Three years ago today, I met my friend, Lily, each in our respective pairs of dark glasses, to see the guilty-pleasure, chick flick, Blue Crush; it was the last movie I was well enough to see in a theater for four months.
Four days later, I was admitted via the emergency room to Cedars Sinai, due mainly to a collaboration of genius trickery on the part of my sainted sister, Liz, and my brand new G.I. doctor, Graham Woolf, who the day before had looked over the results of a colonoscopy done seven months before by a colleague, a highly-respected colorectal surgeon at Cedars, and informed me, for the first time, that I had Crohn's disease.
How bad was it? I weighed 90 lbs. after they slapped an I/V on me and dumped in two liters of fluid. I was shitting upwards of 20x/day. I had been running fevers for weeks, many of them in excess of 100º, four over 104º. The night before my admittance, my temperature shot up so high, 104.4º, I had to lower myself into a tub of cold water to bring down the fever; Tylenolâ„¢ wouldn't put a dent in it. I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, so much so that I stayed in the hospital 11 days (for those of you lucky enough to have avoided it, an almost unheard-of amount of time in this day and age).
I got a little bit better during my stay. They managed to get break the fever, probably thanks to the bottomless cocktail of antibiotics and prednisone they had me on. The two pints of blood I'd shat out of my ass had been replaced, and the bleeding, at least, the heavy bleeding, had stopped. But despite the unbelievable quantities of food I was ingesting, double breakfasts, lunches and dinners, supplemented by matzoh ball soup and turkey sandwiches from Jerry's Deli smuggled in by friends and associates, I could not get the scale to move.
At the end of that 11-day stretch, I was given a choice: I could stay at the hospital over the weekend, let them continue to observe me, hope that my shit count dropped and my weight improved and go on a much more aggressive round of drug therapy the following Monday if it didn't; or I could go home and see if I got any better there.
I went home with a case of Similacâ„¢ my sister and I picked up for me at the drugstore and a copy of Elaine Gloria Gottschall's Breaking the Vicious Cycle; by the next day, I'd dumped the Similacâ„¢ down the drain and gone on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) to eliminate my Crohn's.
Elaine Gottschall wasn't a big, noisy hero. She never set out to change the lives of thousands of people with inflammatory bowel diseases. She was just a mom desperate to help her very sick daughter. But after seeing the remarkable recovery Judy made on the grain-free, lactose-free, sucrose-free diet Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas suggested, Elaine went back to school at the age of 47, earning degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry and cellular biology so that she could learn the science behind the diet and make sure that the diet did not die with Dr. Haas.
Long after things were better, after her daughter was well, after she'd written the book, after there was a strong support network for the SCD on- and offline, Elaine continued to stay active in the SCD community, talking to newbies via the Long Island Listserv and answering emails, phone calls and faxes. In her last years, Elaine devoted most of her limited time on the SCD/Autism site, working with parents who had their kids on the stricter SCD (prevailing wisdom in that community has kids on the GF/CF diet).
There's no money in food, as we say on the SCD List, so the drug companies stay away and the medical community remains skeptical of the curative powers inherent in Right Diet. But a few doctors here and there are willing to think outside the box, thank you, Dr. Haas, and a few people are brave and selfless enough to upend their lives to ease the pain and suffering of others.
According to an e-mail I received last evening, Elaine Gottschall died peacefully on September 5th, 2005, her immediate family by her side.
Her extended family mourns her passing from a little farther off. And once the mourning is over, let's hope we celebrate her legacy by carrying on the good work she began almost 50 years ago.
Photo of Elaine Gottschall courtesy of PecanBread.com, ©2005