Laura Stephens with her husband Tim, and her daughter Leah.
Summary: When Laura Stephens was pregnant, she became so ill from ulcerative colitis that she had to be hospitalized. Eventually, Stephens, a resident of Olney, Maryland, was transferred to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), where Dr. Raymond Cross (director of the UM Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center) became her doctor. She was also followed throughout the rest of her pregnancy by Dr. Lindsay Alger, associate director of the Division of Maternal and Fetal Medicine. Read her story below.
What medical problems/symptoms led to your hospitalization?
My symptoms started early on when I first became pregnant with my daughter, and got progressively worse. I couldn't eat, I was vomiting, and then I became dehydrated. I got really sick to the point that I was hospitalized and then diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I had been diagnosed five years earlier with irritable bowel syndrome.
How did you decide to come to UMMC for treatment?
First I was admitted to a county hospital. At the hospital I was living on IV fluids. I spent a month there but I wasn’t getting better so I requested a transfer to the University of Maryland Medical Center. They accepted me and Dr. Cross became my doctor.
Thank God I ended up at Maryland with Dr. Cross. He said “I’m going to try and get you well” and he did. He saved my life and my baby’s life.
What treatment did you receive at UMMC?
I was there for almost a month. Dr. Cross treated me with Remicade through an IV. I received two infusions — the first one a week after arriving, the second, two weeks later. That was a new drug at the time. That was used along with a few other medications.
I didn’t feel better immediately, but after I was there for a few weeks I started to feel better. Then I had a sigmoidoscopy (an internal examination of the large intestine) and everything looked good. I started to eat normally, and went off the IV eating system. Gradually I gained strength and was able to go home. I also switched my OB care to UMMC because I was a high-risk pregnancy. I had my baby at UMMC with Dr. Lindsay Alger. The birth went fine. My little girl is healthy as can be.
What did you think about Dr. Cross and the other care providers at UMMC?
I can’t say enough great things about Dr. Cross. He’s completely professional but you can tell he cares. Anytime I have any questions or concerns I e-mail or call him and he responds immediately. It’s a relief to know I’m in such good hands — to find someone you trust and know he’ll do everything in his power to get you well again.
When I had my baby I was really pleased; I felt cared for. Dr. Alger was also wonderful and the OB staff was great. I was treated well. I was given a private single room, which was great. With Dr. Alger I felt she took immediate care and had concern for me. She had me come in for ultrasounds. I felt confident that everything was covered. She made sure that my daughter and I were doing well. Dr. Alger and Dr. Cross communicated back and forth with each other.
Dr. Cross has been my GI and primary care doctor for the past three years. Anytime I have any other problems or take other medications I pass everything through him. He knows my whole medical history.
How are you doing now?
I’m able to live a normal life now. I exercise, take care of my children, and I feel great! I also have a 4-year-old son, and I was not sick during that pregnancy.
To show my gratitude, I started an IBD support group for Dr. Cross in November of 2006. The support group is held the first Thursday of each month at the UMMC Patient Resource Center and is open to all Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients, inside or outside the hospital. It’s a good way to meet other people with these diseases, to show support for each other, and to know we are not alone.