Finding Relief After Colon Resection Surgery

November 7, 2017

Longtime Diverticulitis Sufferer Athelia Doggette Undergoes Removal of Problematic Section of Colon, Now Ready to Return to the NFL

The toughness seen in the National Football League isn’t limited to the field. It extends to NFL Players Association employee Athelia Doggette, who endured a long and painful battle with diverticulitis, or digestive tract inflammation, before undergoing surgery and working toward recovery and a return to her fast-paced job.

Since 2015, Athelia had been living with diverticulitis, which is a condition when pockets develop in the colon, that can cause pain, abdominal tenderness, nausea, vomiting or constipation. She began treatment with MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center physician Dr. Min Kim, who helped treat her using dietary modifications and treatments of antibiotics.

When her symptoms returned half a year after her last treatment, Athelia attended an Ask-the-Doctor Seminar entitled “When to See a Doctor for Growths,” and decided, in partnership with her MedStar physician team, that her case needed surgical intervention.

“Because of the kind of person I am, I did my research,” said Athelia. “I engaged with my doctor and did my own research to help this process along. I understood without this treatment, I could develop an infection or another abscess (a painful, swollen lump of pus caused by an infection).”

Athelia underwent a colonoscopy, which is a procedure using a thin tube affixed with a camera that allows a physician to fully examine the inner lining of the large intestine to look for inflammation, as in Athelia’s case, and can also detect the presence of ulcers, polyps, tumors and sources of bleeding. Once it was determined Athelia would benefit from removing the problem section of her intestine to prevent additional outbreaks, she was paired up with General Surgeon Dr. Michael Gillespie, who performed a robotic colon resection procedure to remove the affected area of her colon.

“We use a daVinci robotic machine, and if a patient needs this option, to have a part of their colon surgically removed, we can accommodate that here,” said Dr. Gillespie.

The machine used for Athelia’s procedure, which represents the latest in technology, allows surgeons like Dr. Gillespie to view a three-dimensional, high-definition view inside the patient’s body, and use a laparoscopic tube equipped with a camera to perform surgery in the most minimally-invasive way possible.

“In terms of resources, for a community hospital, we have improved greatly since I started here three years ago, and patients have said they receive outstanding care at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center,” said Dr. Gillespie.

After surgery, Athelia reports she is feeling good and healing well. She says she is improving every day due to Dr. Gillespie, her own determination and the help of her faith and family. Her appetite is back and Athelia will soon be ready to return to work and spend fun times with her friends at MGM National Harbor.

She has this advice for others who suffer from her condition: “I was not aware of what diverticulitis was until it hit me twice. It is a tough thing that can take away your total quality of life in an instant. Lots of myths exist about it, so I recommend you get together with a great doctor and have a conversation.”

Visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Surgery for more information about surgery services at our hospital.

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