Every job has risks, and the health field is no different. They really don't know was causes Ulcerative Colitis. Yes, they can describe a bundle of signs and symptoms which are used to diagnose the condition, but they really don't know what triggers it. I personally think it is due to a bacteria imbalance, which leads to the other problems. Whether I somehow picked it up at work or someplace else, my first symptoms started while serving in the Air Force.
In August of 1998 I began having diarrhea. I'm not talking about 1 or 2 episodes. More like waking up a dozen times at night to run to the bathroom. I went to sick call seeking treatment for this horrible diarrhea, which was the worst I had ever had in my life. When the doctor entered the exam room, he was brief. He asked what was wrong and I expressed my concern over the amount of diarrhea I was having, and let him know I was scheduled to work that night. He just looked at me and said something like 'you look fine, I'm on call tonight; call me if it gets worse.' That's it! No testing, no samples, not even some blood drawn. If you have ever served in the military you know that an E-2 or E-3 is not about to page an O-4 in the middle of the night, when he was already told 'you look fine.' I really felt put out by this Major, and thereafter referred to him (to my colleagues) as "Dr. Cuckoo".
This reminded me about the 2 times I went to the nurse's office when I was in school. In 3rd grade I had a stomach ache and went to the nurse's office several times. She kept telling me that I wasn't sick. After I finally vomited on a kid standing in the way of the bathroom door, I was sent back to the nurse's office. She announced "you're sick." Later at another school I began feeling feverish and ill during 7th grade. I went to the nurse's office a couple times, but she refused to let me in to see her, stating she was too busy. Finally one of my teachers pulled the nurse out of some 'important meeting' and demanded that she see me. I was sent home with a temperature of 102.5 and later diagnosed with strep throat. Some people look very sick when they don't feel well, with other's you can't tell as easily. Apparently I fit into the latter group. Maybe I should have put on my saddest face and cried each time I went to the nurse or doctor's office. In any event, I didn't. I reported for work as usual that night.
At work I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. My coworkers knew that I was not playing around. I always arrived to work early and did my job well. One of my patients that night was a small child, whose mother stayed with her. This child's father happened to also be a medic at the same hospital. He came up from the ER, where he worked, to check on his child and say hi to his wife. He wanted to see the medic taking care of his kid. He was really upset when my coworkers told him that I was in the bathroom sick, that I had been to sick call, but was there taking care of his kid. Hospital workers know you shouldn't take care of patients when you have something that might be contagious. He invited me to come see the doctor he worked for in the ER.
In the ER the doctor immediately got upset with me, asking why I had not gone to sick call as was the hospital policy. The medic stepped in, explaining that I had in fact gone to sick call and been told to go to work. The doctor sent me home with some pills for nausea. I hadn't actually thrown up yet, but was feeling nauseous. Again, no testing of any kind was done. I really felt put out, and later found out that in my chart the doctors put there was no blood in the stool. Why would they put that when they didn't even check it? I was frustrated and feeling really put out by 2 doctors at the very hospital I worked so hard at.
The diarrhea didn't stop. It lasted about a month that time. Nurses at work gave me advice to stay away from dairy products and try the brat diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). I did so, and after about a month the diarrhea finally went away. Or did it? I continued to have diarrhea 2-3 days per month. Sometimes it was worse than others. It continued following my honorable discharge from the Air Force in May of 2001.
By then I had already learned to stay away from grape juice and other highly sweetened drinks. I would soon have to stop drinking orange juice as well, noticing that it aggravated the situation. Other foods were added to the do not eat list, such as lettuce and other raw foods high in fiber. I kept a roll of toilette paper in a bag under the seat in my car, and another in the minivan. Unfortunately these sometimes came in handy on drives in uncivilized parts of Idaho. When I went hiking, I kept a roll in my backpack. I didn't take this problem seriously. After all I had seen 2 doctors who obviously didn't think my problem was very important. The doctors and I would both start to take the problem more seriously a few years later.