By Rasheed Clarke
Faisal Khatib films his first-time experiences to show that living with Crohn’s disease doesn’t have to mean living without fun
Doctors told Faisal Khatib he had “a nervous stomach.” They told him he probably had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). That was their explanation for his need to sprint to the washroom, his abdominal pain, his cramps, his inability to gain weight, and his intermittent bouts with fever and chills.
Faisal was born in Kuwait, moved with his family to Jordan following the Gulf War, and eventually immigrated with them to Canada when he was 19. Through all of the migration, and even after years spent settled in Halifax, his nervous stomach remained, and his pain tolerance grew.
It wasn’t until March 11, 2016 that the 31-year-old husband and father couldn’t bear the pain anymore. After being admitted to hospital, a doctor put pressure on his abdomen. Faisal screamed. A rush CT scan was ordered. The test revealed a perforation in his small intestine. Doctors performed an emergency laparotomy and removed a foot of Faisal’s intestines. Further testing on the affected section led the doctors to diagnose Faisal with Crohn’s disease.
“I had no idea what Crohn’s was, so when the doctor was telling me what it is, I was just nodding politely,” says Faisal. “There was no explanation of what the rest of my life would be like. No one told me I would have to avoid eating all the good stuff I used to eat before. No one told me I would need medication to control the perforation. It was a lot of ‘only time will tell’.”
After enduring the surgery, a stomach drain, and a nasogastric tube, Faisal walked out of hospital 25 pounds lighter, his new diagnosis weighing on his mind.
“I have a baby girl and my wife and I were considering having another child. I was growing my dental business. Then I get this and it stopped everything for me. I had to slow down from all activities for eight months. Basically, I had to redo my life plan to work around my disease.”
Faisal learned to avoid the foods that aggravated his symptoms, and found treatment to help keep his disease under control. His recovery was slow, and at times frustrating.
“There was a point where I was really depressed. Keep in mind I was very active, working out all the time, and then all of a sudden I’m skinny, can’t eat anything, couldn’t fit in my clothes. It was just a bad time for me,” says Faisal.
“I went on the internet for motivation and found vloggers who went out there to find and document anything fun and entertaining. That made me want to document that there is a life after Crohn’s. I wanted me and the guys to get out and have fun again.”
So the guys – Jon, Nic, and Tim – and Faisal created East Coast VIP Experience, a vlog to record all of the new adventures they would take on together. So far, those adventures have included racing go-karts at 90km/h, skiing for the first time, sailing for the first time, and doing Crossfit, yes, for the first time.
East Coast VIP Experience’s videos highlight the complexity of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Watching Faisal speeding down the slopes at Ski Martock or swinging a sledgehammer in a Crossfit gym, you might not know he lives with an a chronic illness. At the same time, the videos are a reminder to those struggling with inflammatory bowel disease that better days can still be found.
“I put so much effort into all the videos and I had a lot of fun making every one of them. My wife is jealous I haven’t done the same kind of editing with our family videos!” says Faisal.
“Honestly I just want people to have a good laugh and feel motivated to go out and have some fun the same way I am. Life is short, so enjoy it! Go out there and enjoy life and find people who want to share those experiences with you.”
Watch all of East Coast VIP Experience’s videos on Facebook, and be on the lookout for an upcoming video of Faisal behind the wheel of a Ferrari.