New Orleans Saints' Michael Mauti Saves Career Despite Losing Large Intestine
In the United States, ulcerative colitis is more common than Crohn’s disease. Out of the 1.6 million Americans living with inflammatory bowel disease, about 907,000 of them have ulcerative colitis. Michael Mauti, linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, is one of these people.
Mauti was diagnosed with the disease while he was at Penn State. He tried to manage his symptoms with medication and dietary changes for several years. He recalled experiencing flare-ups during his training and sought intravenous fluids on a daily basis during practice or during a game in order to minimize his need for eating or drinking. “Last year, I didn’t want to eat anymore. It was so painful,” he said. Despite his efforts to minimize his immune system’s frequent attacks on his colon, the ulcerative colitis was destroying a part of his gastrointestinal tract. In 2016, when the pain became so severe and his weight rapidly dropped to 190 pounds (40 pounds lighter than his target weight), Mauti was forced to miss the end of the last season. After the Saints replaced him on the non-football illness list last November, he underwent three surgeries to have his colon and rectum removed. His organs were substituted with an internal pouch that mimics their purpose. “It was just embarrassing. It was just a constant maintenance deal. I was so fed up with it,” he said.
Re-signing with the Saints
As Mauti was recovering from his surgeries, he started to work out again and to gain his weight back. He texted videos of his workout sessions to Sean Payton, the Saints coach, who was very eager to give Mauti a chance in training camp. The only problem was that Payton could not validate keeping him on the roster when the regular football season began. “One of the challenges is removing the emotions from the roster decisions — and that was the case in both situations when he was released and when he was signed,” said Payton. Yet, this did not stop Mauti from working hard to make it back on the team and within one year, his efforts finally paid off when the Saints re-signed him.
Not only has Mauti been able to transform his body so that he could save his NFL career, but he has also been able to overcome the embarrassment of having to go to the bathroom each day on a frequent basis, his frequent fear of besmirching his uniform during a game, as well as the discomfort of training while wearing a colostomy bag. “It is personal, but look, once you go through what I’ve been through, I can put my pride aside if I know that it’s helping people. The response that I’ve gotten is overwhelming, people just pouring their heart out, saying how much it has helped them or just inspired them,” he said.
Read on to learn more about Mauti's IBD journey.