John Meadows: A Story of Hope

I wanted to include this is my website so that you can see that when times are often darkest, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and to fight your way through to it.

This is my story of some pretty scary events that left me with the ultimate appreciation for life, and being able to do the simple things!

2004 ended for me pretty well. I landed in 4th at the North American Championships, where many had me pegged as the winner. I decided to ride the momentum into the 2005 USA in Vegas in late July. As my prep progressed through May and June, I began to notice something funny going on in my stomach. When I did my morning cardio, I began to lose control of my bowel function. Basically, I just had to get to the bathroom within 5 minutes or…well you know. Since I do all my cardio outside, it made it tricky to plan my walking. I didn’t really think much about this at the time, but looking back it was the first signal, of what would come.

As late June and early July passed, I developed a new problem. After eating, I would have intense abdominal cramps, and bloating, not exactly what you want approaching a contest. All things considered though, I was at my absolute best, and was nearly contest ready at 230. I decided to remove the Orange Roughy from my diet, as it has an indigestible oil/fat in it, which I thought might be the cause of my discomfort. Still even with this change, the pain and bloating didn’t stop.

In an effort to further generate momentum, I decided to do the LA championships the week prior to the USA. My friend Joey D and I headed out west to hopefully show some east coast dominance, but it wasn’t to be. It seemed almost immediately upon my arrival in LA, the pain in my stomach following a meal had increased 5-fold. I also had a new symptom. I would feel stabbing-like spasms, and feel the need to use the bathroom. I would run to the bathroom, but nothing would happen. It was strange, and the frequency of this was getting worse and worse. I decided the only thing I could do was make my meals smaller. My 8-10 ounce portions of protein shrunk to 2 ounce portions. Unfortunately, it still didn’t help. Even with a 2 ounce meal, my stomach would swell up, and the pain was tremendous. I ended up finishing 4th, and was finally starting to worry seriously about my health.

The following week things just got worse. I stayed in LA to train at Gold’s for the week, and it got to the point in which I was skipping protein every other meal, to get some relief. This helped just enough to convince me that I could make it through the USA the approaching weekend.

I arrived in Vegas, and met my wife at the airport. Another one of my friends, Chris Dodson, had reserved a very nice house for us to stay in during the competition. When we got there, I just hoped I could make it through the show. At this point, I was pretty much eating 1/2 cup of oats or rice, for my meals. That was all I could handle. I had actually improved in condition greatly since the LA, so I thought I might at least be competitive, despite the fact that I had lost significant muscle fullness. It turned out that
there were 42 competitors in the class, which is typical. I ended up 13th, which made me rather proud, knowing what I was going through. With the shows over, I looked forward to going home, and for all these issues to go away – since they were all stress and diet related..right?

I arrived home, and immediately Monday morning went to visit my doctor whom most of you know, Eric Serrano. He ran a battery of blood tests on me, and guess what..everything came back totally normal (pretty rare to have normal liver, kidney, and electrolyte function immediately after a show huh). The one reading that was abnormal was my mercury levels, which were indeed toxic. I was hoping that this was the cause and that by stopping fish consumption, I would be “healed”.

As the week went by, the pain still didn’t go away, and I found myself in the emergency room curled up in a ball on the floor, moaning in pain. I ended up getting some CT scans and x-rays done, but nothing seemed abnormal. I did visit a gastro doctor, and a colonoscopy revealed that I had acute colitis in the sigmoid portion of my colon. I thought this was strange, as I had none of the usual colitis symptoms – no nausea, bloody bowel movements, vomiting, etc. Well I did get some medication, but a few days later ended up back in the ER, as the painful spasms were now so painful I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Some more tests were done, and the diagnosis was that I was constipated. Hmm, pretty curious considering I had not eaten a full meal in days! Two days later, guess where I ended up? Yep, back in the ER, this time by ambulance. My pain was indescribable. This is where the long journey starts.

