Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Overcoming a Handicap

Originally posted on May 22, 2018

I has congenital megacolon, also known as Hirshprung’s Disease. (It was also what Elvis Presley had!) I couldn’t pass my bowels and it piled up. Doctors said it felt like a rock. They took me to a doctor when I was one year old (or earlies) and they did a bilateral sympathectomy, because the disorder was thought to be an imba-lance between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic. But it didn’t help. I needed an enema every night for the next six years.

At age seven, I was taken up to the Mayo Clinic and after tests, they surgically removed my distended bowel and reattached the non-distended part to the upper part of the rectum that wasn’t s0 distended. They left a colostomy in so that the functional part would shrink. Then I went back the next year and they closed it. By then I had for sure decided to help other kids. I was interested in becoming a doctor even before that—at age three!—because becoming a “doctor” was a way to help other kids. (Thank goodness I was clumsy. I would have made a terrible surgeon!) I went into child psychiatry instead.)

But reflecting on this again, I realized that all this happened within a relatively narrow window of time, when surgery was mature enough to do this. Now Hirsh-prungs Disease (congenital  megacolon) is a recognized disorder—rare, but recog-nizable. (Elvis Presley had it!) It’s diagnosed far sooner and a partial colectomy and colostomy aren’t necessary. But for me, it confirmed my interest in medicine!

The surgery was in 1944—I don’t know how my parents did it at the height of wartime! But I’m forever grateful!  The museum also confirmed it. Now that I reflect on it, I could say that it was very coincidental, but one could also claim Grace.

I realized today now that I am a doctor, a physician, and over eighty years old (and a bit of a student of the history of medicine) that ten years earlier surgery wasn’t yet mature enough, and ten years later would have been too late. I was “just right”—as they say in the story of the Three Bears.

So I became a doctor. Not a surgeon, though. A child psychiatrist. But close enough. This all was catalyzed by contact with a lady who had in some ways a similar ordeal—as a young woman with colitis. She is turning her ordeal into theatre!

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