Surgeon, robot build former Rice Owls quarterback artificial colon

Carter Tomsu was only 18 years old and an athlete at Rice University, when an auto-immune condition unexpectedly sacked his football career.

After four years of pain, the young man underwent a state-of-the-art procedure at Houston Methodist Hospital that is about to cure him of a dreadful disease.

Methodist is the only hospital in Texas and one of a few in the country that offers it. 

Carter was enjoying his freshman year as a quarterback on the football team, when his health took a turn for the worse and tackled his independence.

"The first thing I noticed was just an increase in bowel movements, found blood and mucous in my stool and that definitely was not normal for me to be feeling that way," says Carter.

Carter says he unexpectedly had to race to the bathroom at least 15 times a day.

"I just fought through it and went home and had to see a doctor - I missed the bowl game that year. I was a red shirt, and red shirts get to go to bowl games," says Carter.

He relied on his mother, who was on a mission to find the best treatment plan.

"I have an incredible super mom and while I was trying to fight through this disease in football at Rice, we knew the surgery was in our future, and she started doing research, trying to find the best surgeon possible," says Carter.

That research led them to Dr. Eric Haas, the Chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital.

"Carter was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and it's a disease that does affect young people, such as himself. It can take very many patterns, and unfortunately in his case, the disease became out of control," explains Dr. Haas.

Carter tried different medications and a major diet change, eliminating grains, dairy, even some meats from his diet, but his health just kept getting worse.

"I lost 70 pounds from the diet and disease, my gastric doctors decided it's not worth it - I'm already a skinny guy - imagine me 40 pounds less," exclaims Carter.

It has not only been a physically draining process, but mentally problematic, as well.

"The first thing he looks for when he's at a restaurant is the bathroom, the last thing he leaves at the restaurant is the bathroom. Pretty soon, you don't even want to leave the house. You get stomach cramps, pains, start losing weight, you don't look like yourself anymore, your friends start saying, "Hey why aren't you coming out or going to class with us" and you start failing to thrive," say Dr. Haas

"I've definitely lost a lot of friends from it, I've lost my girlfriend of five years, but in the end, it makes you who you are - so you have to be thankful," states Carter. 

Carter's colonoscopies started showing pre-cancerous cells, which alarmed doctors, at his young age.

"He came for surgery to remove his colon and remove any risk of colon cancer," says Dr. Haas.

The surgeon performed a procedure called the J-Pouch, building a reservoir in the place of a colon that can be reattached in a few weeks. With the help of a da Vinci robot, Dr. Haas turns this into a minimally invasive procedure, which means less trauma and scarring, a lower rate of infection, less pain, and a quicker recovery!

"The robot isn't operating, we're the ones operating, but we're using advanced computerized technologies for vision and for movements, therefore the results are phenomenal," explains Dr. Haas. 

"It's not fun, but a change in pace from the disease. The quality of life is increasing.  Even with an ostomy bag, you're not trapped by a bathroom, so it gave me freedom to be social," smiles Carter.

When he undergoes his final procedure in a few months, he'll be free from ostomy bags and cured of ulcerative colitis!

Carter says he has big plans for when he's cured.

"I was thinking about going to Rice, but I'm going to stay in Austin and transfer to UT - get off of my parent's pay roll," Carter laughs.

He wants to either go into sports medicine or become a pediatrician who specializes in the disease that he is about to be cured of.

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