Beacon News, The (Aurora, IL)September 26, 2003
By: Dan Waitt
Dr. H. Drexel Dobson and Nicholas Savage, 24, at Rush-Copley Medical Center
AURORA — Nicholas Savage has looked forward to the day when his body would function normally.The 24-year-old Oswego man who has suffered from colitis for the past six years recently underwent surgery that essentially gave him a new colon, and a chance at that normalcy.”I’m supposed to be better than I have been in the past five years,” Savage said. “In about a year’s time, I should be close to normal.” Dr. H. Drexel Dobson III, a surgeon specializing in colorectal diseases at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, performed the operation, one of some 18 he has done in the past few years.
The procedure is not new, but Savage’s operation is among the first in the Fox Valley area. “Very few general surgeons know how to do it,” Dobson said. How it works
In the procedure, doctors remove the diseased colon, then use about three feet of the patient’s small intestine to form a new colon. A temporary ileostomy is used to channel waste matter away from the new colon while it heals. Once the temporary bag and waste tubes are removed, the new colon should function as normal.Savage returned home recently after a few days in the hospital for that follow-up procedure, with everything functioning well, Dr. Dobson reported. Basic bodily functions are not something an average 20-something person wants to talk about, but Savage is both educated and eloquent on the matter.
“I’ve been in the hospital at least once a week every single month before this,” Savage said. “It was pretty much something that had to be done.”
Before the surgery, Savage suffered symptoms that caused him to visit the bathroom at least 20 times a day and 10 times at night. In addition, he was taking about 10 medications.
Savage said he ruled out the other option available to him — colon removal with an external waste collection bag. Before he had the follow-up surgery, Savage said “the temporary bag was driving me nuts.”
Savage is upbeat about his progress and prognosis. “I feel the best I’ve felt in a couple of years,” he said.
Pleased with results
Savage started feeling ill at about 19. At first the doctors told him it might be hereditary, but no one if his family was similarly afflicted, he said. No one really found at what caused it.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, as many as 1 million Americans are afflicted with the related inflammatory bowel diseases of the digestive tract. Crohn’s affects the small and large intestines. Colitis is a disease of the colon. Its symptoms include persistent diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and weight loss.
Left unchecked, colitis eventually could lead to cancer.
Although the procedure has been around for about 30 years, Savage’s operation is the first of its kind performed in the Fox Valley area.
Once Savage accepted the need for surgery, he weighed his options and visited several large Chicago university medical centers and other suburban hospitals.
“The main thing was, when I was first told I needed to find a surgeon, I wanted to find one I was comfortable with,” Savage said.
Savage found what he was looking for in Dr. Dobson at Rush-Copley.
“He sat down with me and told me everything I needed to know, and what I might expect. He said there were no guarantees, but based on his experience with others he has worked with, he thought this would work for me,” Savage said.
Rush-Copley Hospital’s location close to his Oswego home and the Aurora drug store where he works as an assistant manager have also been a plus for his follow-up visits, Savage added.
But the key, Savage says, has been his rapport with Dobson.
“He’s just been one of my favorite doctors. He was there every single day with me, checking on things. He even gave me his cell phone number.”
Dobson is pleased with his patient’s progress.
“I think his quality of life is significantly better,” Dobson said. “He’ll be able to go to the bathroom like everyone else.”
As with any surgical procedure, it might not be for everyone.
But Dobson said even patients in their 40s, 50s and 60s could benefit if other conditions are right.
“It is for everyone who has the disease, is young and has their whole life ahead of them,” Dobson said.
Dobson said his colorectal specialty has enabled him to help those who suffer difficulties with daily physical functions that most people are able to take for granted.
“People are very appreciative,” he said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in taking care of people with this kind of problem.”