Twenty-seven feet. That’s the length of a typical intestinal tract.
Twenty-seven inches…that’s all I have left of MY intestines.
But I didn’t lose more than 90 percent of my intestines all at once. My journey to a Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) diagnosis is a long story, but one that I hope will help others feel less alone.

If you are living with Short Bowel Syndrome and rely on parenteral support, there’s an SBS Mentor available to connect with you. Click here to learn more.

My Story Begins
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in my early teens. I was 23 when I had my first bowel resection and ileostomy. Over the next 35 years or so, a pattern developed: from Thanksgiving until Easter, I would become increasingly sick. For me that meant more Crohn’s-related pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding. I relied on my family, friends, and my doctors to help me manage through those tough times. I was able to graduate college Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, earn a master’s degree in immunology, and become another of the many scientists in my family. But each year, I felt worse, and the symptoms lasted longer until, finally, I would need additional surgery to remove more diseased intestines. Before each operation, my surgeons would tell me they would need to remove just the minimum amount so I would not develop “Short Bowel Syndrome” or “SBS”. I didn’t understand their concerns. I kept thinking, “If they can remove all the bad parts and I end up with SBS, what’s the big deal? I’m already living with all these intestinal problems; it couldn’t be worse.” Or could it??

It got to the point where surgery was just buying me time. And it wasn’t quality time. I can’t even count how often my husband got up in the middle of the night to take me to the ER, and the hours he spent there with me. I had to stop working and go on disability. Added to the pain, diarrhea, and vomiting were more frequent bowel obstructions and fistulas. In my case, the fistulas could not be controlled or repaired. I needed major surgery to remove all the bits and pieces of reconnected intestines that were kinked, strictured and sticking, and patch up the areas where the fistulas had formed.

Major Surgery and an SBS Diagnosis
I had that surgery in August 2013 and had never been more terrified. A few days later, I was moved from the ICU to the “progressive care unit.” The image is still burned in my memory, my husband standing next to me. My surgeon stood in front of me and said, “You definitely have Short Bowel Syndrome now.” He gestured—held his hands in front of himself a bit more than hip-width apart. I thought he was just making a random gesture. “68 centimeters,” he said. That came to a little more than two feet.

I understood the part about my intestines being “shorter” but I didn’t yet understand that there was more to my SBS than just the length of my remaining intestines. I also had reduced function of my remaining intestines, meaning I wasn’t able to absorb enough nutrients from food and drink and needed to depend on parenteral support to maintain my health. This is sometimes referred to as SBS with intestinal failure, or “SBS-IF”.

I was not at all prepared for life with SBS. I was now receiving parenteral support (PS) in the form of two liters of IV hydration twice a week with magnesium and anti-diarrheal drugs. I was experiencing life-threatening electrolyte and mineral imbalances. Knowing I could die within hours if I couldn’t get adequately hydrated and get my electrolytes balanced was the most frightening thing to me. In fact, not two months after my surgery, I became so severely dehydrated that by the time I got to the ER my kidneys had shut down, and my potassium was so high I was on the verge of cardiac arrest. When I was able to sleep, I kept my fingers on my pulse. I was used to always looking for the nearest bathroom. Now, I was also looking for the nearest ER.

Partnering with my Doctor to Start SBS Treatment
There came a day when I finally cried with my doctor. He made some phone calls to colleagues to find out what they were doing to treat their SBS patients. On Christmas Eve, he called me excitedly to say he had learned that GATTEX® (teduglutide) for subcutaneous injection is a prescription medicine used in adults and children aged 1 year and older with Short Bowel Syndrome who need additional nutrition or fluids from intravenous (IV) feeding (parenteral support). We talked and, as part of that conversation, he encouraged me to read more about the possible benefits and serious risks, including making abnormal cells grow faster, polyps in the colon (large intestine), blockage of the bowel (intestines), swelling (inflammation) or blockage of your gallbladder or pancreas, and fluid overload.

Please continue reading for additional Important Safety Information.

After continuing to talk with my doctor about the possible side effects, I decided I would try it. A Takeda Patient Support nurse came to my home to show me how to prepare and measure my dose and give my GATTEX injection correctly. We practiced injecting on a dummy device. And then it was time to do the real thing. I remember how nervous I was, but what a feeling to be able to do this for myself!

Now, I take my GATTEX at night, right before bedtime. I rotate between four different injection sites on my body. I number the vials in my kit “1, 2, 3, 4” to remind me which spot to inject on which day. Under the supervision of my infusion nurse and my doctor, I was able to reduce my IV hydration from routinely getting two liters twice a week to regularly getting one liter once a week and, for a time, only receiving IV hydration on an as-needed basis. While this was true for me, not all people who take GATTEX will be able to reduce their weekly PS volume. I eventually had to start PS again. I do sometimes experience redness after injecting or notice a bloated feeling, and I have experienced some bowel blockages. I worked with my doctor to manage these side effects. He temporarily stopped GATTEX when I developed each bowel blockage and restarted GATTEX when they resolved. Again, this is my experience, and others may have different experiences with the medication.

I am glad I have a team of doctors I can trust, and who listen to me. I believe it’s important to educate yourself about treatment options, including the risks and benefits, and to communicate with your doctors when something isn’t working. My doctors continue to closely monitor me and adjust my medications, including all my electrolytes, minerals, and oral supplements. Overall, I am happy with my results.

I have learned many lessons through my life with serious illness, but I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is to be flexible. For me, this means being honest with myself and what I am physically capable of doing in a given day—to recognize that what I can do today might be different from what I could to do the day before. Nowadays, I try not to push myself beyond my limits.

And there’s one more thing I’m doing for myself: I’m sharing my experiences with others. For so long, I was not involved with the Short Bowel Syndrome community. Friends and family are wonderful, but I think it’s important to find a network of people who have been through similar experiences. For me, the people who truly understand what I’ve been through have helped me come out from the shadows, and I am happy with who I am.


What is the most important information I should know about GATTEX? GATTEX may cause serious side effects, including:

Making abnormal cells grow faster

GATTEX can make abnormal cells that are already in your body grow faster. There is an increased risk that abnormal cells could become cancer. If you get cancer of the bowel (intestines), liver, gallbladder or pancreas while using GATTEX, your healthcare provider should stop GATTEX. If you get other types of cancers, you and your healthcare provider should discuss the risks and benefits of using GATTEX.

Polyps in the colon (large intestine)

Polyps are growths on the inside of the colon. Your healthcare provider will have your colon checked for polyps within 6 months before starting GATTEX and have any polyps removed. Children and adolescents will be checked for blood in the stool before they start using GATTEX.

To keep using GATTEX, your healthcare prov der should have your colon checked for new polyps at the end of 1 year of using GATTEX. If no polyp is found, your healthcare provider should check you for polyps as needed and at least every 5 years and have any new polyps removed. If cancer is found in a polyp, your healthcare provider should stop GATTEX.

Blockage of the bowel (intestines)

A bowel blockage keeps food, fluids, and gas from moving through the bowels in the normal way. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms of a bowel or stomal blockage:

  • trouble having a bowel movement or passing gas
  • stomach area (abdomen) pain or swelling
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • swelling and blockage of your stoma opening, if you have a stoma

If a blockage is found, your healthcare provider may temporarily stop GATTEX.

