A sudden onset of acute diverticulitis, an inflammation or infection in the small pouches in the digestive tract, ravaged a portion of his large intestine, requiring a complex surgery to remove a foot of diseased colon. “If I had waited a couple of days, it could have been really nasty,” said a grateful and relieved Rezac. What is diverticulitis? Diverticulitis is a common medical condition where pouches in the digestive system become inflamed or infected. It is often called a disease of Western civilization because of the prevalence of processed carbohydrates in our diet. They have replaced whole grains, nuts, fruits, legumes and vegetables, foods that provide important fiber. One third of Americans, on average, develop the disease by age 60, two thirds by age 85. It often develops quietly without a lot of symptoms. However, when patients develop inflammation and symptoms, those can range from mild abdominal pain to severe abdominal infection requiring emergency surgery.
After his initial diagnosis, a regimen of intravenous antibiotics quieted much of the inflammation, but a follow-up CT scan revealed persistent inflammation in the colon with the abscess threatening to invade his bladder. Andy, 46, is married, the father of three. After graduating from Northfield High School and St. Scholastica, he worked in his father’s plumbing business before venturing out on his own with three ReBath franchises. His diverticulitis was news to him. He remembers fighting through some abdominal pain he characterized as “discomfort” while coaching his son’s hockey team at a tournament. By the end of the weekend, he was in bed with a skyrocketing fever. He spent seven days in the hospital on antibiotics. His condition had stabilized, and he was able to go home. His antibiotic therapy continued for three weeks on an outpatient basis through the hospital’s Emergency Department. But there was a stubborn infection brewing and surgery was scheduled. Colon surgery is delicate and complex, in most cases requiring involvement of two surgeons. Dr. Katya Ericson and her colleague Chris Nielsen, MD performed Andy’s surgery. In Andy’s case, extensive inflammation in the colon during surgery would make it difficult to identify the ureters – the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Dr. Braasch, an urologist, was enlisted to place lighted stents to protect the ureters. Andy spent six days in the hospital and another week at home recovering. Now he’s back on the ice with his son.
Andy praises the surgeons for their case management, surgical expertise and excellent follow-up. “I could have gone other places to have the surgery, but after consulting with trusted friends who practice medicine themselves, I chose Northfield Hospital. They have great surgeons and I wanted to be close to home to make it easy on my family.” He also has praise for the nursing staff and the hospitalists who attended to him in the hospital. Dr. Ericson says Andy’s was a complex case. “Whenever there is extensive inflammation, like Andy had, the surgery gets very difficult because we are trying to minimize a long list of potential complications and that means we move at a very deliberate pace,” she said. “As a relatively new surgeon at the Northfield hospital, I was impressed by the excellent care and the ability of multiple departments to work together in Andy’s case: from his initial admission, hospitalist care, daily antibiotic treatments in the emergency department, the flexibility of the urology specialists, and outstanding work of the operating room staff to ensure that proper equipment was ready for Andy’s surgery. The dedication of our staff to patient care is what makes the Northfield hospital stand out.”