Around the World With Crohn’s
Crohn’s hit Erron Maxey suddenly in 2009, about halfway into his 18-year career playing pro basketball abroad. A bout of food poisoning in Argentina seemed to trigger it.
“Actually, the whole team got food poisoning,” says Maxey, who also has played in Australia, Finland, China, and other countries. But only his symptoms seemed to linger and worsen.
Later that year, Maxey had his first surgery in Uruguay to repair infected sores in his intestines and to remove fistulas — tunnel-like passageways that reroute waste to the wrong places.
But it took 5 more years and several more surgeries before doctors officially diagnosed Maxey with Crohn’s.
That was a difficult time for Maxey. “I’d have upset stomach, chronic diarrhea, constant pain.”
“There’d be days when my energy level was really low, and, you know, I’d just go ahead and tell my coaching staff, ‘Hey, you know what? I ate something bad. I just don’t have it today.’”
For a world traveler, getting the right treatment wasn’t always easy. It was often tough just to get his medication on the road.
Even when Maxey managed to get the drugs shipped to him, a complex web of laws and regulations in other countries sometimes barred him from taking delivery. Once, a customs official destroyed $4,500 worth of medication right in front of him.
After so many years with Crohn’s and numerous surgeries, including a major one at Emory University in Atlanta in 2018, Maxey says he has learned to be very clear with those closest to him about his needs.
“As graphic and as vulgar as it might be, you have to go through it so your loved ones know how to help take care of you. You can’t sugarcoat it. Otherwise you’re going to be in some serious trouble when you need help.”
But it’s also important, he says, to reassure those who care for you most.
“I mean, you’re definitely nervous because you know that this stuff can take you out,” Maxey says. “But at the same time, hey, you know what? We’re going to get through this. We’re going to figure it out. You know, this isn’t my first rodeo.”
For now, Maxey is waiting in limbo in Atlanta for the pandemic to pass. He hopes to play professional basketball for at least 2 more years.