Shane Soldinger

On April 2, 2011, Shane Soldinger was 35 years old, happily married, and working as a general manager for a local winery. He also had a thriving musical career, playing rhythm guitar and singing for a local band, the Silverado Pickups. The day before, Shane had done an hour of cardio training and was feeling fine.

"Out of nowhere, I felt an excruciating pain in my stomach," he remembers. "I couldn't even stand up straight, but I figured the pain would pass." After four agonizing hours, however, his symptoms continued to intensify. Shane's wife, Heidi, drove him to Queen of the Valley's emergency room with what they thought was appendicitis. But Shane wasn't worried—he'd have his appendix out and everything would soon be back to normal.

Several tests, including a CT scan, were ordered. Soon surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Cunningham broke the news that Shane's problem was much more serious than appendicitis. She suspected diverticulitis and warned the couple that he'd be headed for surgery the next day. The worst news: He'd likely wake up with a colostomy bag.

Shane was still in denial about the severity of his condition. But by the next afternoon, he was experiencing severe chest pains and within minutes he was rushed into the operating room. After four hours of surgery, he awoke to some very positive news: Dr. Cunningham had successfully removed eight inches of his sigmoid colon, and a colostomy bag wouldn't be necessary. That's very good news for anyone, but particularly for a 35-year-old.

After 12 days at the hospital, Shane soon resumed a completely normal life. Although he doesn't know what caused his diverticulitis, the gratitude and the blessings are still very much with him. "I'm very fortunate that my symptoms were so severe," he says. "Some people with more minor symptoms don't receive treatment and are dead within 36 hours. I could have been a goner." And, he adds, he was incredibly lucky to be in the deeply competent hands of Dr. Cunningham and her team. Shane shares the perspective of anyone who has experienced a life-threatening condition: Good health and a normal life just can't be taken for granted.

"You realize that the two most important things in life are health and love," Shane reflects. "Everything else is just icing on the cake. This experience enabled me to see that I don't want to lose these gifts."

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