A mother who woke up from a routine operation to burn off a cyst to the shocking news that she had had a colostomy done and a fallopian tube removed, is now celebrating a life free of crippling pain.
For months, doctors had struggled to find the cause of Michelle Tonge’s constant agony, which brought her to hospital on Christmas Day with suspected appendicitis, only for tests of the organ after removal to show she was fine.
They then had to induce their second child at 37 weeks, only to be distraught and delivered via emergency C-section, as specialists suspected it was causing the excruciating pain in Michelle’s lower abdomen.
But when surgeons scheduled an operation thinking a cyst was behind her problems, they took drastic action to save her life when they were thrown into an emergency when they discovered a leak had joined her intestines, ovary, and fallopian tube.
Michelle, 32, who lives in Coleford, Gloucestershire, with her carpenter husband, Robert Tonge, 34, and their children, Emilia, 11, and Alfie, 9, said: “When I woke up I just screamed. She was hysterical”.
“I had an ostomy bag on the outside of my body that collected my waste, with drains everywhere and I was hooked up to a morphine IV.”
She added: “I was in total shock and petrified by what had happened.”
“Doctors said they couldn’t risk not doing the operation as the leak could have spread and that could quickly become life-threatening.”
Instead of finding the suspected cyst, her medical team at Gloucester Royal Hospital diagnosed Michelle with Crohn’s disease, a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed.
Now, more than a decade after her appendix was removed on Christmas Day 2012, when her pain was still baffling doctors, Michelle wants to turn the spotlight on Crohn’s disease, which affects more than 500,000 people in the UK. Kingdom, according to Crohn’s and Colitis UK.
She said: “Crohn’s disease is invisible and debilitating. I could be smiling and doing my job in the middle of an outbreak.”
“There will be times when the pain will be so bad that you won’t even be able to move and you’ll just feel sick and dizzy.”
Michelle remembers being “the picture of health” until she began experiencing excruciating stabbing pains in her lower abdomen when she was 28 weeks pregnant with Alfie, resulting in her appendectomy on December 25, 2012.
But her pain persisted both before and after Alfie’s birth on February 26, 2013, resulting in her scheduled surgery to remove a suspected cyst a few months later in June.
After the routine operation, she had planned turned into a four-hour emergency procedure to save her life — even though she was left with an ostomy bag and one missing ovary and fallopian tube — she was relieved. that she had finally been diagnosed.
Before this, when her pain persisted after Alfie’s birth, she feared they would not bond because her hospitalizations became so frequent.
She said: “Nobody knew why I was in so much pain.”
“It felt like someone was twisting a rubber band around my intestine.”
“I was screaming and crying in agony every day, I was sick, I was dizzy and I was nauseous.”
“It was a vicious cycle for six months.”
After being constantly in the hospital, where her stool and blood were tested and scans were performed, doctors ultimately concluded that a complicated cyst on her right ovary might be behind it all.
She said: “When the doctors told me it could be a cyst, I felt a kind of saving grace. They were doing ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs all the time with no positive news.”
“But this news about minimally invasive surgery to remove a cyst seemed great.”
She added: “I had to sign documents where the worst-case scenarios were covered.”
“My mother wanted to come to the hospital, but I told her not to worry because she would be in and out in an hour thinking it would be easy.”
While waking up with a colostomy was far from easy, Michelle quickly learned to change her eating habits to a “simple foods” diet and to avoid anything that could cause flare-ups.
She said: “It took me two years to monitor what I was eating to figure out how to avoid breakouts. But life got back to normal a little bit more.”
However, living with a colostomy was very difficult while raising two young children, so in June 2014 the operation was reversed.
She joked, “It was like potty training three people.”
“My bag leaked all the time. She couldn’t go to the store by herself in case it leaked and she had to go to the bathroom.”
But Michelle has now adjusted to life with Crohn’s disease, which she says doctors believe was caused by her pregnancy, and she’s never been happier.
She said: “Before my diagnosis, I was as worried that I wouldn’t bond with Alfie as I did with my daughter, but my bond with him is wonderful.”
“Emilia has been amazing at all times and she had to grow up fast.”
She added: “She knows if I have a stomach ache and always gives me a hot water bottle.”
“Life is very different from how it was so many years ago, I never imagined I would get here.”
“I thought the pain would never end and now life is great.”
And in March 2020, a week before the first lockdowns for coronavirus Michelle even opened her coffee shop, Bicky’s, in Coleford, which was a lifelong dream of her and her 60-year-old mother Kim Bick.
She said: “For someone who has Crohn’s, I’m not doing badly and I’m extremely proud.”
“It is undeniably amazing that I was able to start my own business. This seemed completely impossible 10 years ago.”
“Getting over everything we’ve been through and having two healthy children, owning my business, and working with my mom is a fantastic feeling and a dream come true.”
Now Michelle, who still needs to go to the bathroom up to 10 times a day due to her condition, has adjusted to life with Crohn’s disease and is eager to tackle taboos around bowel problems, including the use of radar braces. : master keys that give people access to more than 10,000 closed bathrooms for people with disabilities.
She said: “I have been quite embarrassed about needing the toilet so often for many years, but recently I have started to open up because it is so important.
“I want people to stop being afraid to speak up because there are a lot of people who are going through this too.”
She added: “I used to be quite embarrassed to wear a radar key because people would say I don’t look disabled. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”
“Everyone poops, so let’s talk about it.”