In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 31, 2017

Helping Texas Rangers Reliever Jake Diekman Strike Out Ulcerative Colitis

By In the Loop

Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jake Diekman is set to rejoin the majors after recovering from three separate surgeries at Mayo Clinic to treat his ulcerative colitis.

Left-handed relief pitcher Jake Diekman's expected return to the majors will be an emotional one. Since childhood, he's dealt with the effects of ulcerative colitis. But recent treatments at Mayo Clinic helped him get back in the game.

Left-handed relief pitcher Jake Diekman is expected to return to the Texas Rangers bullpen on Friday, Sept. 1. For the casual fan, this might seem like just another September call-up. But for Jake, the return to baseball will mark a different kind of comeback. One with a major league curveball, if you will.  Since January, he's had three surgical procedures to treat symptoms of ulcerative colitis, the inflammatory bowel disease he's lived with since childhood. And that's kept him in the bleachers for most of this season.

The Star Tribune reports that for much of his life, Jake had simply learned to live with abdominal pain, diarrhea and emergency bathroom trips that often come with flare ups of the disease. "You can kind of trick your mind into thinking you don't have to go, that you aren't in pain," he told the paper back in June.

But Jake was in pain. And to help him manage that pain, the Strib reports doctors had put him "on a long train of medications" that had made him "feel better and lousy all at the same time." Robert Cima, M.D., Jake's colon and rectal surgeon at Mayo Clinic, tells the paper that, over time, medications like the ones Jake was taking can stop working for "25 to 40 percent" of ulcerative colitis patients. And that's an unfortunate club that Jake would ultimately find himself in. "Jake was not able to maintain his quality of life," Dr. Cima tells the Strib. "He was not able to maintain the physical activity level he needs. And given his profession, that was a big issue."

That's when Jake came to Rochester, where the Mayo Clinic News Network reports that Dr. Cima performed three separate surgical procedures to rebuild Jake's intestinal tract. "The vast majority of patients are very happy with the functional outcome and very happy with their quality of life," Dr. Cima says.

Including Jake, it seems, who the Strib reports has been selling T-shirts with the slogan "Gut It Out" to raise awareness and money for ulcerative colitis research. "If we can raise awareness, maybe we can find a better medication or a different therapy … that puts it in remission quick," Jake tells the paper. "I don't want little kids to have to go through this."

For the time being, though, Jake will have to settle for putting opposing batters into remission. That's exactly what he's done during each of the four rehab appearances he's made for the Rangers' Triple A affiliate, having retired all 13 batters he's faced, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The only thing left for Jake to do now, it seems, is to bring that kind of dominance back to the Big Leagues. Regardless of how his first post-surgery relief appearance for the Rangers goes, Jake tells the Strib there's one thing he knows for sure. "I'll cry," he says. "I know it."

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Tags: Dr. Robert Cima, Patient Stories, Ulcerative Colitis

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