‘I Feel Ostracised From Society’ Says Crohn’s Sufferer

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Finbarr Griffin at home in St Brendans Park

Finbarr Griffin at home in St Brendan’s Park.

By Gavin O’Connor

A TRALEE man who has felt ostracised from society in the past because of suffering from Crohn’s Disease, has started his own Facebook page and blog to act as a support network for fellow sufferers and to break down the stigma surrounding the condition.

Finbarr Griffin of St Brendan’s Park, who has the disease which effects the gastrointestinal tract which, without treatment, can lead to bowel cancer or death, said the condition has left him depressed at times and prevents him from forming new relationships.

Finbarr spoke to TraleeToday.ie at his home in St Brendan’s Park about how he was diagnosed and the way the disease has affected his life.

“It all started in 2002 when I lost the use of my legs one night after a table quiz. I was brought into Kerry general and the doctors didn’t have a notion what was wrong with me. So from there I was sent to Cork. Within three days I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I didn’t have a clue what it was,” he said.

In September 2002 Finbarr went to train as a nurse and was fully qualified in 2004, despite going for his first Crohn’s operation in 2003.

“I thought that everything would be OK and they got rid of the diseased part of the bowel. When I went back to Cork for a check-up, I was told my Crohn’s was out of control. The doctors said if I didn’t act I’d have to get a colostomy bag.

“I tried all the medication there was, but it got worse and worse. I eventually went down to six stone, until I was told I had no choice I had to have surgery to get a bag fitted. All told, I was a year in hospital,” he said.

Through Finbarr’s experience of living with Crohn’s and the stigma that surrounds having a colostomy bag, he decided to set up a support group on Facebook.

Finbarr set up the page ten days ago and since then his posts have reached 3,500 people and have been liked 350 times.

“I can’t get over the response, my phone and emails have been hopping since. I tried to set up a group before, but it was difficult. There was too many people from outside of town or people had work commitments. Also when we had meetings, people were sometimes too embarrassed to speak about what they were suffering,” Finbarr said.

“One day I had a brainwave and realised there’s nothing in Tralee about Crohn’s on social media, so I setup a Facebook page. There’s a lot of people private messaging me because of the stigma around it, which is sad really, but now I feel they have an avenue where people can talk about it,” he said.

“There is a huge benefit with talking to someone who has the same thing as you, for people not to suffer alone. Only in the last six months have I realised no one has a clue about Crohn’s. I’ve been asked to leave people’s company because I have a bag. I feel like I’m ostracised from society,” he said.

Finbarr has a seven year old daughter, Isabelle, and is single. Due to having a colostomy bag it has made it very difficult for him to pursue a relationship.

“I get depressed because I’m on my own. I’m only 44, when you meet someone how do you tell them you have a bag?”

“You can put on a smile and go downtown and have a pint, but as soon as someone comes up to you and is interested in you, you run a mile because you can’t face telling them you have a bag,” Finbarr said

“Yesterday I spent all day in bed because I was just shot mentally and physically, I’ll be honest I get depressed over having a bag and I get depressed because nobody cares,” Finbarr said.

Finbarr is able to manage because of the medication he takes which comes at a huge cost, even still he only sleeps on average two hours a night because of the pain he suffers when his bowl flares up.

“My medical card is up for review next year and I know there’s going to be difficulties with it. If I lost my medical card in the morning I would be finished because of the amount of stuff I need. One of the medications I get is €3,500 every six weeks, I simply would not be able to cope,” Finbarr said.

For information you can get in touch with Finbarr by clicking here on Crohn’s Support Tralee Facebook page and his blog.


One Comment

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