David Webster endured increasingly painful inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) for two decades. His large intestine was removed in 2009 and his rectum was removed in 2020.
Inspired by his care at UCI Medical Center and encouraged by Dr. Nimisha Parekh, medical director of the UCI Health IBD program, he returned to school and became a nurse in 2017.
Today, the 47-year-old Fontana resident works as a traveling nurse and is pursuing a master’s degree.
He's also a volunteer “GI buddy” who helps UCI Health IBD patients who are about to have their colon removed understand what to expect and to show them it is possible to live well with an ostomy bag.
Webster explains why he helps other IBD patients:
"After years of testing, a missed diagnosis and treatments that weren’t helping, I was referred to UCI Health and Dr. Parekh. She diagnosed me with Crohn’s disease.
"I was about 30 and I had maintained a full-time job as national sales manager for a motorcycle supply company. But I was also battling this disease, having massive fevers, unable to eat, unable to sleep because I’d have to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes.
"Eventually, I became so sick I was admitted to UCI Medical Center in late 2009. That’s when IBD surgical specialist Dr. Steven Mills persuaded me that I needed a colectomy.
"I’d been afraid of surgery. The idea of a medical device hanging from my body scared me. I thought it would be life-changing in a negative way — that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I loved.
"But surgery changed my life 100% for the better. I sleep through the night. I enjoy the outdoors: deep sea fishing, skeet shooting, hiking. I work out.
"After my first surgery, Dr. Parekh encouraged me to go into healthcare because she thought I could be an inspiration for people who were suffering as I had.
"She is an extremely positive person who has given me so much support. She and Dr. Mills assured me that surgery would change my life for the better — and they were right.
"When Dr. Parekh asked me to become a GI Buddy, I jumped at the chance to take away people’s fear of the unknown.
"There are so many misconceptions about what people who live with an ostomy bag can’t do. I tell them my story, about how I wasn't able to live my life because I was so sick and afraid.
"And I tell them how my life changed after surgery, how I found my calling in helping patients.
"The surgeries also have helped me do things I didn’t think were possible.
"I want them to know that they can take charge of their lives, too."