Living with Hirschsprung’s Disease

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Touwana Tate-Edwards Instr. L. Brockelman ENG 112. 72A 13 Sept. 2011 Living With Hirschsprung’s Disease “Jaylen has Hisrchsprung’s disease. ” When I heard those words, my first reaction was, “what is Hirschsprung’s disease? ” I soon learned that it is a congenital condition which results from an absence of “Auerbach’s plexus“(Swenson “Diagnosis”). In layman’s terms, “a part of the bowel is missing nerves . . . This causes a blockage. Intestinal contents build up behind the blockage, causing the bowel and abdomen to become swollen” (Hirschsprung’s disease).

Statistics show that “the disease occurs about once in 5000 live births” (Swenson “Diagnosis”). Treatment for Hirschsprung’s disease is surgical intervention, but even then, the effects of the condition such as enterocolitis, short bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, and anal incontinence can still be experienced many years later. Once an infant has been definitively diagnosed with Hisrchsprung’s disease by barium enema and anal biopsy, the next step is surgery, where a procedure called a “pull-through” is performed and the affected portion of the intestine is removed.

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Then the remaining intestine is “pulled-through” and reattached to the anal opening. This procedure corrects the problem of intestinal blockage but it doesn’t remove the effects of the disease itself. First, those with the condition are susceptible to having an infection known as enterocolitis. Enterocolitis is a” severe inflammation of the intestines that affects the intestinal lining, muscle, nerves and blood vessels” ( “Enterocolitis”). This infection “ remains the major cause of death” in individuals diagnosed with Hirschsprungs’s disease (Marty and Matlak).

Even though enterocolitis is the worse effect of Hirschsprung’s disease, it is not the only effect. The next effect that can be experienced by individuals with the disease is anal incontinence. This condition causes a lack of control over bowel movements which can be very bothersome, especially for mothers trying to potty train their child. Plus, imagine the embarrassment of a child starting kindergarten and having to wear pull-ups due to this lack of control. Children with this problem are sometimes removed from the regular classroom and placed in a special needs class.

This can have a detrimental effect on the child. In order to avoid these issues, a procedure has been developed which requires the parent to flush the child’s bowel through a stoma. Carrying out this procedure, on a daily basis, lessens the problem of the anal incontinence. Finally, individuals with Hirschsprung’s disease may experience frequent episodes of constipation. This condition has the least effect and is easily treated through the use of enemas and stool softeners.

Even though this is the least bothersome effect of Hirschsprung’s, if left untreated, it can lead to an intestinal blockage which can be fatal. I have seen all the effects of Hirschsprung’s disease in my grandson, Jaylen. Jaylen underwent pull-through surgery when he was three days old. During, his first two years of life, he was hospitalized three times for enterocolitis and the possibility still exists for it to occur again. Jaylen has also experienced both constipation and anal incontinence. The constipation makes his abdomen tighten up and causes him considerable pain.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often. On the other hand, he has experienced anal incontinence every day of his short life. This has made it, not only, extremely difficult but near impossible to potty train him. The end result is that, at the age of five and in kindergarten, he is forced to wear pull-ups, everyday, to avoid any embarrassing accidents. Finally, I have shown with not only documented facts but also first-hand knowledge that even with surgical intervention the effects of Hirschsprung’s disease, can and are, experienced many years later.

Works Cited “Enterocolitis. ” Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. 2008. The Gale Group, Inc. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. “Hirschsprung’s Disease. ” UMMC. University of Maryland, 02 Nov. 2009. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. Swenson, Orvar. “Hirschsprung’s Disease: A Review. ” Pediatrics 109. 5 (2002): 914. Health Source – Consumer Edition. EBSCO. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. Marty, Terri L. , and Michael E. Matlak. “Unexpected Death From Enterocolitis After Surgery for Hirschsprung’s Disease. ” Pediatrics 96. 1 (1995): 118. Health Source – Consumer Edition. EBSCO. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.


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