Meredith: Counting Her Blessings
When Meredith B. reflects back on the effective treatment of her ulcerative colitis, she always ends up in the same place - counting her blessings.
It's as easy as 1-2-3.
Meredith, of Potomac, MD, draws a direct line from her recovery from the debilitating effects of the chronic autoimmune disease to three of the most important things in her life - her children: Jake, 11; Mason, 8, and daughter Ellie, 5.
"I'm really involved with my three children and I love every moment of it," said Meredith. "When you have ulcerative colitis (UC) and it's flaring up it's always at the front of your mind; it dominates your life. There's no way I could be doing what I do now with my family if I were still at that stage. I could hardly even go out of the house."
But she's not at that stage. In fact, thanks in large part to Dr. Mary Harris, Medical Director for The Center for Inflammatory Bowel and Colorectal Diseases, she hasn't been there for a long, long time.
1 - An Optimal Treatment Plan
While there is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, Meredith's disease has been in remission for about eight years now. She attributes that status to her own efforts to "take better care of her herself," and to Dr. Harris, who eight years ago prescribed treatment with a drug called Remicade. The result for Meredith has been a total life changer.
Administered intravenously, Remicade moderates a patient's immune system and can inhibit the underlying sources of colon inflammation caused by UC. It is generally only prescribed after other types of UC treatments - from anti-inflammatories to steroids - have not shown positive results.
In Meredith's case, she had gone many years with both no treatments and then with other treatments that sometimes helped, and sometimes didn't. She was initially diagnosed with UC at the age of 9, a tender time to be struggling with an ailment characterized by stomach cramps and frequent restroom trips. "I battled it all the way through middle school and high school," Meredith said. "But I didn't want to be different, so I kept quiet. I didn't want to be the teenager talking about colon problems. But in my experience the longer you go without treatment the worse it is."
For a number of years Meredith was treated with Prednisone (a common steroid) and other maintenance drugs, but would still experience what she calls "flares," episodes where she would be afraid to leave the house for fear of needing a restroom.
2 - A Family to Rely On
Her blessings began arriving when she went to college at the University of Maryland at College Park. It was there she met her future husband Mitchell, whose parents happened to have a connection to a good gastroenterologist at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. One of the doctors on his staff was Dr. Mary Harris, who eventually prescribed Remicade as treatment for Meredith's UC. Dr. Harris, who moved to Mercy Medical Center in 2008, was instrumental in bringing Remicade Infusion to the hospital, helping create a dedicated Infusion Center at Mercy that Meredith now utilizes.
Prior to her beginning the Remicade infusions, however, Meredith had married and had her first children. They were not easy pregnancies as she battled protracted UC flare-ups. It was just after the birth of her second child, Mason, that she began the Remicade. "I know Remicade doesn't work for everyone suffering with UC, but it did for me," Meredith said. "I felt cured. I've been in remission ever since."
Three years later Meredith became pregnant with her daughter Ellie and had fears about going through the pregnancy while being treated with the drug. She turned to Dr. Harris whose advice was to stay on the drug and stay healthy. She did both, and had a beautiful baby girl.
3 - Doctors and Healthcare Professionals Who Care About You
In addition to her children and husband, Meredith counts the staff at Mercy among her blessings. When Dr. Harris moved to Mercy, Meredith said she was a little unsure about following since she had no experience with the hospital. She was also hesitant about the shift because of the tremendous support she'd been receiving from the nursing staff, particularly a nurse named Lisa Turnbough.
"Lisa was so caring," Meredith said. "She always made me feel like I was going to get better even when I didn't think I would." As it turned out, not only did Dr. Harris move to Mercy, so did Lisa, who is now the Clinical Nurse Navigator for Mercy Medical Center's Neuroendocrine Tumor Center. And Meredith followed. The only time she's looked back since is to count those blessings that have taken her this far.
Meredith continues to get Remicade infusions at Mercy every eight weeks and with a busy schedule that includes exercise and significant time with Mitchell, who she calls "a terrific husband and father," and of course, her children, she's feeling quite happy and healthy.
"I was a little nervous at first about moving to Mercy but it's been everything I could have hoped for," Meredith said. "The nursing staff makes me feel cared for, and I completely respect Dr. Harris. She always stops to check-in when I'm doing the infusions. She is compassionate, caring and thorough. I feel that every time I go to see her, I'm seeing the best. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Dr. Harris and Mercy."
And the best part is she's had no "flares" from the UC for eight years now, and for that Meredith is forever grateful. "When the children get a little older I'm thinking of going back to work," she added. "I have a degree in Hearing and Speech from Maryland but what I'd like to do is to give back what's been given to me. I wouldn't mind being a spokesperson for Remicade or doing something that could help others who are going through what I've been through. I'm that passionate about it. I got my life back. I feel truly blessed."
Meredith's Treatment Team