Hospital battles incurable Crohn’s

Husband Elie Rahme, Blacktown Hospital inflammatory bowel clinic patient Ramona Rahme and daughter Silvana Rhayem.

After years of stomach pain and nausea, Hebersham mother and grandmother Ramona Rahme was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 27 years ago.

Crohn’s disease is an incurable form of inflammatory bowel disease which can affect people of all ages.

Ramona is one of the 1,500 people in the Blacktown local government area who are suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Up to 50 per cent of these people need specialist medical care to manage their illness.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I was always sick and had a sore stomach. I was always throwing up after eating. It was horrible,” Mrs Rahme said.

“I went to the GP and had blood tests.  After seeing numerous specialists I was finally told it was Crohn’s disease. Back then they didn’t really know how to treat the disease so I was taking 63 tablets a day.”

After four bowel operations and various treatments and plans, Mrs Rahme’s life is more manageable.

“I’m still taking prescription medication and have routine tests which keep my condition under control.

“To make the bed I need to sit down twice for a rest and I’m unable to go shopping for long periods without taking a break.

“This disease is a constant lifelong illness but it has taught me to life live to the fullest.”

Blacktown Hospital’s inflammatory bowel clinic opened in 2014 in response to the rising number of people suffering with the condition. The clinic is currently treating more than 200 patients who require specialist care and operates fortnightly.

Gastroenterologist Dr Viraj Kariyawasam said Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two major forms of the disease.

“These diseases can be hard to diagnose as symptoms aren’t specific,” Dr Kariyawasam said.

“However, common symptoms are abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhoea and per-rectal bleeding,”

Patients can be referred to the Blacktown Hospital’s clinic from their GP to manage their care or for a second opinion. Patients will receive ongoing follow-up and personalised treatment plans.

“The treatment of the disease has changed drastically over the last five to ten years,” Dr Kariyawasam said.

The care is becoming more complex but more personalised as everyone is different.

“There are also clinical trials under way allowing patients to access new treatments. This is why it’s important people consider getting a referral to our IBD clinic at Blacktown Hospital.”

Referrals to Blacktown Hospital’s IBD clinic are necessary. You can get one from your GP. For further information call 8670 0086.

Crohn’s disease patient Ramona Rahme.