Camas woman caught off guard by Crohn’s

Elaina Tellup’s battle with the disease has been challenging in more ways than one

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually develop gradually but they can come on suddenly. Symptoms may also disappear during periods of remission.

Symptoms of active disease include:

Diarrhea.

Fever.

Fatigue.

Abdominal pain and cramping.

Blood in your stool.

Mouth sores.

Reduced appetite and weight loss.

Those experiencing persistent changes in bowel habits and other signs of Crohn’s disease should seek medical attention.

Source: Mayo Clinic

You Can Help

A family friend set up a GoFundMe page to help Elaina Tellup cover medical and living expenses incurred as a result of her Crohn’s disease diagnosis and subsequent surgeries. To donate, visit the webpage:

www.gofundme.com/elainas-home-from-the-hospital

Elaina Tellup was so busy worrying about everyone else’s well-being that she ignored signs that her own health was declining.

In summer 2016, Tellup was dealing with the stress of her sister undergoing her third surgery for a heart condition and her brother being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Tellup was trying to be the stable one for her mom — the healthy kid.

But once everything else in her life settled down, Tellup realized she was anything but well.

“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” said Tellup, now 25.

For months, Tellup ignored stomach cramps that were strong enough to bring her to her knees. Severe back pain left her reliant on ibuprofen to get through the day.

In March, when the pain became unbearable, Tellup visited an urgent care clinic. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong during an exam. But that night, the Camas woman received a phone call from the clinic, urging her to get to an emergency department right away. Lab results showed Tellup’s blood test results were worrisome.

After months of visits to the emergency department, doctors started to suspect a culprit: Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. It may lead to life-threatening complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. The inflammation often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue and can cause abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation and ulcers in the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum, affect more than 1.6 million Americans, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

A colonoscopy and endoscopy revealed Tellup had a golf ball-sized abscess in her bowels. Antibiotics shrunk the abscess considerably, but after another visit to the emergency room in July, Tellup learned she needed surgery.

Surgeons removed the abscess, part of Tellup’s bowels and her appendix. A couple of days later, surgeons removed even more of her intestine.

Tellup spent a month in the hospital. The surgery resolved the back pain, but it didn’t stop the debilitating stomach cramps.

“I’m not necessarily getting worse, but I’m not getting better,” Tellup said last week.

Tellup underwent a third surgery on Thursday to repair holes in her bowels and remove another piece of her intestine. The goal, Tellup said, is to get to a point where the inflammation and damage to her intestine is reduced enough so she can use medication to tame the disease’s symptoms.

There’s no known cure for Crohn’s disease, but therapies can greatly reduce symptoms and even lead to remission, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Until she can begin taking medication, Tellup can only make dietary changes to minimize symptoms. She’s had to cut fruits and veggies from her diet because her body can’t digest fiber easily. Her stomach pain makes it difficult for Tellup to eat, so she’s supplementing her diet with IV nutrition each night.

“It was a learning experience,” she said. “I had to change everything.”

Tellup also has been out of work since July. Tellup works for Clark County Juvenile Court as a juvenile services associate, supporting youths coming into the juvenile court system while they wait for their cases to be resolved.

Tellup was able to use paid time off she had accrued, and co-workers had donated to cover living expenses through mid-September. She was recently put on long-term disability, which provides a percentage of her paycheck. That should help cover some expenses until she can return to work. A family friend created a GoFundMe webpage for Tellup, who also supports her 19-year-old brother.

Tellup hopes her severe Crohn’s case can serve as a reminder to people to listen to their bodies when something seems amiss. Most people with Crohn’s don’t get abscesses right away. Had she listened to her body and sought treatment sooner, Tellup said, she may have spared herself from pain and surgeries.

“I think I could have caught it a lot sooner if I would have paid attention to myself sooner,” she said.