Red Sox pitcher Jake Diekman has experienced an incredible turnaround — and no, it has nothing to do with his early-season success since signing in Boston during the offseason.
The Major League Baseball journeyman is, for all intents and purposes, totally healthy five years after undergoing a total colectomy.
Diekman has ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes swelling and sores in the digestive tract. He was diagnosed when he was 10 years old, but his symptoms reached a peak in the 2016-17 MLB offseason. He underwent a total colectomy — a complete removal of the large intestine — on Jan. 25, 2017.
“After the ’16 season, I went home and this was before Thanksgiving or something like that. It was around-ish there,” Diekman told Christopher Smith of MassLive. “And I got super sick. I got down to like 180, 185-ish (pounds). I was like, ‘I need to go figure out what the hell is wrong.’ They were like, ‘Hey, we’ve put you on like every shot, every infusion, every pill. There’s not much else we can do. We can try a pill or a different shot. That might work for six months but your body might just shut it down and then we’re back to square one.'”
Diekman lived with a colostomy bag for about six months after surgery, but doctors were able to perform a reversal. Now, Diekman lives a healthy life with minimal diet restrictions and does not take medication for his ulcerative colitis.
However, the 35-year-old knows not everyone that suffers from IBD has a similar experience, nor do they have the ability to seek high-level care. That’s why he formed the Gut It Out Foundation, which aims to “connect patients and caregivers through education and inspiration in order to strengthen relationships and resources within the IBD community.”
“Should I be taking medicine? Maybe,” Diekman said. “I was very fortunate they were able to reverse the colostomy bag. But there’s some people that have it forever. I had it for like six months. I felt great with it. I was throwing with it. I was throwing bullpens with it. I was very fortunate because they were able to reverse it. So they brought down my small intestine.”