The University of Chicago Medicine Transforms Life for Crohn's Patient

The University of Chicago Medicine Transforms Life for Crohn's Patient
After being successfully treated for Crohn's disease at the University of Chicago, Bob McCullough took to the road. He completed a week-long, 475-mile ride across Iowa.

Bob McCullough struggled with symptoms of Crohn's disease on and off for 25 years starting in 1967. The disease causes inflammatory ulcerations in the small and large intestine. When one surgical procedure led to another and complications began to develop from the assault on his colon, McCullough turned to the University of Chicago Medicine in March 2003 because he knew of its reputation for success in treating this complicated disorder.

Roger Hurst, MD Roger Hurst, MD

A series of diagnostic tests found that as a result of his Crohn's disease, McCullough had fistulas, tubular connections between the bowel and other organs. A nine-hour surgery performed by Roger Hurst, MD, an expert gastroenterologist, rerouted the pathway of McCullough's waste material through an ostomy, an opening in the abdomen. Hurst also removed McCullough's appendix and rebuilt his intestinal pathways to solve the problem the fistulas created.

Crohn's and ulcerative colitis are very treatable conditions, and much of the pain and complications patients experience can be avoided if they receive proper care.

McCullough stay at the hospital lasted less than a week. "When I went home, I could eat anything as long as it wasn't too spicy or crunchy," he said. "I enjoyed pasta, applesauce, grilled chicken, you name it -- it was amazing."

An avid road biker, McCullough got back on his bike a couple months after the surgery and rode 5,000 miles between May 2003 and the end of that year. Other than some difficulties with his ostomy, which is permanent, McCullough has not suffered any additional effects of his disease and has stayed in remission.

"Dr. Rubin and his colleagues truly are ‘at the forefront of medicine,' and I could not be happier," he said. "Every now and then I feel a bit discouraged, but I look around at people who don't have legs or arms or who are blind, and I feel grateful for the amazing care I received."

David Rubin, MD David Rubin, MD

While McCullough can't express enough gratitude for his care, David Rubin, MD, co-director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, who referred McCullough for surgery, said patients like McCullough motivate him. "Instead of letting a disease define and limit him, he has been able to use his experience to enhance and inspire his life," Rubin said. "When I'm in my clinic and I encounter patients like him, I feel inspired to continue doing what I'm doing because the next person who comes in sick could go on to lead a productive and exciting life."

He also emphasizes that Crohn's and ulcerative colitis are very treatable conditions and that much of the pain and complications patients experience can be avoided if they receive the proper care.

Rubin said stories like McCullough's also demonstrate how far the medical community has come in managing Crohn's. For example, during the past 10 years, five new drugs have been approved to treat the condition and 20 more are in the pipeline. Advances in the surgical management of the disease, including minimally invasive techniques, also have had an enormous impact, he said.

"I am lucky to be part of the University of Chicago Medicine's legacy of success in this area," Rubin said. "The contributions of their scientists and physicians have been instrumental in bringing new methods of treatment to patients in need."

August 2010