Danielle: Mesenteric Ischemia

Hi! My name is Danielle Mauldin and I am 25 years old. About one year ago, out of nowhere, I developed a blood clot in my small intestine, which turned out to be caused by a rare protein deficiency in my blood. This would lead to a life-threatening case of mesenteric ischemia, where my bowels became necrotic due to not enough blood supply. My symptoms included: abdominal distention, blood in my stools, disorientation, and the inability to defecate. I vomited a large amount of blood and completely lost control of my bowels, which lead to temporary loss of sight and hearing. I was MedFlighted overnight to The Cleveland Clinic and underwent an immediate resection of all but 8 cm of my small bowel and a portion of my large bowel. I am still able to eat food for pleasure, but I am only absorbing a small portion of nutrition due to the loss of the majority of my small intestines. Because of this, I have been dependent on TPN as a source of calories, vitamins, and hydration as I await transplant.


I am currently pre-transplant and listed for an isolated small bowel at The Cleveland Clinic. What I wish I could tell myself a year ago would be to always listen to your body! If something doesn’t feel right, it generally isn’t. I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac when I began experiencing the distention and abdominal pains, but it is so important to ask the right questions. It can be very intimidating, but it’s your life you are gambling with and you need to know that all the correct tests are being administered. You live and you learn!


I remember being so scared when this experience began and feeling as if I were the first person to experience something of this magnitude. Then I began meeting others that were going through similar situations and it made me feel a lot less alone and a lot more appreciative of what I do have.  I’ve since made a very good friend that I met at The Transplant House of Cleveland who also experienced mesenteric ischemia and I’ll never forget the direct connection I felt with her and the immediate feeling of, “I’m not the only one after all”. No one is going through exactly the same thing as you, but there are some aspects of this process such as the lab work, TPN, or all the MRIs, CTs, and ultrasounds that must be completed prior to transplant that we are all going through and talking about them to another person can be incredibly therapeutic!


Life will be different post transplant, but life is constantly changing regardless. I choose to be grateful for a second chance at life, grateful for the man upstairs, and grateful for The Cleveland Clinic and their wonderful Transplant Team. Not only the doctors, but also the nurses, technologists, therapists, food service employees, and janitors are absolutely WORLD CLASS. I don’t have enough words for how special and cared for they made me feel when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable. If one person reads this and some aspect of it resonates with them and they feel a little bit less alone or a little more inclined to ask questions regarding their care, I’ve succeeded in something great. I am more than willing to discuss or joke about the horrible techno concert going on inside your MRI, the insatiable itches that occur as soon as you enter a CT, or the indescribably, uncomfortable warm rush of a contrast. I feel human connection is greatly underestimated for its healing capabilities. With just a little bit of it, many of the fears and unknowns associated with transplant can be exposed.