Petrolia teen Josh “Moe” Morely talks about his bowel disease
after family and friends raise thousands for a cure
Josh Morely was just like any other teenage boy.
The 17 year-old played hockey, hung out with friends and went to school.
But that started to change a couple of years ago. His mom, Jenny, noticed he was tired all the time. He stopped playing hockey because, in part, he didn’t have the energy. And he spent a lot of time in the bathroom – going 15 or 20 times a day.
In early 2015, Josh started losing weight and was “really, really pale” says Jenny.
“I was fed up with life,” says Josh. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Morely was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammation of the colon and in his case, doctors said it was caused by an auto-immune disorder.
Josh had extensive surgery removing his colon. He was in hospital for months and on about 21 different types of medication with their own difficult side effects including mood swings and weight gain and hunger – the enemy of anyone with a digestive tract problem since the food would move so quickly through his body but provided no nutritional value.
There was more bad news. His large bowel was failing. The family, in a last ditch attempt to save the organ, paid $50,000 for drug treatment not covered by the province. But that too failed.
In January, Josh was in the operating room for eight hours as doctors removed his large bowel.
“They had to cut through all the muscles of my stomach – it was hard to move,” he says adding at the time he was on heavy painkillers and barely remembers the three months he lay in the hospital bed a Sick Children’s Hospital in London.
“All I remember is there was nothing to do all day but stare at a blank wall or watch TV.”
His mom and dad were by his side every day and Jenny tears up when she thinks of the “incredible” care the people at Sick Children’s Hospital gave Josh.
She was overwhelmed by friends and family who helped during Josh’s long hospital stay. “People brought meals and gift cards, gas cards; friends would come in and clean my house – it was crazy.”
Her sister, Kristin MacFarlane, says it was difficult to watch the family go through so much in such a short period of time. “Josh had been a healthy active kid and then bam! He was a very sick kid…there were times he was in rough shape. I’m glad he is young and resilient because an older person wouldn’t have made it.
“I don’t think most people realize the toll this take s on a family…they’re consumed by what is going on.”
MacFarlane wanted to do something, so when she heard about a walk to raise money for Crohns and Colitis in Sarnia, she organized a team called No Moe Poops – a nod to Josh’s condition and his nickname, Moe. Forty-five friends and family joined in raising over $13,000 for research. In total, the walk raised just over $15,000.
MacFarlane and Morely hope to hold a walk in Petrolia next year.
Jenny Morely says Josh’s illness has been a learning experience for her. As the co-owner of the local M&M Meats franchise – which supports Crohns and Colitis research – she’d heard of colitis before but had no idea what it was. “We didn’t know anyone with it.” Now, she’s intimately aware of its affects.
And while Jenny and Josh agreed to talk to The Independent about his illness, it isn’t easy. As MacFarlane puts it “there is a stigma attached to it. People don’t talk about going to the bathroom…it’s a strange thing to talk about. But there are a lot of kids with it and a lot of adults with it.”
As for Josh, he’s well enough that he will work this summer in a grocery store in Tobermory. LCCVI will allow him to use that as co-op placement to earn some of the credits he missed out on this semester while he was in the hospital.
And he’s planning his future. He’ll return to LCCVI in the fall for a year and then go on to a specialized automotive marketing course at Georgian College to eventual work in the family’s dealership.
But there are also more surgeries on the horizon. If all goes well, in a year, doctors will surgically reattach his small bowel with his rectum. That could allow him to get rid of the colostomy bag he now has to use.
But because his illness is an autoimmune disorder, Josh says he can never say he’s been cured. “It will always be in the back of my mind.”