Swelling (inflammation) or blockage of your gallbladder or pancreas

Your healthcare provider will do tests to check your gallbladder and pancreas within 6 months before starting GATTEX and at least every 6 months while you are using GATTEX. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get:

  • stomach area (abdomen) pain and tenderness
  • chills
  • fever
  • a change in your stools
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dark urine
  • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes

Fluid overload

Your healthcare provider will check you for too much fluid in your body. Too much fluid in your body may lead to heart failure, especially if you have heart problems. Tell your healthcare provider if you get swelling in your feet and ankles, you gain weight very quickly (water weight), or you have trouble breathing.

The most common side effects of GATTEX include:

  • stomach area (abdomen) pain or swelling
  • nausea
  • cold or flu symptoms
  • skin reaction where the injection was given
  • vomiting
  • swelling of the hands or feet
  • allergic reactions

The side effects of GATTEX in children and adolescents are similar to those seen in adults. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

What should I tell my healthcare provider before using GATTEX?

Tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including if you or your child:

  • have cancer or a history of cancer
  • have or had polyps anywhere in your bowel (intestines) or rectum
  • have heart problems
  • have high blood pressure
  • have problems with your gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys
  • are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. It is not known if GATTEX will harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you become pregnant while using GATTEX.
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if GATTEX passes into your breast milk. You should not breastfeed during treatment with GATTEX. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby while using GATTEX.

Tell your healthcare providers about all the medicines you take, including prescription or over-the counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Using GATTEX with certain other medicines may affect each other causing side effects. Your other healthcare providers may need to change the dose of any oral medicines (medicines taken by mouth) you take while using GATTEX. Tell the healthcare provider who gives you GATTEX if you will be taking a new oral medicine.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is GATTEX®?

GATTEX® (teduglutide) for subcutaneous injection is a prescription medicine used in adults and children 1 year of age and older with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) who need additional nutrition or fluids from intravenous (IV) feeding (parenteral support). It is not known if GATTEX is safe and effective in children under 1 year of age.

For additional safety information, click here for full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide, and discuss any questions with your doctor.

To learn more about Short Bowel Syndrome and a prescription treatment visit

Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

GATTEX® is a registered trademark of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, U.S.A., Inc.

US-TED-1399v2.0 06/24

Surviving colorectal cancer, reversal complications, and living with faith & perseverance

In June 2018, Osmani Gonzalez began a new exercise program to help him lose weight and kickstart a healthier lifestyle. Two months into his new routine, the then 42-year-old began to experience abdominal pain. Gonzalez assumed it was due to his workouts, but the pain foreshadowed a much more severe issue.

His discomfort only worsened over time, and in August 2018, Gonzalez, who was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Hialeah, Florida, was rushed to a nearby hospital with a swollen abdomen.

To alleviate his pain and to clear an obstruction in his colon, he underwent surgery for an ileostomy. During this procedure, surgeons build an opening in the abdominal wall by bringing the end of the small intestine out onto the surface of the skin, creating an opening for his intestinal waste to pass through into an ostomy bag attached to his abdomen. Unfortunately, the news that came after his procedure was not favorable – Gonzalez was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer.

He cried along with his wife of 23 years Aleida, and despite not knowing what they were getting into remembers them saying, “We are going to fight it, good or bad we will try our best.”

Gonzalez thinks patients should also find time to have empathy for others. “It’s so important to understand the caregiver and ask how they are doing and to never forget that they are going through similar things,” Gonzalez says. He received 12 sessions of chemotherapy for six months. While in the hospital for treatment during the Christmas Holiday Gonzalez, who is an advocate and speaker for father engagement in K through 12 education and active in several area PTA’s where he raised two children, had an idea to bring some cheer to fellow patients by having local children draw cards of support to his fellow patients.

Gonzalez’s cancer went into remission and was told he no longer needed the ostomy.

In February 2019, Gonzalez underwent reversal surgery. However, three days after the procedure, he woke up in horrible pain, and a CT scan revealed there was a leak in his intestine and his staples had come undone. After the blood system was contaminated, Gonzalez was diagnosed with sepsis shock and had to undergo another surgery to have an ileostomy again. Afterward, Mr. Gonzalez was put in a medically induced coma for 18 days.

“At that point, my wife was given very little hope and was told just to pray and prepare for the worst,” Gonzalez said.

When he woke up from the coma, he began occupational and physical therapies and was on an IV drip to help alleviate his constant dehydration. Gonzalez learned to walk and perform basic physical activities. He used a wheelchair for more than three months while he recovered.

Even with the support he was receiving, Gonzalez’s kidneys began to fail. During one of his many trips to the ER, a gastroenterologist suspected he was suffering from short bowel syndrome, a condition in which your body is unable to absorb enough nutrients from the foods you eat because you do not have enough intestine.

“We all have downs and need motivation. Whatever it is you grab onto, you have to have a why and decide to live.”

Gonzalez was rushed to the Hospital’s emergency department and referred to a well-known trauma surgeon and surgical critical care specialist. “He came weighing 176 pounds, and in six months, he kept losing even more weight,” Gonzales recalls the doctor saying. “We only had 125 centimeters of small intestine to stabilize him.”

For Gonzalez to get better, the Doctor placed him on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) so his body could receive the nutrition needed to strengthen his intestines. Over the next two years, Gonzalez continued receiving TPN and seeing the Doctor biweekly, undergoing continuous lab work to monitor his progress.

Despite frequent challenges with ostomy leaks and TPN he would go out fishing and continued to push himself to do things he loved. He remembers one time after a shower attempting to stop an active stoma with his hand and making quite a mess, “My wife just said it’s better laughing than crying,” he recalls with a smile.

On June 25, 2021, he was taken off the TPN and underwent a successful reversal surgery to repair his intestines, clean up scar tissue, and remove the stoma.

On July 9, he went home with a feeding tube and by September 13, he was on a regular and independent diet. His doctor told him, “He’s been one of the most optimistic patients I have ever cared for.”

While going through this medical journey, Gonzalez had to reduce his workflow with his construction company to focus on his health. Mr. Gonzalez is currently enrolled in a program slowly allowing him to join the workforce again. He has been working in construction management and is gradually entering a more active lifestyle.

“I look at life differently now. My focus is improving daily and being more involved in my kids’ lives,” Gonzalez said. “I’m extremely grateful to the Doctor and my care team at the hospital for performing this miracle.”

Gonzalez has expressed what a blessing it has been to have met Lynn Wolfson of the South Florida Ostomy and Tube Feeding/HPN Support Group, which provides support and comfort to other ostomy patients and guides patients through their journey of living with these conditions.

Gonzalez recently had the chance to share his story with the group and UOAA followers around the country on a Zoom presentation. He stressed the mental aspects of recovery and looking beyond day-to-day challenges.

“Keep pushing and do what you love, sometimes even when you don’t want to do something, once you start the process your feelings change,” Gonzalez says. “We all have downs and need motivation. Whatever it is you grab onto, you have to have a why and decide to live.”

