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Courtney Annotti

Life After Ulcerative Colitis Surgery Feels Amazing

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My name is Courtney Annotti. I’m 22 years old and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) eight years ago. UC is a chronic condition that causes long-lasting inflammation in the large intestine. For years I experienced pain that would come and go, and the anxiety of always having to know where a bathroom was. I tried several medications to control my symptoms, but to no avail. Concerned that my condition was worsening day by day, my gastroenterologist referred me to UCSF to meet with Dr. Madhulika Varma, Chief of Colorectal Surgery at UCSF. 

When I met with Dr. Varma, I immediately felt comfortable in her care as she explained the details and concerns of the procedure I was considering. She made me feel confident that surgically removing part of my colon was the right thing to do, and I had no doubt that I wanted her to be my surgeon. My instincts were correct, as I was told after the surgery that she took extra time to remove my enlarged colon with the least invasive incision possible. This is part of Dr. Varma’s expertise, and what sets her and UCSF apart from other institutions in treating conditions like UC. Patients like myself benefit greatly from minimally invasive procedures offered at UCSF because our recoveries are less painful and we can return to normal activity more quickly.

Colorectal Photo Courntey Annotti

I’ve since learned that the UCSF Center for Colorectal Surgery is a world leader in the care of patients with colorectal conditions utilizing state-of-the-art technologies like advanced laparoscopic and robotic surgery, whenever possible. Through the Center for Colorectal Surgery, they treat patients with UC, Crohn’s disease, colorectal cancer, diverticulitis and more. What makes the Center such a standout is the team of experts assembled to provide the best treatment options and patient care possible. To further benefit their patients, they employ a collaborative approach that includes radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, urogynecologists, genetic counselors and others. 

I had family with me at the hospital for my surgery and in-patient recovery. They appreciated that Dr. Varma gave them a thorough explanation of the procedure after my surgery, and assured them that everything went well. She gave us insight into what the days after my surgery would bring and what my recovery would look like. 

Perhaps even more daunting than surgery itself was knowing that afterwards I would have an opening in my abdomen, a stoma, that my small intestine would attach to. I was extremely nervous about this and how it would impact my day to day life. It seemed like a big lifestyle change, and I feared I would need a lot of time to adjust to it. Amazingly, this fear was short lived. 

My incredible nurse practitioner, Lois Anne Indorf, let me watch her put on and remove the ileostomy bag a few times until I was finally comfortable enough to get a little more acquainted with such a big change to my body. As an integral part of the colorectal clinic, Lois Anne provides invaluable education and support to patients going through a range of procedures. With her help, I was able to adjust rather quickly to my stoma and realized there was nothing to be scared about. I have become so comfortable, I have named my stoma Illy. Together we have adjusted to our new and healthy life. 

I am feeling amazing and can only see a positive outcome from all of this. The staff definitely played a huge role in helping me feel confident about this change to my body and lifestyle, and I honestly could not be happier with it. 

I would definitely recommend Dr. Varma and her team to anyone in need of surgery. She and her team are outstanding, very helpful, comforting and knowledgeable. Thanks to Dr. Varma and her staff, at 22 years old I can return to a normal life free of any health complications. 

In addition to providing exceptional patient care, like I benefitted from, the Center for Colorectal Surgery boasts a research program focused on assessing clinical outcomes and quality of life for patients. The faculty and staff are leading numerous clinical trials to speed the process of translating novel therapies directly into patient care. This research informs the cutting-edge care that Dr. Varma and her team are able to give at the UCSF colorectal clinic. 

To find out more about the UCSF Center for Colorectal Surgery, patient care and research, you can visit their website

- Courtney Annotti

Tags: ColectomyOstomy Surgery: Ileostomy & ColostomyUlcerative Colitis
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