St Albans Crohn’s disease sufferer and personal trainer backs MP’s call for more public toilets
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Recent parliamentary calls for the provision of more public toilets have been echoed by a local fitness coach who has had part of his intestines removed due to a chronic condition.
Adrian Woolmer, 37, has had Crohn’s disease - a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut - for over 17 years.
He said: “I’ve battled with my weight, fitness and diet, and have had numerous operations including the removal of three feet of small intestines.”
Earlier this month, the Herts Advertiser published an article on St Albans MP Anne Main leading a lengthy debate at Westminster, where she called for more public toilets for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), as they need constant access to such facilities.
During the February 24 debate, Anne said: “For those living with IBD, debilitating symptoms such as diarrhoea can occur instantly and unpredictably.”
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Adrian said it took some time for him to be correctly diagnosed despite several urgent visits to the A&E, including at one stage when his skin ‘turned green’.
He added: “I looked like an alien, and after the third time that I had a massive flare-up my GP sent me straight to hospital.”
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When a surgeon found that some of his intestines had become inflamed and had died, several feet of his small intestines were removed.
From the time of his original flare-up to the day he left hospital, Adrian “went from 14 stone down to nine stone. I was emaciated.”
Adrian said that as part of his bowel which was removed digests vitamin B12, he receives injections every three months of that vitamin to counteract that.
Unfortunately he had to return for further operations after developing a fistula and then an internal abscess.
According to Crohn’s & Colitis UK, which is headquartered in St Albans, some people with IBD may develop a fistula – an abnormal passageway connecting one internal organ to another, or to the outside surface of the body. Many involve the bowel or intestine.
Adrian said that while doctors and specialists prescribed medication to combat the Crohn’s, including steroids and anti-spasmodics, they seemed to make it worse.
He added: “After a lot of trial and error I decided to come off everything and what an amazing thing. Not only did I maintain a constant weight, my energy levels went up tenfold, because I had been struggling day-to-day and running to the toilets every five minutes.”
He felt ‘very vulnerable and skinny’ after undergoing the operations but after joining a local gym to start exercising regularly, and changing his diet, he went on to become a fitness model, going on to successfully compete in bodybuilding events.
Adrian now works as a personal trainer after setting up his own business, explaining, “it is about focusing on something other than the disease. I train with people in parks, fields or at their homes, and some of them do know about the Crohn’s disease – but they tell me I don’t look like I have anything wrong.”
Although St Albans district council provides public toilets in three locations in the city centre, they are only open from 8am until 6pm, seven days a week.
There are also some facilities open to visitors in various eateries and shops, but Adrian urged the council to consider the plight of people who might also suffer from IBD, saying, “You don’t feel comfortable using coffee shop toilets.
“And it is difficult if you are at a bar, and it closes, but then you have the need to go urgently and the public toilets are closed in the city centre, where do you go?”