Having lived with Crohn’s disease for 43 years, and an ostomy for 35, Lori Plung had known it was possible she would go on to develop Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS). Eight years ago, following her fifth surgery, SBS and the need for intravenous nutrition (TPN) became a reality.

In recognition of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (1-7 December 2023), Lori generously shares some of her experiences, and the advice she’d give to anyone grappling with complexities of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who may be facing the possibility of developing SBS as a result of surgical procedures to treat their disease.

Learning to live with Crohn’s and an ostomy

When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 16 years old, the thought of having to have “a bag” was, quite frankly, terrifying. But at the age of 24, the disease overtook my entire being. I had debilitating pain, cramps, bloody diarrhea and urgency, and I was up multiple times a night – I often couldn’t leave my house for fear of an accident. I was too sick to eat and had no energy.

Eventually I needed an emergency proctocolectomy. My colon, rectum, and terminal ileum were removed, and replaced with a permanent ileostomy. I had been so sick before surgery that I was very weak, and recovery was incredibly hard.

But what surprised me most? The feeling of relief. I was free! As I recovered from the procedure, my pain and symptoms were gone. Suddenly, I could eat what I wanted, and I started feeling back to myself. My quality of life improved and my stoma became my new best friend.

Though I was grateful for this new lease on life, it came with challenges. The Crohn’s disease returned a year later in my small bowel, presenting as multiple strictures and obstructions. I was now navigating flares with an ostomy, often experiencing high output which required supplemental outpatient intravenous hydration, magnesium, and potassium to get my levels back to normal.

What is Short Bowel Syndrome?

Five more surgeries followed in the span of 32 years, with the intention of saving as much bowel as possible. I heard mumbles of avoiding “short gut”, but nobody sat down and explained what that meant. I wish I’d known more about it sooner.

Short gut, also known as Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), occurs when your bowel doesn’t have enough length to absorb the nutrition and hydration your body needs on its own. In most cases, it happens as a result of major surgical resection of the small intestine, necessitated by conditions like Crohn’s and colitis. For a patient like me, with only 69cm of intestine remaining, intravenous nutrition and hydration support is needed to keep my body functioning properly. This is known as Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN).

Coming to terms with a new normal

TPN nourishes my body with the nutrients it’s not capable of absorbing on its own. It’s delivered via a Hickman catheter in the upper left part of my chest, infusing through a pump stored in a backpack while I sleep.

Coming to terms with that wasn’t easy for me. I’d been on TPN before surgery to increase my nutritional status, and I assumed I would be off it at some point during my recovery. But with the SBS diagnosis, that was unlikely to happen. I had a very hard time accepting the fact that I would have to live with a central line for the rest of my life.

Therapy has been invaluable in helping me learn how to cope and accept. I learned that I can dislike having to hook into my TPN each night, and at the same time, I can be grateful for it, and for the life it allows me to lead. These two truths can co-exist together – and that way of thinking has helped me to accept my new normal.


I’m also hopeful that I can reduce my reliance on TPN over time. For patients like me, the goal of SBS management is to increase valuable time off TPN through intestinal rehabilitation. This uses approaches including diet, medications, and surgery to help the remaining GI tract work better so that it can absorb more nutrients from eating. Not all SBS patients are the same, so it’s important to understand each individual’s needs and explore the best options.

It’s also crucial to have the support of a medical team that specializes in IBD and intestinal rehab. Since my SBS diagnosis, I was careful to choose a multidisciplinary team at an academic medical center that is part of the Gastroenterology Rehabilitation and Transplant Program. My physician is an IBD specialist and the director of the nutrition support program, and I’ve worked closely with a dietitian who specializes in treating patients with SBS. Their support has been life-changing.

Need to Know

Having spent over 40 years navigating the complex journey from Crohn’s to SBS, I am now an advocate for patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Here are some of the most important things I think patients should know when managing their own condition:

  • Preserving Bowel
    As a Crohn’s patient, it’s important to be aware of potential complications of surgery, and the possibility that losing large sections of small bowel can lead to SBS. Make sure to discuss this with your healthcare team before surgery, and wherever possible, look for ways of minimizing bowel loss.
  • Learn About SBS
    Being educated, and aware of the resources available to you, gives you the opportunity to have important discussions with your medical team and seek out the best possible care. You can access resources, support, and education through UOAA and other organizations such as the Oley Foundation, IFFGD, Transplant Unwrapped, The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and The Short Bowel Syndrome Foundation
  • Find the Right Team
    Seek out a medical team with expertise in SBS and nutrition to offer you the right support throughout your journey. Ideally, this should be at a center that offers intestinal rehabilitation with a multidisciplinary team. If this isn’t possible, find out if your medical team is willing to consult with such a center.
  • Nutrition Matters
    Pay close attention to your diet. Some foods may lead to increased ostomy output or difficulties in digestion. Staying hydrated and making wise food choices are essential. Learn what works best for your specific condition and consult an ostomy nurse and an IBD/SBS dietitian for guidance.
  • Advocate for yourself
    Being comfortable advocating for yourself does not mean being confrontational. It’s about being heard, understood, and well cared for without feeling dismissed. Open communication with your healthcare team is important, especially when shared decision-making comes into play.
  • Resilience
    Day to day life with these diseases can be hard. Sometimes we have to take things day by day, hour by hour, and even minute by minute to get through the tough times. I believe that every patient is resilient. Sometimes, it’s buried, and we just need a bit of extra support to help it come to the surface.
  • Seek support
    Actively engage with your IBD community. Bowel diseases are very private and isolating, so being surrounded by others who understand firsthand what you are experiencing is very powerful. Family and friends can be supportive, but they can only empathize. Speaking with actual patients who have “been there, done that” is extremely helpful and comforting!
  • Be kind to yourself.
    Self-compassion and self-care are very important when living with the day-to-day challenges of these diseases. For example, fatigue is one of the biggest symptoms of IBD. Giving ourselves permission to rest can be hard for some of us – me included! That’s where self-care and self-compassion come in.
  • Be positive
    Lastly, it is absolutely and positively possible to live a very happy and productive life while living with conditions like Crohn’s disease and SBS.


[Article written by Lori Plung with support from UOAA digital sponsor, VectivBio.]

VectivBio is a global biotechnology company committed to improving the lives of people with short bowel syndrome, who rely on parenteral support (IV nutrition and/or IV hydration). VectivBio is part of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc., a leading global gastrointestinal (GI) healthcare company on a mission to advance the treatment of GI diseases and redefine the standard of care for GI patients. To learn more, visit

Since short bowel syndrome is not something most people talk about every day, I am excited that we have a month to bring awareness to it. As someone living with short bowel syndrome (SBS) and an ostomy, I have learned to be grateful for the technologies and doctors who have helped keep me alive through my surgeries and infections. And I am proud of myself for developing the self-reliance to find ways to make my life easier.

