Crohn's Disease: The Near Death of Katie Silva-Mendez

Crohn’s Disease: The Near Death of Katie Silva-Mendez

Internal Medicine

20 Dec 2022 | 2 | by kjh

2561710login-checkCrohn’s Disease: The Near Death of Katie Silva-Mendez

Katie Silva-Mendez is an extraordinary person.  At 21 years old she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  She endured 29 surgeries and by the time she was 30 years old, her doctors referred her to hospice.  For many people, that would have been the end of the line.  But Katie didn’t give up.  She decided to get another opinion. That decision saved her life.

Katie traveled across the country from Las Vegas to Washington D.C. to visit the Georgetown Transplant Institute. Medstar Georgetown has the largest intestinal transplant program in the U.S.  The doctors at Georgetown work on complex cases and save lives every day.  They perform approximately 20% of all intestinal transplants in the U.S. and have the highest volume globally.

Dr. Sukanya Subramanian, a small bowel adult transplant gastroenterologist, assessed Katie and attempted to rehabilitate her bowel function.  After much care from doctors, it was time to wait for a transplant donor.  And fortunately for Katie, she got the call she was waiting for. Georgetown found a donor and she was given two hours to get to the hospital.  Though she was excited, she was scared as well.

After two years of medical management, she underwent isolated intestinal transplantation performed by Dr. Cal Matsumoto, small bowel and liver transplant surgeon and director of the Center for Intestinal Care and Transplant at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.  The transplant was successful.  Katie says she has a whole new lease on life. She went from last resort with hospice referral to enjoying her life and being excited about the future.

Dr. Sukanya Subramanian is a small bowel adult transplant gastroenterologist. She specializes in small bowel transplant and intestinal rehab. She says, “There is a lack of recognition of transplant as a treatment for Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a disorder of a dysregulated immune system with manifestations in the bowel.

While intestinal transplant does not cure the disease, it is a valuable intervention in select patients, for which conventional treatments have shortcomings. We carefully evaluate each patient to first consider intestinal rehabilitation using a variety of dietary, medical and non-transplant surgical approaches to restore health and well-being.

We also have numerous clinical trials for intestinal failure. When a patient has an aggressive phenotype of the disease with chronic persistent strictures or fistulae, has undergone three or four surgeries or has been on TPN for more than a year, physicians should consider referring them for a transplant evaluation.”

It’s a good idea to do research and find out who specializes in treatment before you give up.  If a medical facility doesn’t have expertise in your illness, do research and find out who has expertise in the field.  For Katie, traveling across the country was worth it.

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9 months ago

When you read about someone who has been through so much at such a young age you can’t believe you could feel sorry for yourself about little things

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