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I’ve been left with a ‘Barbie bum’ after Crohn’s got so bad I had to wear nappies

A MUM has been left with a “Barbie bum” after her Crohn’s disease became so severe that she had to have surgery to close her buttocks.

Ashley Strickland became reliant on adult nappies after having surgery to remove several major digestive organs.

In 2010 the now 34-year-old started to experience severe stomach pains which turned out to be ulcerative colitis.

This is a condition in which the bowel becomes inflamed.

But within weeks her symptoms disappeared and Ashley thought the illness had gone for good.

Five years later the illness returned and Ashley was plagued by uncontrollable diarrhoea.

The mum-of-two from North Carolina, US, was admitted to intensive care twice before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

The lifelong condition affects the digestive system and Ashley has now said that at first she felt as though the condition was “robbing her of her whole life”.

Ashley had surgery which meant that her bowel would be diverted through an opening in her abdomen called a stoma.

She had a bag attached to collect waste and also had J-Pouch surgery which removed both her rectum and colon and connected the small intestine to the anus.

This meant she didn’t permanently have to have the bag.

But in May this year she took the drastic decision to return to using a bag, having surgery to close her buttocks and remove her anus.

At first Ashley said she couldn’t accept having a bag.

“But when I realised a J-Pouch wasn’t working for me either because of all the leaking, I knew I had to go back to having a bag because I knew my quality of life would be so much better.

“I’ve had most of my colon, rectum, and anus removed, so doctors thought it was best to surgically close my buttocks. I look the same as everyone else, but there’s just no hole there anymore – it’s just like a Barbie bum.

“It’s completely transformed my life. Now, I want to be a positive influence and show that ileostomy bags shouldn’t be taboo.”

When Ashley first started suffering with symptoms she said she was sick all of the time and couldn’t stop going to the toilet.

“One time, we were on a family road trip and I ended up using one of the children’s nappies as I needed to go so suddenly”, she said.

Ashley lost 20 pounds over a 10 month period and her blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels as her body was unable to retain nutrients.

After the initial operation it was confirmed that she had both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

She said: “I hated the bag as soon as I saw it. I didn’t want to be reliant on it for the rest of my life.

“I was really low and felt ill all the time.”

In 2017 she had the bag replaced with a J-Pouch.

This means people can go to the toilet normally without using a waste bag as it preserves the sphincter muscles and preserves the anus.

But Ashley was soon hit with additional side effects and said that there were occasions where during the night she would start leaking.

She added: “‘My husband was brilliant. He’d scoop me up, put me in the shower, and change the bed sheets, but I hated it and felt so embarrassed.

“I had to wear adult nappies and couldn’t do any exercise.

“It was really painful. I felt like a sick mummy. I wasn’t able to play with my children for fear of having an accident.

“But despite me having such low confidence, it actually made my relationship with my husband stronger.

“He was phenomenal. He was always there to take care of me.”

Ashley is now living with an ileostomy bag and she says her latest operation has made her feel empowered.

“Getting a bag for a second time actually made me feel empowered. This time, I’d chosen to have it, it wasn’t something that was just thrust upon me.”

She now says her bag is as much of a part of her as her arms and legs.

“It’s not a taboo, it’s a lifesaver – and you should never be ashamed of that”, she added.

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