To learn more about SBS, visit To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out

People with ostomies come from all stages of life, and we all have different stories to tell. But we also share some common experiences—and we can learn from each other. I have an ostomy because of SBS, a rare digestive disorder that many people may not know much about. If you asked me about my memories of my SBS diagnosis, I couldn’t answer that because I don’t remember it. My SBS diagnosis happened right after I was born. Fortunately, my doctors quickly ran tests and diagnosed me with Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition at birth where certain nerves are missing from parts of the intestine. I immediately had surgery to remove my colon and half of my small intestine, which led to my SBS diagnosis and having an ostomy.

My parents, who were graduate students at the time, were as ready as they could be to bring home a baby, but I think they had prepared for the predictable, everyday challenges of having a “normal” baby, not for me. After my surgery, I spent about one month in the NICU, where the nurses instructed my parents on how to care for me.

When my parents brought me home, they raised me to never feel different and didn’t see my condition as something to hold me back; they wanted me to be independent, which I am! My health condition has been just a part of who I am. I grew up getting hooked up to IV nutrition, a form of parenteral support or PS, every night. It was such a part of my routine that I didn’t know any different. SBS was just part of my life.

From a very early age, I learned how to take care of myself because that’s what parents teach their children. If I hadn’t had SBS, they would have potty-trained me. Instead, they taught me how to drain my ostomy. Their attitude was, This is going to be difficult, but she has to do this. So, we would work on the steps together. Just like other kids learning to make it to the toilet, I learned how to change my ostomy so that I would be ready for school.

Starting preschool was an adventure. How many schools are equipped to care for a kid with an ostomy? Wildly enough, the director of the preschool was an older woman who had friends with ostomies, so she was familiar with my needs! It’s a great example that, despite age differences, we can connect through our ostomy knowledge and help each other out. Eventually, the preschool teachers and director trained the staff at my elementary school when it was time for me to start my education.

As I was growing up, all my friends knew that I had a health condition. I also think I was lucky in that, while I was technically very sick in the beginning, the doctors were able to address it early on. That meant that even though I had a rare digestive disorder, I was actually not a very sick child. Plus, I just didn’t have that concept of shame. For show-and-tell, I’d pull up my shirt to show everyone my line for my parenteral nutrition. And they’d all be like, “Cool! There’s some weird plastic thing hanging out! Moving on…” No one cared.

Then, when I was in middle school, we moved from California to the East Coast. For the first time ever, I had to share my condition with others—in a student population hundreds of times larger than the tiny magnet school I’d left behind. Plus, my health condition started flaring up for the first time. I missed the first day of school due to my first-ever line infection. At that point, I hadn’t really processed what my medical condition meant for my life.

So, I was dealing with complex new health issues while trying to pretend I was “normal.” I got through middle and high school through sheer determination. While I enjoyed my time at school, I often felt like an outsider—like I couldn’t tell people about my true self. I shrank into myself and let fear cause me to lose who I really was. I realized, for example, that the type of shirt “everyone was wearing” would show my line. If I wore the “in” jeans, which were low-waisted, my ostomy bag popped out. I was already not like everybody else just by my clothes alone. Add in missing a lot of school due to hospitalizations and infections, and people would recognize me as “the girl that’s gone all the time.” I let go of hobbies, friends, talents, and dreams just to blend in.

These days, more than two decades after my SBS diagnosis, I don’t worry about blending in so much. Instead, I am clear about my needs, and I’ve figured out what works for me. It doesn’t matter if my jeans are on trend—feeling good and confident in my own skin and my own life matters most. From my clothing choices to creating an ostomy station in my bathroom that’s both functional and cozy, I have learned to set up the things I need to feel comfortable and happy. This also means that when something is stressful or hard, like if the bag breaks in the middle of the night, I already have a bag ready on my nightstand so that I can deal with the issue. I try to think through what might happen when I am clear-eyed and calm so that when difficulties arise (which, in my experience, they have), I can focus on fixing the problem.

I’ve been managing my ostomy on my own since high school, and even when I’m in the hospital or being visited by nurses at home, I take charge of changing my bag. Sometimes the nurses are curious to see how a patient does it independently. I think that as they watch me, they pick up tips and strategies to show their patients different—but still medically acceptable—ways of managing their bags at home. We (or our caregivers) learn the correct procedures in the hospital, and we all find ways to adapt to SBS.

Thankfully, hospitals and homes are two separate things. So when I bring my SBS home with me, I try to be a good host and make it cozy and comfortable.

In recognition of Short Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month, I would like to encourage my fellow SBS patients and their caregivers to stand up and become their own best advocates. As I said, people with ostomies come from all stages of life, and while every patient is unique, we are all in this together.

This article was created by Takeda.

Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

By UOAA Advocacy Manager Jeanine Gleba, MEd.

For several years UOAA has been advocating for those in the ostomy and digestive disease communities who use opioids for non-pain conditions. In UOAA’s May 2022 ENewsletter we reported that UOAA submitted federal comments with the National Center for Injury and Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its draft update of the 2016 CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. We recommended that the guidelines should not be intended for primary care physicians and other clinicians providing non-pain care for outpatients such as those with digestive diseases resulting in an ostomy or fecal continent diversion who may use opioids to manage high output stomas or patients with short bowel syndrome.  

On November 4th, the CDC released the updated Clinical Practice Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Pain – United States, 2022. They had over 5500 public comments submitted.

Our voices were heard! In the CDC Response to Public Comments on the Draft 2022 Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain they specifically mention our submission under the “summary of themes that emerged from the public comments submitted to CDC” bullet number six:  

  • Some respondents representing non-pain related conditions that use opioids for treatment (e.g., ostomy-related conditions and restless leg syndrome [RLS]) proposed that the Guideline title should be adjusted to better reflect its content and intended use. 

Then on page 4 under the “summary of edits the CDC made to the draft 2022 Clinical Practice Guideline based on public comment” bullets 2 and 3 apply to our comments and concerns:

  • CDC changed the name of the document from the CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids to CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain to further emphasize its focus on prescription opioids for the treatment of pain. 
  • CDC added language throughout the document to emphasize that the 2022 Clinical Practice Guideline provides voluntary clinical practice recommendations that are not intended to be inflexible standards of care or implemented as absolute limits of policy or practice for patients by clinicians, healthcare systems, or government entities. 

They did not specifically add any statement that the guidelines are not intended for primary care physicians and other clinicians providing non-pain care for outpatients with chronic and acute digestive diseases; however, the important takeaways from the document for our patient population are the following:

1) The voluntary guideline is intended ONLY for primary care clinicians and other clinicians providing PAIN care (acute pain, subacute pain and chronic pain).

2) The guideline is not a replacement for clinical judgment or individualized person-centered care.

3) The guideline should not be applied as inflexible standards of care across patients or patient populations by healthcare professionals, health systems, pharmacies, third-party payors or state, local or federal organizations or entities.

4) The guideline is not a law, regulation or policy that dictates clinical practice.

5) As stated on page 5 – “To avoid unintended consequences for patients, this clinical practice guideline should NOT be misapplied, or policies derived from it, beyond its intended use. Examples of misapplication or inappropriate policies include being inflexible on opioid dosage and duration, discontinuing or dismissing patients from a practice…and applying recommendations to populations that are not a focus of the clinical practice guideline.” 

