having IBD is that you never know when it’s going to flare up and going out has to be planned so you know where the toilets are etc. I often have to cancel plans because I am flaring or am so drained from every day life I can’t go out. IBD is much more than what a lot of people think it is, it’s much more than a pooing disease, the pain is unbearable at times, you get tired quickly, you could visit the toilet 15-20+ times a day, you can get depression plus a number of other things. Then there are the side effects of the medications we take to try and keep our IBD in remission or as symptom free as possible, it’s often treated with steroids which causes a number of issues including weight gain and mood swings which when your already depressed isn’t good at all, we have a number of hospital admissions for treatment like infusions or tests like MRI scans or colonoscopies. Then because of IBD it can cause other problems like low iron and B12 plus many more. Your social life becomes nonexistent due to constantly changing or cancelling plans, you can’t do simple things with your children without it causing more problems later that day. So next time you think someone with IBD is being lazy because they can’t get out of bed or fall asleep on the sofa just remember they aren’t battling there own bodies each day and then having to take a number of medications that cause more issues. In the worse cases they need surgery to remove some of all of there bowel so they have a bag which are a lot better than they used to be but they still have there own issues for example, the bag could leak or burst, or the area where the bag is attached to the skin can get very sore plus many more issues. If you don’t know about IBD please just ask one of use about it and most people would be more than happy to tell you about the disease. Don’t judge people and don’t say things like I have a friend with that and they can do something that you can’t or I know how you feel because I have IBS as IBS is completely different and things like my friend got cured of IBD but changing there diet, there is NO cure for IBD.
ANDY HAS STARTED A CROWDFUNDING PAGE PLEASE SUPPORT HIM ANYWAY YOU CAN EVEN AS LITTLE AS £1 EVERY DONATION IS A STEP TOWARDS ANDY’S DREAM.
It states below Andy’s target and reason for crowdfunding.
”This is my crowd funding page my partner set up for me. Current target is £1000 so I can complete the C1 driving tests etc. Anything over that would be used for medical training if I need to do it myself if unsuccessful at the first interview and anything not used for my training will be donated to the charity that’s supported me so much over the years since I was diagnosed, Crohn’s and Colitis UK. Www.crowdfunder.co.uk/andyeca
Andy, 31 from Cornwall seeks help to achieve his dreams.
Thank you to my bloggers and anyone this post reaches for taking the time to read about Andy’s battle and also share his story so he can reach a wider audience to help make his dream come true! Please donate if you can it is for a good cause!