Juliana Lavell lives with a condition that she says has a huge impact on her day-to-day life.
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“Just to have a bowel movement, it can almost bring me to tears just to even empty myself,” Juliana said. “It’s very painful.”
The 39-year-old West Kelowna woman has Crohn’s disease.
She lost her entire large intestine and most of her rectum and now lives with an added complication after developing what are called fistulas.
“They’re just little tunnels that are like leaks that come out and burrow, like fecal matter that finds its way down through other holes of my skin down there,” she told Global News.
The condition has left her with little to no bowel control.
“It’s horrible,” Juliana said. “I just have a lot of accidents now and I kind of hide out at home.”
If she wants to work, do yoga, socialize, or hike she must not eat that day, and must take anti-diarrhea medication.
The yoga teacher and mother said if she wants to work, socialize or hike, she avoids eating.
“Basically if I want to do anything in the evening, I just can’t eat that day,” she stated.
Juliana had an ostomy bag but developed a serious allergic reaction to the adhesive causing inflammation and rashes.
The fistulas also comes with their own risks.
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They can worsen and create abscesses and sepsis, which can be life-threatening.
“It’s been excruciating…to see her suffering,” said Julianna’s mother, Shan Lavell.
But there is some hope on the horizon.
After much research, Julianna discovered a colorectal surgeon at a clinic in Pune, India, who has developed a technique to heal fistulas using a specialized laser.
Julianna said it’s given her an ‘incredible amount’ of hope.
“I found a group through Facebook actually that have people from all over the world that have travelled to Pune, India, to this clinic, where they are receiving surgery for their fistulas within 99 per cent success rate,” Julianna said.
“So the success rate is really high and I’ve only heard like really positive results.”
But the India option isn’t cheap.
Julianna said the procedure itself is at least $20,000 followed by up to three months of post surgery care-a costly medical trip the family is now fundraising for.
“It’s been hard to ask for help,” said Shan Lavell. “We’re enormously grateful. We have had an outpouring in the short 10 days or so that we’ve had the GoFundMe. We’re just overwhelmed with the appreciation.”
Juliana plans on travelling to India in the new year, hoping for a new lease on life.
“I was really depressed…so it would be incredible if I can get this done,” she said.
For more information or to donate, the GoFundMe link can be found here.
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