In conclusion, it is clear that these new guidelines should not be applied to our patient populations utilizing opioids for non-pain treatments in accordance with the recommendations of their physician, which was the goal of our advocacy effort. 

With the updated CDC guidelines there should no longer be any misinterpretation of their voluntary recommendations. Our patient community will be protected and should not be restricted access to their lifesaving treatment. 




My journey to a Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) diagnosis followed years of motility issues, intestinal complications and numerous surgeries, including a jejunostomy, which is an ostomy that creates an opening in the part of the small intestine called the jejunum. As a trained architect, I believe there’s no problem too big to solve, and applying that mindset has helped me to navigate the challenges of SBS and life with an ostomy. This is my story.

When I was diagnosed with a motility disorder at the age of 15, I never thought that it would have such an effect in my life. I was able to function with physical activity and limited diet until I had my colon removed in 2015 due to colonic volvulus. In my case, this meant that my colon twisted around itself, causing tissue death from lack of blood flow. The procedure worsened my underlying motility disorder of the small intestine. As a result of my underlying condition of chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction (CIPO), my intestines wouldn’t function. I lost the ability to absorb nutrients through my small intestine. I was in desperate need of answers.

Ultimately, I was evaluated for an intestinal transplant. At the time, my small intestine was severely compromised due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In order to improve my odds of surviving the transplant, I underwent surgery to remove the majority of my small intestine in 2018, leaving me with only four inches of small intestine that didn’t function properly. The surgery, and the resulting serious and chronic malabsorption disorder that accompanied it, resulted in my diagnosis of short bowel syndrome, SBS.

To learn more about SBS, visit To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out


While not everyone will experience an SBS diagnosis the same way, for me, the removal of my colon and most of my small intestine eliminated the ongoing pain and discomfort I experienced when I was living with a motility disorder and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome. Just prior to the surgery to remove my small intestine, I weighed 87 pounds and couldn’t walk half a mile without becoming exhausted. I now weigh 122 pounds and was able to walk nine miles the other day. Keep in mind that this is just my experience and everyone’s journey will be different. In consultation with my medical team, I have decided to put my intestinal transplant on hold.

In my case, living with SBS also means that if I don’t eat the right things, it can affect my electrolytes and fluid balance. Without my colon, I don’t absorb fluids. So, I have found that if I drink water, I can actually lose fluids. A key part of managing my condition has been learning to listen to my own body and trying to understand what’s happening inside. For example, I have learned to recognize the signs of dehydration and have made it a priority to understand my lab values. As I have gained a better understanding of my condition, I also think it’s been important for me to find the right providers for what I’m going through at each stage of the process.


Navigating how to live with a jejunostomy was a challenging aspect in my SBS management, especially when I experienced leaking. I remember once going to a rare bookstore and my ostomy bag opened. In those moments, with liquid pouring down my legs, I had never felt more embarrassed. However, my grandma taught me that you have a choice in uncomfortable situations – you can either cry or laugh. I try to choose the latter. Not everyone will experience leaks with an ostomy, but if it happens to you, I’d encourage you to give yourself grace. Adapting to life with an ostomy can be a gradual process. For example, when I first had my jejunostomy, it took me an hour to change my bag and now it only takes me 15 minutes.

Despite the challenges, I never gave up on looking for answers and solutions. My training as an architect has led me to believe there is nothing that can’t be solved. After consulting with multiple ostomy teams and connecting with people who share similar experiences, I started to embrace the changes that came with my SBS diagnosis and jejunostomy.

I have been lucky enough to receive tremendous support throughout my SBS journey. My family is my biggest source of support. My husband has been there for me despite knowing about my chronic condition. My dad is the one who figured out how to empty the additional drainage bag overnight by flipping it upside down. My mother and grandma have created customized recipes to help with my oral food intake. But, for me, it’s been a continual process to educate the people around me about my condition. I have learned to be patient and vocal about my specific needs.

For anyone living with a rare and chronic illness, I encourage you to reach out and seek community support. A few members of the SBS community have inspired me and helped me to better understand my condition and encouraged me to break down barriers in my own SBS journey by sharing their own experiences. I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences.

When I was first diagnosed with SBS, I did not think it would be possible to continue doing the things I love. Along the way, the architect in me has looked for opportunities to “design my future” with SBS by embracing challenges, educating myself and the people around me, and connecting with others in the community. I am proud of the progress I’ve made – I have a job that I love and I live in a city that I love. SBS is only a small piece of who I am, and it does not define who I am. I hope you can embrace YOUR journey with SBS, too.

This article was created by Takeda.


Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

I started my career as a surgical ICU and flight nurse providing care to the critically ill both on the ground and in the air. Flash forward 34 years, I now am the complex abdomen specialist at Regions Hospital, which is a Level I Trauma Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a wound and ostomy certified nurse, I specialize in complex abdominal wall injuries and enteric fistulas. I often see patients with abdominal disasters that require many levels of support including diverting ostomies and total parenteral nutrition (TPN).

A rare and serious condition called Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) occurs in patients when part of their intestines are surgically removed or injured, and the remaining intestine may not be able to absorb enough nutrients from food and drink.

To learn more about SBS, visit To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out

In my experience, SBS doesn’t impact life early on in a trauma patient’s world while in the ICU. At that time, they often have little to no output of fecal matter because the body is working overtime to support the heart, lungs, brain, etc. Patients’ memories of the hospitalization usually begin once they reach our general care floor, which is when they start to mobilize, eat, and drink.

All this happening simultaneously with a patient awaking to learn that they now have an ostomy can often feel overwhelming to a patient and the family or friends who care for them. Patients and family caregivers may experience grief at the realization that they now have a temporary or irreversible ostomy. The emotional adjustment can take time. And since management of the ostomy and pouch is frequently paired with that of other injuries sustained by the patient, education is incredibly significant at this stage.

At our hospital, we have a stepwise program that involves the entire facility care team – dieticians, surgical staff, bedside nurses, patient care assistants, and other allied health professionals. We start by explaining what is happening with the patient’s body and why it requires management: SBS puts patients at risk for malnutrition, electrolyte disturbances, dehydration, and increased ostomy output. Additionally, patients and family caregivers often go through the stages of grief while mourning the loss of what they consider to be a normal lifestyle. Patient and caregiver education is incredibly significant at this stage. 


When it comes to SBS, I often quote nutrition support specialist, Carol Parrish, MS, RDN, “It’s not the length of the bowel, it’s the functionality.” In my opinion, following Ms. Parrish’s handbook for SBS is beneficial to the patient. You can’t prepare a patient for what comes with an SBS diagnosis, and no two situations are the same. When possible, we try to eliminate the need for long-term TPN for our patients and move toward management of SBS through strict meal planning and medication.


Weaning off TPN is a process that takes time, patience and commitment from patients and caregivers. It is important to educate and re-educate the care teams on medication choices and food and drink choices. I’ve seen great success from patients and caregivers that are diligent in tracking how certain food and drink affect them beyond their stay in the hospital.


