Helping patients across closed borders

06/Jan/2021     Health

John Delgado has been impacted by ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), for the past five years. This condition causes inflammation and ulcers in his digestive tract which leads to disabling symptoms including bloody diarrhoea and abdominal pain.  

He was being cared for at Mater Hospital where he received regular infusions and injections to treat his illness however the treatments were not effective, very time consuming and left him with side effects and he was beginning to contemplate having surgery to remove his entire large bowel.

“I am only 34 years old, having bowel surgery would have a major impact on my life as I like to keep fit and active. I love bushwalking, kayaking, bike riding and going to the gym,” John said.

He was then referred to Gastroenterologists Dr Yoon-Kyo An and Associate Professor Jake Begun who were performing IBD clinical trials within Mater Research, John was given a simple pill to take each day which began changing his life.

“Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. This disease can be debilitating for patients and while there is no known cure, treatment can greatly reduce signs and symptoms of the disease and bring about long-term remission,” Dr An said.

“Within two weeks John reported he felt better and within six weeks was in remission, he felt incredible and was so glad to be off the invasive medication and procedures. It was fantastic to see this result in a clinical trial.”

While John was on the clinical trial he continued to work which required him to fly in and fly out of the state. While he was working in Western Australia, the borders suddenly closed due to the pandemic and John found himself trapped in Western Australia unable to return to Queensland.

“I continued to work on site during the border shut down, but my medication began running out, this was special medication as part of a clinical trial and not just something I could grab from a local pharmacy,” John said.

“Fortunately, Jake and Yoon were able to connect me with some of their colleagues at the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Western Australia who had access to this medication and were able to treat me from there.

“I was cared for by Gastroenterologist Dr Lena Thin and her IBD Nurse Daniel Lightowler who were able to keep me on the medication while regularly checking in with Jake and Yoon in Queensland to assess my progress.”

Yoon said there was nothing exceptional about what they did for John and is all part of how doctors across the world collaborate together for the benefit of their patients.

“When there is no way, we find a way. We are constantly being presented with challenges and we work together to overcome them. This is an excellent example of how this work can positively impact a patient,” Yoon said.

John has now returned home and been reunited with his family and medical team, he said he will be forever grateful for how the medical teams collaborated to care for him.

“I am so appreciative of the extra effort they all put in to ensure I had access to my medication and stayed well, I could not have imagined being alone in Western Australia with my IBD flaring up again,” John said.

“For anyone suffering with IBD who is offered a clinical trial, I would say to them you should go for it, if your medication is not working what do you have to lose?”

“It is very clear that medication is improving in this area and the change this had made to my life is incredible, I would love to see more funding into this type of research as it really had changed my life.”

For more information about Gastroenterology and Hepatology services please visit our website here.

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