Dustin Meyer lost 50 pounds in about three months this summer.
His weight loss plan didn't involve limited eating, extra exercise or diet pills. Rather, his transformation was due to a severe case of ulcerative colitis, which led to the removal of his colon.
Meyer, a 22-year-old Roberts resident, said his symptoms first began in April when he was having diarrhea a few times a day and was physically exhausted. Medication for hemorrhoids and treatment from a holistic practitioner didn't do the trick.
By May, he was in the bathroom 20-30 times a day.
"That made it pretty tough to go to class," said Meyer, a fourth-year health and human performance major at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
He was taken to the emergency room in Hudson on May 7, a week before finals, because he was so dehydrated. It was the first time in his life he'd been sick enough to warrant a hospital visit.
Meyer was down seven pounds from his former 195. Doctors there referred him to a gastro-intestinal specialist. No one in the Twin Cities area had any open appointments until June, so Meyer was put on a waiting list.
When finals came, Meyer said he barely could study because he was so sick and tired.
"Ironically, I made the dean's list for the first time," Meyer said with a smile.
Two weeks after Meyer took his finals, a clinic in Coon Rapids called with an opening. By that time, Meyer was down 12 pounds to 175. That day, he was sent home with medication and a colonoscopy appointment.
"That was a really bad night for me," Meyer said. During the hottest days of the summer, Meyer said he was either drenched in sweat or shaking with chills. The next morning he was taken to the hospital where he was finally diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. He was sent home with steroids, which helped for a bit.
"Then it just got worse again," Meyer said. He was checked into Abbott Northwestern Hospital on May 28, weighing 165 pounds, 30 less than he weighed before he got sick. During his 10 day stay, doctors pumped him with IVs, steroids and medicine to clear up a bacterial infection in his colon.
Thirty-six hours after Meyer was released from that hospital stay, he was back again. This time, doctors decided a more drastic approach was needed to make Meyer well again.
Meyer and his parents, Barry and Sue, and sister Lindsey, were presented with two options: surgery to remove his colon or an arthritis drug he'd have to take by IV for the rest of his life.
"You don't really get off that," Meyer said of the drug. "And there's no guarantee that it's going to work either."
Over the next three to four days, Meyer said he and his family met with three or four doctors.
"We probably asked them the same questions at least three or four times," he said.
Meyer decided to go ahead with the surgery, which took place June 17. His colon was removed and an ileostomy bag took its place. He weighed in at 145 pounds.
When Meyer's family and friends heard about the pending surgery, they started visiting him in droves.
"It was like a revolving door," he said. "There were 11 people in the room at one time."
Recovery from that initial surgery wasn't easy. Meyer said he suffered from severe cramping, a bladder infection and exhaustion.
His grandma, a retired nurse, made sure Meyer went for walks every day.
"It made me pretty angry at the time. I just wanted to sleep. She's persistent though," Meyer said. She also kept him updated on "Days of our Lives" from noon to 1 p.m. every day.
Meyer was able to go home on July 2.
In the first week out of the hospital, Meyer said he gained eight pounds.
"I was just happy to be eating normal, home-cooked meals," Meyer said. In addition to that food, he was still getting fed through a special IV line, meaning he got about 5,000 calories a day total.
Since that initial surgery, Meyer had one more late-night rush to the emergency room because of severe back and stomach cramping.
"That was one of the longest nights of my life," he said. "That was the most painful time of the whole process."
Meyer has been out of the hospital since July but he'll go back in December for hopefully his last surgery. This time, the surgeon will create a pouch out of his small intestine to act as a replacement colon.
Until then, Meyer said he's clear to do just about anything, which includes deer hunting for the first time. He took his hunter safety course in April before he got sick in hopes of going out this fall.
He's back in class at UW-RF, and hopes to graduate next year.
He's also got his appetite back. Meyer said he's gained 30 pounds since July.
Meyer said he does have a lot of restrictions on food that he can eat.
"I'm really paranoid about chewing. I just don't want to have any blockages," he said. "I definitely over chew my food."
Although Meyer was covered by his parents' health insurance because he's a full-time student, bills have accumulated. A benefit for Meyer and his family is planned for Oct. 3 in Roberts.
Meyer said his aunt, Lori Meyer, and cousin Tawny Meyer first presented the idea of having a benefit to him when he was in the hospital.
"I didn't know what to think about it. It seemed like a lot of work, and it turned out to be," he said.
A full day of activities is planned, including a 5K run/walk, fashion show, home run derby, dinner and auctions. Former teachers, family, local clubs and churches have stepped in to help with the planning. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will provide matching funds for the event.
A bank account has also been set up in Meyer's name at First American Bank, 2424 Monetary Blvd., Hudson.
More information is available at www.nanobasis.com/dustinmeyer/.