Samantha Rittenberg's Story

20 Years and Counting

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was four-years-old. I was the third generation in my family to be diagnosed, so my parents were ready for what we were going to face. At least that's what we thought at the time.

It had been 20 years since my diagnosis, and I have gone through numerous surgeries, traveled around the U.S. to visit surgeons to get the best possible care, and tried almost every medication/treatment possible at the time.

I was six-years-old when I underwent my first surgery to have my large intestine removed and an ileo-anal pull through done. I was doing really well with a handful of regular flares and pouchitis until I hit my sophomore year of high school. That was when everything changed for me.

I got really sick again and started having insane amounts of stomach pains. From there it was constant medical testing and trying to figure out what was going on with me. I traveled up to Boston to see the surgeon who did my original surgery. He found that I had a partial obstruction that would be easily fixed with surgery. Unfortunately when I woke up, the pain was still there.

That is when focus pointed to my pancreas. We learned later that there have been studies that have shown pancreatic problems that may be associated with UC. A few years after being told I wasn't a candidate for surgery and my body slowly deteriorating, I traveled up to the University of Minnesota for a total pancreatectomy with auto islet cell transplantation.

It’s been six years since my transplant and I'm the healthiest I've ever been. I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression when I was sick, and that still follows me today. Thanks to my amazing doctors and surgeons I graduated from High School in 2011 and graduated from George Mason University in 2015. Today I still blog about my experience in hopes to help others who are like me. I also volunteer through my hospital to help people of all ages dealing with the idea of surgery.