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What 'The Flash' Taught Me About Living With Short Bowel Syndrome

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My name is Andrew Jablonski. I am just an ordinary medical expert and advocate in the short bowel industry, but with the support of my friends and family, I seek out others like myself, to help make a difference in the world of digestive diseases such as short bowel syndrome. I am no superhero; I am just a man, born under an extreme set of circumstances. I am the future of the of young children born like myself. An inspiration to many, but no hero.

I work in the industry of helping others, specifically those with short bowel syndrome: a condition in which a person is missing half or more of their small intestine due to a congenital defect at birth, or through trauma later in life. No, I don’t have gadgets or superhuman powers – I have the most powerful ability of all. Experience.

In the real world vs. the comic book world, there is no speeding back in time, no throwing one’s self into the future to change the past or to change a catastrophic event, such as a life-threatening medical situation or to save your mother from her own murder by a man you cannot catch up with. Any of this sound familiar to those who tune into the CW Network? I’m talking about The Flash and what is known as Flashpoint – Barry Allen’s ultimate mistake! Where 25-year-old forensic scientist Barry Allen is struck by lightning in his lab, turning him into the fastest man alive, “The Flash,” granting him super-speed, intelligence and the abilities to open breaches to other worlds and timelines.

When Barry was 11, his mother was murdered by “a man in a yellow suit.” The Reverse-Flash. His mission is to destroy the Flash, his hopes, his dreams. He even tries to kill the Flash’s younger self – only he fails, so taking his mother’s life was the next best thing for the reverse of everything Barry Allen is.

After one tragedy too many, Barry purposely runs back in time to save his mother and jails the Reverse Flash. He then lives in an alternate reality for six months with both of his parents. Only over time, he begins to forget the life he once lived, the relationships, his powers. All of that started to fade away due to him messing with history. Break a coffee mug and no matter how hard you try to make it perfect again, it still has that small visible crack in it. When he realizes he needs the Reverse Flash’s help getting back to the current timeline, he notices that many things have changed – and not for the better.

I run an online support group and we discuss this topic from time to time, minus the Flash part. Going back in time to change our illness is a split vote. Many of us have accepted who we are and our destinies ahead of us with no gut. Others who got it later in life long for the life they once lived. Granted the powers to go back in time, I ask them if they would, given the circumstances of their present, good or bad. Could they live with those changes?

Once I was asked if I would go back in time if I could and change my diagnosis from ever happening. As a child, ask me this and in a heartbeat I would. It would mean a “normal life” – one without fear of medical tests, surgical procedures, hospitalizations, a lifetime on antibiotics and drugs. As an adult I would never do so. I accept who I am and know why I am here and what my purpose is. So why would I not change a thing? Not even the septic shock episode I had late 2015?

My world would be much different. I would have never had 20 minutes of no pulse and hypoxia without oxygen to the brain. I would not have gone into the field I am today; rather than being a CEO, I would be a MD. Relationships would be much different as well. One part of my family would cease to exist: my aunt and uncle’s family. Without me being sick and spending almost a year in the hospital, Nora, my ICU nurse, would have never met my Uncle Jack, meaning no marriage and no cousins. I brought that family together when I was a baby, and me not being sick would result in me having a different aunt and cousins. Jack would never have had a reason to travel from Nebraska to Missouri to see his sick nephew.

I might have had better luck with my friendships in general, but I love the ones I have now. They are not fake and I know I can depend on those people when needed, and those people can depend on me. It may be a small circle of friends and trust, but once again, some of those factors on how I met those people would change if I was not sick. Maybe I would have found love and a life with another instead of being single and preparing to become a foster father on my own.

So would I take a world without a medical complication? In retrospect, a normal life comes with its own consequences. Would I eventually get SBS another way? Would I be happy? Would life be any better, or would a life without medicine leave room for other problems to fill the void? The thought of it all hurts my head.

I fill the gap very clearly in my thinking. I am happy with who I am and what I have, and I would not change a thing. My condition is what made me into the man I am today. I have overcome many overbearing obstacles in my 30 years of life, from a major bowel resection to living 10 days on life support as a result of septic shock, when my life hung in the balance to everything else in between. There was no time to think about changing history.

In a way we are all like Barry Allen when it comes to him and his emotions. He sees the good in everything – even the bad (with some reassurance from his friends at STAR Labs). Reassurance is the ultimate power – reassurance to know that the life I live and the life you live are the ones chosen for our destinies, whatever they may be – and you don’t need to be a superhero to yield it. Though at times, like Barry, we all fail to see the bigger picture ahead of us, resulting in a rash decision.

To me it would be selfish to go back and change one aspect of my life since it would change everyone else’s dramatically. Living with the consequences of that change would be even more to carry. So: Would you create your own “Flashpoint,” or leave life as is? Challenging question, isn’t it?

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Lead photos via CWTheFlash Facebook page.

Originally published: April 17, 2017
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