After many miles on the road in his big rig, truck driver Perry Warren had settled into the back of the cab to sleep. His wife had taken the wheel.

They were on the interstate near Phoenix, headed for California when Warren’s rest was very suddenly interrupted by piercing pain in his lower left abdomen.

Perry and his wife Marsha drove 2,500 miles across the country so he could have surgery at Fort Sanders Regional in Knoxville.

“I woke up screaming,” Warren says. “I don’t know how to explain it other than it’s a ‘crying, hating, wanting to punch something and wanting somebody to hold you at the same time feeling,’ and it was the absolute worst pain I’ve ever had.”

He yelled for his wife to pull over and call for help. A little later at a nearby hospital, Warren learned he was suffering from severe diverticulitis.

A Rare and Extreme Case

Premier Surgical at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center general surgeon Joseph Thurman, MD, says it’s common for small pouches to develop from the wall of the large intestine as a person ages. For most people, it’s not a problem, but when those pouches get infected or rupture, it’s painful and even dangerous.

Dr. Thurman says Warren’s case was rare and extreme. “He is in a very small minority of patients. Maybe one to two percent get as sick as Mr. Warren did,” Dr.
Thurman says.

Warren remained hospitalized in Arizona for about a week. But Warren had decided that if he had to have surgery, he was going to have it at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, close to his home and family in Russellville, Tennessee.

“We drove 2500 miles, and I was so sick I was asking God to just let me go,” Warren says. When he finally reached the doors of the Fort Sanders Regional Emergency Department, he received quick attention.

Emergency Surgery
Dr. Joseph Thurman, Premier General Surgeon

“On the CT scan you could tell there was a big hole in the colon that had basically been leaking freely into the abdomen,” Dr. Thurman says.

Dr. Thurman quickly explained to Warren’s wife that emergency surgery was needed. “We had to take out the affected part of the colon,” Dr. Thurman says, “and because he had been sick for so long and had so much leakage from the colon, we had to take part of the small intestine that had become involved, too.”

Warren may have had a rare condition and major surgery, but he wasn’t going to let his circumstances get the better of him. He went home from the hospital as soon as Dr. Thurman approved, and by the time his first follow-up visit came around, Warren was ready to shift recovery into high gear.

Knowing that driving a truck doesn’t require heavy lifting or present any other dangers for a case like Warren’s, Dr. Thurman gave him the green light to get back on the road.

“I grabbed him and hugged him – I stunned him,” Warren laughs. “I said, ‘Thank you for saving my life.’”

Thankful and Grateful

Dr. Thurman later performed follow-up surgery to reverse a colostomy and ileostomy. Today, Warren is praising Dr. Thurman, and not just for the doctor’s surgical skills.

“It’s being able to talk to him,” Warren says. “I know how an alternator works and I know how to drive a semi. He didn’t explain stuff to where I couldn’t understand it. He’s real, not filling me full of a bunch of jargon. He was amazing.”

Warren is also grateful for Dr. Thurman’s compassion and understanding. The surgeon even adjusted his office hours to accommodate Warren’s work days.

“There are some things in life that just wake you up, shake you real good and make you thankful,” Warren says. “To know there are people out there that do what they do because they care about somebody they don’t know means more to me than anything.”

For more information about Dr. Thurman or the Premier Surgical physicians that operate at Fort Sanders Regional, visit