Judge’s disclosure took guts
(Opinion by Miles Smith, LPR Editor)
It’s something we’re discouraged from talking about at a young age.
It’s certainly not something we discuss in mixed company or at the dinner table.
It definitely elicits eye rolling and groaning among many in a crowd if someone brings it up.
And yet, we all do it.
I’m not a betting man – my lifetime average on friendly wagers sits well below .500 – but I’ll bet some of you just rolled your eyes when you read the one-word paragraph that preceded this one.
If you did, cut it out. What follows next is important: It’s a good idea to seek medical attention when things aren’t going right in the oval office. And it’s equally important to be educated about what we should put in our stomachs, what comes out the other end, and when we should be concerned and talk to a doctor about it, no matter how embarrassing it might seem.
Monday morning during Caldwell County Commissioners Court, County Judge Ken Schawe took a moment to clear the air and dispel rumors that swirled around about his mystery ailment that led him to seek emergency surgery shortly after the Republican Primary election, stay in the hospital awhile and miss a couple of court meetings.
The cause: diverticulitis with complications so severe they necessitated surgery to remove a portion of his colon the same day he went and saw his doctor.
If you’re unfamiliar with diverticulitis, consider yourself blessed. Diverticula are small pouches that form in the colon over time. Usually they happen when you get a little bit older, the product of genetics and the good-old-fashioned American diet that is high on meats and processed foods and low on whole grains, fresh vegetables and raw fruits.
Without getting too graphic, a diet that’s entirely low in fiber can put a strain on things – literally. That leads to a lack of motility in the gut and can make you work too hard when you’re in the loo.
All it takes is one of those diverticula to become inflamed, infected and … well, you get the picture. You can become violently ill with something that feels akin to the worst food poisoning imaginable. And before it gets really bad, you might be tempted to curl up in bed and see if you can just sleep it off.
That’s what I did, anyway. You see, the judge and I have something in common. Although I was only 35 and in reasonably good health, one day a few years ago I woke up feeling worse than I ever had. Excruciating abdominal pain. Figured I’d just eaten something that was wrecking my system the day before, and I’d just take it easy a couple of days.
A week passed, and I was still a mess. Finally, I went to the emergency room, and got the same diagnosis our County Judge received in early March. My colon had ruptured and become infected. I was admonished for not seeking medical attention sooner.
What followed was hell. I won’t go into details, but I had a few medical procedures that culminated in me having about seven fewer inches of digestive tract than I had on my 35th birthday. The process that spanned about three months of my life from the initial diagnosis was arduous.
So, that being said, I’d like to say three things.
1. Good for you, Judge Schawe. You bravely told the court – maintaining a sense of humor about it – that you’d had diverticulitis, you’d had part of your colon removed, that you were having to deal with a temporary colostomy bag, and that you were just doing your best to plod along until you’re healed up enough to have things put back the way they were. What you did was transparent, helps raise awareness, and, well, took guts. I know what you’re going through, and it isn’t fun. But better days are ahead, man.
2. I don’t think many of us consider what we should be eating or how we should be feeding ourselves until our health is compromised. I’m not a doctor, obviously, but I’d encourage y’all to do some reading and speak with your physician about how much dietary fiber is recommended and what foods you can find it in. Might save you some trouble. And, of course, don’t ignore severe or chronic abdominal pain.
3. Finally, if you suspect it might be happening to you, don’t be embarrassed. Get to your doctor. Your symptoms might be nothing to worry about. They might be something that needs immediate attention. But if you don’t go, you won’t know.
We can’t afford to keep a lid on the topic any longer. A little discussion goes a long way toward raising awareness that could keep everyone healthier.