SBS is a rare condition that is still not widely recognized in the medical community. More education for providers and access to care for patients is essential. Teamwork is key in managing the changes and challenges that come with an SBS diagnosis. There are resources available to help patients and caregivers as they navigate the journey with SBS and seek support.


Mary Anne Obst RN, BSN, CCRN, CWON, CWS is a complex abdomen specialist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.


This article was created by Takeda.


Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

At sixteen, I got my first job doing janitorial work at an amusement park. As you might imagine, I wasn’t thrilled by the work, which included cleaning the restrooms. I remember coming home and complaining to my mother that I wanted to quit. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, her response would soon take on important meaning for me and the way I would approach the rest of my life. She said, “No, honey, you can’t quit. Our family does NOT quit.”

Her message of perseverance was never more critical than following the moment that changed my life forever – a turning point that resulted in my diagnosis of short bowel syndrome (SBS), a serious and chronic malabsorption disorder. Since that moment, I have had to show up for myself every day and make the decision to never quit.

In October of 1999, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, my family’s car was hit head on in a two-lane highway when someone crossed the center line and struck us. I was in the backseat with my then-girlfriend (who is now my wife) buckled in with a lap belt when we were struck. The seatbelt wrapped around my waist and caused me to lose blood flow to my intestines, which then had to be removed. I was left with no absorptive function and diagnosed with SBS. Though some people may arrive at an SBS diagnosis as a result of other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, my introduction to SBS was abrupt. One day I was a college basketball player and homecoming king. The next I woke up in the ICU being told I would likely never eat or drink again.

The accident left my wife similarly injured — and also diagnosed with SBS — while my mom and stepdad also suffered injuries. Following the accident, our family church would bring food to the house to help out, only I couldn’t eat it. Seeing those casseroles had always been a sign of care, but in those early moments it was torturous. Getting the care I needed early on was a struggle – so much so that my grandma, an amazing supporter of mine, was one of the first people to step in and learn how to administer my total parenteral nutrition (TPN). I’ve been on TPN every night since then.

Due to my SBS diagnosis, for nearly two years, I also needed a jejunostomy, which is an opening created through the skin into the jejunum (part of the small intestines) that can be used for a feeding tube or as a bypass during bowel resection. The sudden need for an ostomy was difficult to accept at first, as I adjusted to my new life with SBS. As time went on and I finally became a bit more comfortable with my ostomy, I remember landing an interview for an internship I really wanted. However, I was so nervous during the interview that my sweat actually caused my ostomy to leak. Although I got the internship, which was a big step towards my personal goals, the experience was a learning curve in becoming confident in the balancing act I’ve had to develop over the years.

I was able to have the ostomy reversed before my college graduation and even graduated on time – a huge victory in the early stages of my SBS journey! But despite triumphing over those physical challenges, I had more hurdles to face, particularly in terms of my mental and emotional health.

For so long I had identified myself as a basketball player, an athlete, and in a single moment I was told that I would never play again. I cannot describe how devastating that was to hear. I wanted to fight, to call on the determination that had been a large part of my high school and college athletic career, but it was so hard to have that motivated mindset after being blindsided by a diagnosis of a rare disease.

Understandably, I was completely down in the mud for the first few months. I would lie in bed watching movies for hours because facing my reality was too heavy. After months of watching others live out their lives in those movies, I decided that I needed to stop avoiding the fight. I decided that, just as I had trained as an athlete, I now needed to train myself to live. I knew I had to focus on what I could control, lean into the discomfort and push through the obstacles to live life on purpose. Something I’ve come to call “living an intentional life.”

My decision to adopt an intentional mindset and train myself to live turned small steps into monumental milestones. The first thing I tasted after those initial months without any food at all was a red cherry Life Saver candy (ironic, right)? That was my small step. When I tried to make the leap to solid food, I admittedly pushed too far, too fast. Doctors told me that I could eat three bites of food, that was all. So, I bought myself a six-inch Subway sandwich, cut it into three pieces, and ate it in three bites! Regrettably, this wasn’t great for my digestive system at the time. But, it was a learning experience and it felt like progress to me.

To the disbelief of my doctors, and others around me, this shift in my mindset – my transition from victim to victor – translated to my physical health as I began to make steady progress. Nevertheless, I experienced challenges as I navigated how to best advocate for myself and balance my SBS management goals with my personal goals for living my best life.

It took a while to understand which types of care were best for me and the way I wanted to live my life. I am very thankful for my wife, who is a wonderful advocate, registered nurse and fighter. She is the one who was first able to step in and say, “No, this is not acceptable,” when working with my care team. It was hard at times to identify the right care solutions. For example, I initially had a Hickman (or central line), but the wires meant I couldn’t swim or shower. Both were too important to me to give up. Since I do not need to access my port for most of the day, I chose to have a high access port (chest level) that I can access each night instead of a central line that would interfere with my daily routine.

Adjusting to the new port was yet another obstacle, as I need to access it via needle. At first, I would get so nervous every night before that needle stick and I would just cry. But I am grateful I can trade that small amount of time each night for the ability to hold onto some important parts of my pre-SBS routine when I’m not hooked up throughout the day. For example, I remember how happy I was to take my first shower, something that I used to take for granted. I definitely used up all the hot water in our house that day!

These adjustments taught me to accept that I was not invincible and to instead focus on what I can control, taking small steps each day and forming habits to benefit me and my health. Though I have been on TPN every night since the accident, my TPN has evolved and is no longer my only source of nutrients. Now I take in ~30% of my nutrition from food and ~70% from TPN. I’ve also learned that sufficient levels of sodium and hydration are important, so now I salt everything and use lots of hydration tablets.

With my doctors’ support, I was able to start running again. In the beginning, I started with a few steps. Over time, I build up to just one mile each day. Then, I slowly built myself up to two miles, then three. Now, I have completed five half marathons! I continue to swim and play basketball, some of the things I worried I had lost forever because of my SBS diagnosis – I am so grateful they are still a part of my life.

I am also fortunate that my workplace includes a supportive team made up of healthy, go-getters who share similar mindsets to mine when it comes to living an intentional life. This work environment has encouraged me to meet my personal goals, including starting my own financial advising firm. Living with SBS can make the workday uncomfortable and unpredictable. But I establish boundaries and habits that set me up for success, such as the ability to avoid having meetings first thing in the morning or right after lunch when I might need to step away to manage gastrointestinal issues associated with my SBS. And my assistant is a great support in that area. Having those people in your life who have your back is everything.

Self-motivation is big for me, but connecting with others in the SBS community has been motivational in a different way. My wife and I went to advocacy group conferences early on, and I found it encouraging to hear from others with SBS. For example, a man who had been living for 55 years on TPN while continuing to thrive and take control of his journey inspired me to share my own story in hopes that others will see how it is possible to still live a great life with SBS.

I have experienced some very deep lows in my SBS journey, particularly in the beginning, but have learned to embrace the victories. I’ve even faced death, on one occasion in a very close call due to a staph infection near my port. It had brought my blood pressure down to 15/10 and forced the doctors to remove the port immediately. Yet, I’ve also seen the beauty of life – I have witnessed the first breaths of my children and so much more. I truly love life, and these experiences only further solidify my faith and perseverance.

