As Francene Olesen drove home from Minneapolis to Lohrville, she gripped the steering wheel as another wave of stomach pain hit. After four years, she was accustomed to the pain but fed up with it at the same time. She pulled over in Albert Lea and considered going to the emergency room there. Finally, the pain eased and she was able to get the rest of the way home.
Her stomach pain began in 2013 when Francene lived in Minnesota. She moved to Iowa to be close to family, but continued to travel north every three weeks to see friends and her endocrinologist for hypothyroidism. At times, her pain was so severe she had to visit the ER in Minneapolis. “They would give me an enema to relieve the constipation. The pain would let up but then get worse,” she recalls. Her medical provider prescribed laxatives and a special diet to help get things going.
“Finally, I told my medical provider in Iowa, ‘You have to do something,’ since the pain was occuring almost nightly,” Francene remembers. A magnetic resonance image (MRI) created a detailed image of Francene’s abdomen. It revealed she had cecal volvulus, or twisted bowel. A cecal volvulus is the rotation of the ascending colon, which causes approximately 1 to 3 percent of all large bowel obstructions. If untreated, cecal volvulus can progress to restriction in blood supply to tissues in the bowels, death of the bowel tissue, or a hole forming in the intestine. In Francene’s case, the ascending colon was detached.
Francene was advised to visit an emergency room if she began to feel sick. By the time she returned home, Francene was in pain and she was brought to Stewart Memorial Community Hospital’s ER where she was seen by board certified physican assistant Mark Mogensen, who was able to study the MRI and contacted surgeon Josh Smith who was on call at the hospital.
Dr. Smith examined Francene and recommended surgery to correct the problem. “Surgery to repair the torsion of the colon was the most viable option for Francene. Her colon would actually flip from side to side. I moved her colon back into the proper place and afixed it securely to be confident the problem wouldn’t recur,” he explains.
“Dr. Smith exuded confidence. I sensed that I could trust his skills. I didn’t feel so scared when he explained what was going to happen. He told me, ‘I’m going to take really good care of you.’ And he did,” says Francene.
Dr. Smith performed the surgery laparascopically at SMCH, which resulted in reduced recovery time and little scarring. “After surgery he told me there was no evidence of gangrene in my colon, which was good news for an easier recovery. ”
“I had lived with the pain for four long years. It had really impacted my life. I was in pain almost every night. I would take walks, but because of the pain I couldn’t go very far and would have to take three to four day breaks between walks due to the pain. I would have to cancel times with friends and family because of it. I had to learn to live with it. I used a heating pad and sometimes pain medication to sleep. When I woke up after surgery the pain was completely gone,” says Francene.
Her recovery was brief. “I spent a day or two in the hospital. I had good care from the very attentive and friendly staff. When I needed pain medication, the nurses were quick to administer. The food in this hospital was the best I’ve ever had,” laughs Francene.
When she was released to go home, Francene recalls how simple the recovery was. “During past surgeries, I’ve had reactions to the anesthesia. It was difficult to recover from the side effects. For this surgery, I didn’t have any of those issues,” she says.
After four years of living with pain, Francene says she is a lot more comfortable. “I’m not on edge all the time about when the pain would strike and what would make it go away.”
Her experience with Dr. Smith and her move to Gowrie led her to choose medical providers at McCrary Rost Clinic in Gowrie. “I now see certified family nurse practitioner Rochelle Guess and board certified doctor of osteopathic medicine Margaret Vitiritto in the Gowrie clinic. They really listen. As I get older, the more valueable it is to me that doctors listen. It seems to me people don’t listen as well as they used to do when I was younger,” comments Francene. “I really appreciate Rochelle, Dr. Vitiritto, and Dr. Smith. Being believed when I talk about my symptoms and having people come up with creative solutions is so important.”
Francene is especially grateful to Dr. Smith. “He inspired me to trust him. It was obvious he cared, was knowledgeable, and had the patience to listen to me.”