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Digestive Health

John Barnes is inspired to share the great work at the IBD Centre

by St. Paul's Foundation


“I’ve never, ever, before, in my life felt so covered.”

John Barnes on the IBD team at St. Paul’s Hospital

Living with Crohn’s disease, John Barnes has undergone multiple surgeries throughout his life, including the removal of half his large intestine when he was 19. 

For decades, his condition was manageable with the help of his doctors – and especially with the support of Maria, his wife for 30 years. He enjoyed a successful career as an airline pilot and owner of a successful training and consulting company. However about seven years ago, after his gastroenterologist retired, he was prescribed a new drug – a broad-spectrum biologic – to treat his disease. In 2018, he suffered a debilitating reaction. “I thought I was dying,” says John, “so I stopped on my own.”

In 2013, he had corrective surgery by the colorectal team at St. Paul’s Hospital. The next few years, John describes bumping along on various treatments, relying on steroids and virtual doctors during the pandemic. The main thing he remembered was that if he ever needed surgery again, he had to go to St. Paul’s.

While in Palm Springs on a family trip in October 2022, John had the most painful irritable bowel attack he had ever had in his life. He couldn’t eat. He could hardly walk. “Maria pulled out all the stops to get me home to St. Paul’s as quickly as possible,” he says.

Once home in BC, he stumbled into the St. Paul’s Teck Emergency Centre, absolutely convinced he needed colorectal surgery.

Immediately, he was surrounded by members of different teams – gastrointestinal, colorectal, internists, and pharmacy. “I thought, thank God I’m here,” says John. “They spent time with me,” he says, “they wanted to know everything.”

It turned out John didn’t need colorectal surgery after all. He was introduced to Dr. Rosenfeld, a gastroenterologist at St. Paul’s IBD Centre. That was the first time John learned of the IBD Centre at St. Paul’s.

To realize there is a dedicated centre that deals with his condition here in BC – a one-stop shop – has been revelatory for John.

A pivotal moment, he recalls, was when Dr. Rosenfeld said, “John, you are not to worry about your disease anymore – that’s my job. Focus on your family, your company. Leave your disease to me.”

He says, “A million-ton weight was lifted from my shoulders.”

With the full care of the IBD Centre team, John has received a radically new treatment. He’s now taking a targeted biologic drug that treats his symptoms and he has experienced no side effects. “They gave me my life back,” says John, “I’ve never, ever, before, in my life felt so covered.”

Now John is spreading the word, telling his friends and colleagues, no matter what city they’re in, about the incredible work happening at the IBD Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital.

The IBD Centre at St. Paul’s provides comprehensive, innovative care for patients with digestive health concerns.