This is a journey of ups and downs, but the downs don’t last. I believe we are not given more than any of us can handle, and I know that I can handle so much more than I ever thought I could. My faith, the blessings I have experienced in my life and the support of my care team, family and many others have brought me back to life. I would encourage anyone living with or caring for someone with SBS to be transparent about the challenges they may be facing and embrace them. Find opportunities within the obstacles and be intentional with your life.

To learn more about Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), visit To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out

This article was created by Takeda.

Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


Caring for a child with short bowel syndrome (SBS), a serious and chronic malabsorption disorder, can often feel isolating and disheartening.1, 2, 3 Unexpected barriers and challenges can make the condition difficult to manage and live with. And, because SBS is rare, finding information and support can be especially difficult. But for my daughter Mariah and me, this life with SBS is not about injustice, it’s about empowerment – a lesson Mariah has taught me better than anyone. As she puts it, “Mommy, I picked this life, and I picked you to be here to do it with me.”

Hearing those words years ago through the smile of my young daughter has been the ultimate source of strength for me. Mariah was born with most of her small bowel and half of her colon missing and was diagnosed with SBS at birth. She doesn’t receive nutrients as well as she should, which can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and other physiological complications. However, she was also born with incredible, innate resilience – that resilience has empowered me to break down walls and advocate fiercely on her behalf along our journey.

Finding strength has not always been easy. At the time of Mariah’s birth, the doctors said she would not live past one year. Essentially, I was told that my daughter had a death sentence. I did not accept that. But even though I didn’t doubt that she would survive her SBS diagnosis, I still grieved. Then, eventually I said to myself, “We will be the exception. We will be unique, and my child will thrive.” And, ultimately it was Mariah who created her own reality by not only surviving, but thriving. She simply shocked everyone.

Mariah is now ten years old, and she’s just like other kids in so many ways. For example, she certainly doesn’t like to clean her room! She is also her own wonderfully special person – she is a trickster who loves playing jokes on her brother and sister, and even kids around with nurses and staff during difficult hospital visits. She is equally nurturing and an avid caretaker of the sunflowers in our garden.

As Mariah gets older, I want to encourage her to become independent in every aspect of her life and to be curious about her SBS management. She already likes to gather her own supplies and has taken a particular interest in flushing out her own line (of her total parenteral nutrition [TPN]). Mariah doesn’t have the eating aversion that some kids with SBS might develop, so I allow her to eat whatever she wants and stock up her assigned “snack pantry” with what she chooses. Giving her the option to choose her own snacks is just one way that we’re building and supporting Mariah’s self-reliance in her SBS care and daily life.

This sense of independence helps Mariah feel like her true self because, as other parents of children with SBS likely know, the disease is not always pretty. That was especially true of Mariah’s experience following a surgical procedure known as an ileostomy. An ileostomy is a surgically created opening from the ileum, the lowest part of the small intestine. The intestine is brought through the abdominal wall to form a stoma. We agreed to do the ileostomy after she had been experiencing incredible pain when trying to use the bathroom. She would have acidic bowel moments and fissures – it was just awful.

The ileostomy was a temporary solution at best but was by no means perfect. We never had enough bags (or ileostomy pouches) and living with an ileostomy was challenging for us. At Mariah’s school, I would try to encourage curiosity and acceptance by telling the other kids that Mariah was an “alien from another planet” to explain her pouch. While a somewhat satisfactory explanation for most of the kids, she still experienced bullying from some of them. Thankfully, Mariah has always been confident in letting those bullies know that even if they weren’t being very nice, she would love them anyways. She punished them with kindness. It’s just another one of those things that makes her “Mariah”. Ultimately, Mariah was able to have the ileostomy reversed a few months ago which was a relief to us all.

In the moments of struggle that come with her SBS, Mariah has always responded with even greater moments of strength – sometimes even more strength than I possess myself. She has already had 40 surgeries in her first ten years of life, and on one occasion I decided to do her makeup with “winged” eyeliner before her procedure. However, when she came out of surgery, her makeup had been smeared. When she saw that I was crying, I told her the white lie that it was over the ruined eyeliner rather than let her see how hard it was watch her endure another challenge. Yet she was the one who said, with an unbothered smile, “Mom, stop! It’s not that serious, we’ll fix it later.” Her spirit is my strength, and that spirit inspires me to advocate fiercely for her every day.

In general, I feel there needs to be greater advocacy for the lives touched by SBS. It’s rare, and in my experience, there aren’t many people who can bridge the gap between parents’ understanding of the condition and the knowledge that medical professionals have. Although people living with SBS often have a circle of care that includes healthcare professionals across various disciplines, it can be difficult to merge everyone’s insights and get on the same page.

I have learned that to speak the same language as medical professionals, you must be invested and passionate about your research. For me, Google is my best friend. I research online to understand things like the vascular system and other biological processes. I read medical case studies online. I look at clinical studies. I constantly do my own fact-finding because I want to understand how a treatment will impact my child. The best way to do that is by arming myself with information as I fight to ensure she receives the care and treatment plans that are most appropriate for her. 

It can take time to find medical professionals who are comfortable when a parent says, “I respect your opinion, but I’ve done my research, as well, and we’re not going to do that; we’re going to do this instead.” I’ve learned that you can, in fact, get through brick walls. Although sometimes it’s by going over, around or under versus breaking through. And when medical professionals don’t think I’m at their level, I have no problem “putting on my heels” to get there so they hear me.

Although I am not a physician, I do have a PhD in Mariah – no one knows her better than I do. I know that when she has an infection, her eyes will turn bright green. When she’s going to have a fever, she sleep talks. I’m compelled to ask the deeper questions about why a doctor may believe a new treatment or procedure is necessary. This sometimes has forced us to switch providers because in my view, “protocols” are not personalized to Mariah’s needs. Every person with SBS has a unique experience.

We are ALL human, doctors included. And we can make mistakes, learn and grow. All the things that I didn’t know when Mariah was diagnosed with SBS have helped me remain teachable and earnest in advocating for her. I’ve learned so much more by recognizing what I don’t know. Being humble enough to take advice has given me the greatest defense.

Nevertheless, it is challenging to constantly find resources and support, especially as a single parent. Trying to make ends meet at home while managing Mariah’s SBS journey is an ongoing challenge. Even when reaching out to other parents in the SBS community, it can be difficult to find balance. But the biggest support I find is that I don’t feel alone. When I talk to other parents in the community about our experiences, they just get it. I don’t have to explain Mariah’s condition or worry I will feel crazy. I can just ask, “Do you experience this?” and they say, “Yes, we got you!”  Immediately, I feel less alone.

This journey takes strength and resilience, there is no doubt about it. Even with the support of the community and loved ones, ultimately, no one really knows what it takes for Mariah to be Mariah. They don’t know she has to carry a backpack for her nutrition. They don’t know what it looks like when I have to hold her for 15 minutes after her three daily shots. But they do see her strength, and they are compassionate towards the way Mariah knocks down every obstacle in her way, even those that would probably defeat others. I am humbled that this is our walk, and I believe it was given to us for a reason.

