19-year-old Aimee Rouski was just 15 when she was admitted to hospital for seven months to go through three major surgeries, each taking between 13 and 15 hours each.
As a severe sufferer of Crohn’s disease – a form of inflammatory bowel disease that effects the entire digestive system – Aimee had been in a horrendous amount of pain due to her Crohn’s causing open wounds, multiple mouth ulcers, constant stomach cramps and fatigue.
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‘I’d had severe Crohn’s for a very long time and wasn’t responding to any medicinal treatments,’ Aimee tells.
‘Eventually, I got so bad that surgery was the only way to save me.’
Aimee underwent surgery for an ileostomy – where her small bowel was brought to the outside of her abdomen and covered with an ilestomy bag which collects waste – and reconstituted surgery on her backside.
This was because the disease had left her with very large open wounds that wouldn’t be able to heal over by themselves.
So, to cover them, they used her inner thigh muscles.
Aimee told us: ‘It was horrible before my surgery, I was in extreme pain from the wounds and I could hardly walk or take much food in at all so I was severely underweight.
‘My Crohn’s has always been quite bad and not many people will get to the point I did at such a young age.’
But, for those who have reached a similar point to Aimee, she felt it was important that they knew they weren’t alone.
And so, to do this, she spoke out about her illness in a Facebook post that has received over 12,000 likes and 4,000 shares.
She wrote: ‘My Crohn’s has left me with a permanent ileostomy, no large intestine, colon, rectum, anus, or inner thigh muscles as they were used for plastic surgery on my wounds.
‘I’ve always been okay with the stuff that has happened to me, but some people have real difficulties accepting these things so I just want to say this: No one will know unless you tell them.
‘People who know will still love you and still find you beautiful. Your illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.’
Aimee’s post received a mainly positive response – though there have been a few negative comments which Aimee has simply shrugged off.
‘I was inspired to write my post because I don’t see much awareness for Crohn’s and other invisible illnesses, often people assume that all I’ve had to deal with is a little stomach ache – when in fact, this disease nearly killed me,’ Aimee explained.
She added: ‘I wanted to show people that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and that we should accept and love ourselves no matter what.’
But, not only did Aimee achieve what she set out to do – she’s also noticed an incredible change in herself.
Aimee said: ‘I’ve never really been a very confident person so the bag made no difference initially, but I actually feel much more confident in myself now after doing my post.’
And so you should do, Aimee – because you’re a truly brave, strong and beautiful woman. A true inspiration.