My third time in the ER was indeed the scariest moment of my life. Something inside of me ruptured, and blood started pouring out of my backside. As the blood continued to gush out, I felt my body start to tingle and shake. I knew that I was going into shock, and that I would bleed to death any second. My wife ran to get a nurse, and within a few minutes I was on a gurney headed into emergency surgery. I said my goodbye to my wife, and started giving her last messages to others I love, as they wheeled me away.

The next thing I know, I woke up in the ICU, questioning whether or not I was alive. With all the tubes, drains, etc attached to me… I remember being thrilled and overjoyed to be alive. The doctor came in to tell me that I was indeed minutes from dying, so he had to act quickly, and had removed my entire large intestine. I was now the proud owner of a new ileostomy. Those are the bags attached to your side, when you have to rest your rectum. Seeing my ileum outside my body was pretty freaky, but hey I was alive. The doctor said that we would be reversing this procedure in 3 months, and that then everything would start to get back to normal.

My rehab from this proved to be very good. 10 days after going home, I was back in the gym (at 180 pounds), and playing with the pretty pink 5 pound dumbbells. By the time my re-connect surgery time arrived 13 weeks later, I was back to a muscular 217, and feeling good. Everybody told me that the re-connect would be a piece of cake, so on November 14, I headed into surgery feeling great.

Unfortunately, after the surgery, I developed a blockage. This was the worst thing you can imagine. My stomach swelled to the point that my incision staples started coming loose, and I was constantly vomiting my food back-up. I was back on the all too familiar ice chip diet, and had a NG tube inserted into my nose, down into my stomach. The NG tube was the single-most horrible part of the whole experience. This was not something I would want to do again but it did drain everything out.

On November 25th, I went through a second surgery to fix the blockage. It was successful, but shortly before I was released, I began to get fevers, cold chills, hot sweats, and a feeling of lethargy. Well, I went home anyway, but following a few days with a 102+ fever, I was back in. More tests were done. This time, I had developed a massive abscess in my stomach, which would need to be drained and treated with antibiotics. I had two tubes inserted into my stomach that ran down into the abscesses (it turned out there were 3). Another 10 days in the hospital, and I finally went home the day before Christmas, with my tubes. Slowly but surely, the infection had drained. On January 6th, the tubes were pulled out of me. It was great to finally get some good news, and 2006 has started off on a positive note. I still have some bandages on my incision, and where the two drains were, but I am now feeling much better, and will be going back to the gym for the first time this afternoon.

My guess is that you are wondering – so what caused this? Well, here is what I know. After my first surgery in August, they had determined from a biopsy that the mesenteric veins in my sigmoid had thickened to the point where no blood could pass through. This is what caused the hemorrhaging. This closely resembled ischemic colitis. The problem with that is this form of colitis is most prevalent in the elderly and heavy smokers, neither of which applies to me. We had an angiogram done to check all of my veins and arteries in my digestive system, and they all appeared to be perfect, further adding to the confusion. We then tested the theory that a blood clot had traveled to my intestine and lodged itself, with a Trans Esophageal Electro Cardiogram. Again, all was normal. We brought in a hematologist who examined my blood for any unusual genetic conditions… again, nothing was found to be abnormal. It was really scary leaving that first time, because all of the doctors were just as baffled as me.

Finally, we had a breakthrough. All my information and biopsies had been sent to the Mayo Clinic. They did have a diagnosis, and indeed it made sense. There is a pretty rare vascular disease called “Idiopathic Myointimal Hyperplasia of the Mesenteric Veins”. This is what they said I had. It typically occurs in middle aged healthy men, and for some reason, those mesenteric veins in your sigmoid (this is specific to your sigmoid) just get thicker and thicker, until they are removed. It made sense to me, as I never had the typical colitis symptoms and no specific kind if foods seem to ever bother me. There is information about this condition out there on the internet, if you want to read further about it. For now, it appears I am cured, as this area was removed, and there have been no documented cases of this affliction coming back to affect others areas. I hope and pray this is true for me!

Well, that’s it for my story about my near “dirt nap.” What’s next for me? Well, I just want to get healthy. My stomach is still achy, but I know that all will be well. Thanks to all my family and friends who helped me get through this. It was amazing how much love and support I had. I am truly a blessed man.