Just as the community encourages me and reminds me that I am not alone, I hope to encourage others in the community who may just be starting out on their SBS journey or struggling along the way. When talking to parents of newly diagnosed children, I want them to know that every child is unique, like a fingerprint. It’s all about believing that your child can do what they need to do. The most important thing is to know you’re doing the best for your child at every step of the way. This condition does not have to be a death sentence. And, if your child is anything like mine, he or she is likely stronger than you ever could have imagined.

To learn more about Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), visit To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out

This article was created by Takeda.


Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


My journey with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) spans 61 years, and it has been full of twists and turns. I’ve often wished that I understood from the beginning exactly what it meant to have SBS – it is not temporary, rather it is chronic. That means it’s a lifelong condition, and it has frequently caused me to make adjustments to maintain my independence and lead a productive and meaningful life. Reaching independence and self-reliance took years of learning the importance of self-advocacy to get the information I needed from my healthcare providers, no matter how difficult it may have been to hear that information. Each symptom, diagnosis, ostomy and medical procedure that preceded my eventual SBS diagnosis posed new challenges. The more I knew about what lay ahead for me, the more I could take charge of my own life. As August marks SBS Awareness Month, I hope my experiences will help inform and inspire others living with this serious and chronic malabsorption disorder to speak up and ask for information and tips to help maintain as much independence as possible.

A very long time ago, before cellphones, DVD players, home computers, microwaves and color TV, I was born in New Jersey in February 1959. I was a very “clean” baby, with no dirty diapers, which soon raised concern among the medical professionals who started me on enemas and laxatives. I ate very little and projectile vomited most of what I did eat. My mother continuously tried to find out what was wrong with me. Despite many doctors advising her that it was a discipline issue, no diagnosis made sense. None of their theories panned out. Nothing worked. And so began a long journey of wishing we had known what I was living with much earlier on.

In the summer of 1963, my mother, in her desperation, called the White House, spoke to the switchboard operator and requested the name of the Kennedy children’s pediatrician. She then made an appointment with the chief of pediatric surgery. The doctors conducted multiple tests, but unfortunately, I was discharged before the test results were back as the hospital was dealing with another emergency patient! Consequently, my mother did not receive the results, and we left wishing we had more answers.

It took three more years, another hospitalization and my first surgery for a doctor to request those records and discover I should have been diagnosed with a rare, congenital condition called Hirschsprung’s disease back in 1963. Back then, my family and I didn’t know that this diagnosis would increase the likelihood of future gastrointestinal procedures and diagnoses, including SBS. In fact, after that first surgery, my doctors told me I would be fine. Yet, I developed a fistula and the treatment/surgery for that left me with an ostomy. It closed within a year, and my parents were told yet again that I was fine, and we had learned all we needed to know.

Throughout my childhood, I continued to experience episodes of vomiting and few bowel movements, which left me very thin. To stop the vomiting, I had a laparoscopic procedure as a young adult, which I hoped would be the last of my surgeries – if only I had known what lay ahead. My surgeries did not stop there as I had hoped, and I had a second and third ostomy. In 2002, I was placed on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) for the first time. At that time, I was only receiving TPN during my stay in the hospital while recovering from surgery. My body had tried to cover up the symptoms of malabsorption for more than forty years, and I was now seeing the effects of my severe nutritional deficits. I would return to needing TPN periodically over the next two decades.

In graduate school, I met my husband, and we now share a wonderfully supportive family. When we wanted to start a family, there were some severe issues with my pregnancies. My firstborn was delivered via emergency caesarean because I couldn’t stop vomiting. I was hospitalized seven times during my second pregnancy. And then when I finally went into labor, my blood pressure dropped drastically throughout the delivery. I’m happy to say that despite their dramatic entrances, my daughters are happy, healthy and successful – both are biomedical engineers, and one is also a doctor.

In April 2006, I participated in a colonic motility study, and what I’d learned in pieces over the years was finally confirmed: my colon was functionally deficient. Six years later, I found myself unable to eat due to severe abdominal pains and a pseudo-obstruction and was put back on TPN. I feared this would prevent me from traveling on a three-week family trip to Australia, but my husband and daughters learned how to properly store, prepare and administer my TPN infusions, so we could still travel. I am so grateful to have been able to enjoy that trip with my family despite my TPN, ostomy and needing to use a catheter. I would encourage families and caregivers of people living with ostomies and/or SBS to take every opportunity to promote their self-care and independence as much as possible. For me, traveling with my family is important. Learning how to pack and plan our trips in ways that help me maintain my independence has made a big difference.

In August 2013, I was once again faced with just how much I didn’t know about my condition when I was officially diagnosed with SBS. My doctor explained that, rather than solely due to the length of my bowel, my SBS diagnosis was based on my clinical symptoms. My intestines could not sufficiently absorb the nutrients my body needed, leading to malnutrition and dehydration. To maintain nutrition, I continued on TPN.

After finally reaching 145 pounds in September 2019, I was told to discontinue TPN. With SBS, however, I do not know how long this reprieve will last, and these unknowns are important motivators for me to self-advocate when it comes to talking to my healthcare providers. As much as possible, I think healthcare providers should be upfront about the ramifications of living with SBS to fill the gaps in understanding disease management. For me, I spent a lot of time learning as I went along, and my hope is that by sharing my experiences, I can encourage others to ask the tough questions every step of the way.

I am thankful my husband and daughters have always been there for me, helping me emotionally at every doctor’s visit. My husband especially helps me get through each learning curve and the occasional late-night clean-up from messy ostomy accidents. I even have a service dog who carries my medicine for me wherever I go – I consider him my personal ambulance. Without this wonderful support around me, my life would be much more complicated.

That support has helped me take an active role in advocating for myself and others with ostomies, feeding tubes and other GI issues. Each condition differs in how they affect us physically, yet many of us share common concerns. Though people like me may appear healthy on the outside, I want to increase awareness that SBS can be a hidden illness requiring a lot of medical maintenance, sometimes including an ostomy and feeding apparatus. I want to support those like me who also may feel overlooked. Because of that, I started a support group that focuses on ways to continue living our lives, discussing everything from travel to preparing for emergencies. I also advocate on the national level, attending National Institutes of Health conferences in Washington, D.C. I would encourage patients and caregivers to attend local support groups as well as regional and national conferences to meet other people with SBS to share experiences and tips.

These opportunities to connect with the community of patients and caregivers managing GI conditions help to remind me I am not alone. Our individual journeys to SBS diagnosis may involve varied GI conditions and symptoms, and it can feel challenging to find others who share our experience. Sometimes our family and friends forget that we are not quite as physically strong or have stamina unless we mentally prepare ourselves for individual occasions. But in our shared SBS community, we can truly feel related to, supported and understood. I may not have had all the answers along the way, but with support and community I don’t have to dwell on what I wish I had known. I can simply live and learn through each moment.

To join the community and learn more about others living with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), visit You can also engage with #shortbowelsyndrome on social channels, especially during the month of August, which is SBS Awareness Month.

This article was created and sponsored by Takeda.

Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.