After Surgery to Remove His Colon and Rectum, This Firefighter Went Back to Battling Blazes

Steve Schiff
·2 min read
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Being a firefighter makes Joshua Stailey a real-life superhero. The fact that he does so in spite of ulcerative colitis makes him a warrior.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine (the colon) and rectum. It’s also an autoimmune disease, which causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the lining of the colon. This leads to rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps and pain.

When medications don’t help, a procedure known as a j-pouch surgery is often the next step, wherein a surgeon removes the colon and rectum and uses the end of the small intestine to form an internal pouch, which is commonly shaped like a J.

The procedure usually happens in two parts: First, the colon and rectum are removed, and the pouch is connected to the top of the anal canal. A temporary ileostomy is also created, which is a procedure that constructs a pathway from the small intestine to the outside of your abdomen so waste can exit the body. After the j-pouch has had about eight to 12 weeks to heal, a second surgery connects the small intestine to the j-pouch, which then collects waste and allows stool to pass through the anus in a bowel movement.

Now imagine being a father of three, and going through all that to get back to your passion of running towards burning buildings—without knowing when you’ll be able to get to a restroom next. Contrary to the shiver that just ran down your spine, Stailey feels nothing but gratitude for the journey that made him a self-proclaimed “UC Warrior.”

“As long as I eat right and drink right, I no longer have to [constantly] look for the closest restroom. It’s definitely a better quality of life,” he says. “I’m not gonna let this disease beat me. I’m gonna fight it, overcome it, and not let it stop me from doing what I want to do.”

Watch the video to learn more about Stailey, UC, and how this warrior fights the good fight every day.

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