Melinda Ridgely

Crohn's Disease Patient Says the Difference After Surgery was “Amazing”

Since 2003, Melinda Ridgley had suffered from stomach problems. After several tests, she was finally diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2005. She went to UMMC where she was treated by a multi-disciplinary team of physicians. Read about her experience below.

What were your symptoms/medical problems?

Photo of Melinda Ridgley

In 2003, after I graduated from high school, I had a lot of stomach problems. I went to the hospital because of severe pain and thought I had appendicitis. When I first arrived they did an X-ray. They thought I might have Crohn's disease so I had a colonoscopy and the results were inconclusive. They took out my appendix and the symptoms went away.

When did you decide to seek treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center?

In 2005 I came to work at the University of Maryland Center for Weight Management and Wellness, where I got to know Dr. Park. I started losing a lot of weight. It became so painful I could hardly eat. I lost 40 pounds. Dr. Park then recommended that I see Dr. Cross.

What happened when you went to see Dr. Cross? Why did you ultimately decide to have surgery?

I first saw Dr. Cross in November of 2005. I got a CT scan and when Dr. Cross saw the results, he said that I had Crohn's disease. He wanted to do a colonoscopy to see where the disease was in the ileum (the lower part of the small intestine) and how far it extended. When he did the colonoscopy he found out I had an intestinal stricture (an abnormal narrowing of the intestine). The inside of my intestine was so inflamed that nothing could pass through.

Then he started me on 6-MP -- which is an immunosuppressant -- to keep it from spreading. He also put me on steroids (Entocort EC) and I was a little better for a month.

Then things got out of control. I had a flare-up several times a week. I was still in such pain that I couldn't eat solid foods, so I went on a liquid diet. At that point they put me on Prednisone, which worked. I was able to eat solid food but the side effects were bad. I gained back 45 pounds in fluid. I felt uncomfortable, bloated, had mood swings and my period stopped. I stayed on it for four months. Finally it got so bad I started talking about surgery because Dr. Cross had mentioned that as an option. He gave me all the options and he let me make the decision.

Dr. Cross was always so supportive. He always gave me research statistics and background information to help make my decision. Then I scheduled my appointment with Dr. Park to discuss surgery.

When did you have your surgery and type of operation did you have?

I had the surgery in August of 2006. Dr. Park did a laparoscopic ileocolectomy (an operation that removes the diseased section of the ileum and ascending colon) because the stricture was in the ileum. He took out the ileum along with 18 inches of bowel.

How was your recovery?

I was in the hospital for six days. I was walking around the next morning. The recovery time was minimal, and I was back to work in only three weeks.

How did you feel after the surgery?

The difference in how I felt was amazing. I didn't have any more pain, I had no trouble sleeping and I could eat normally. After the surgery, the side effects subsided and the Crohn's pain was gone. Two months after surgery I was off the Prednisone, and I lost 15 pounds of Prednisone weight.

Now I'm back at a normal weight for the most part. I still stay away from roughage (fiber) and red meat, but otherwise I have gone back to a normal diet. I feel wonderful. It's amazing how much better I feel in the two-year span. I spent three years being sick all the time. Six months after surgery, I felt amazing.

What did you think of Dr. Cross?

When you first meet him, you know he's going to take good care of you. He will answer all of your questions and won't let you leave until you feel better. I always knew if I were in his hands, I'd be safe and healthy. He's absolutely wonderful.

For more information about our services or treatment options or to refer a patient to the IBD Program, please call 410-706-3387.