CHICOPEE, MA—In the three years since Dominic Quinn was diagnosed with a previously undetected gastrointestinal disorder, he's become a household name. Yet, for all his notoriety, the 44-year-old Chicopee claims adjuster remains ambivalent about being the Quinn behind Quinn's Disease.
"I suppose it's an honor," Quinn told reporters Monday. "I mean, how many people get something named after them? Then again, it'd be nice if I could have somehow gotten the notoriety without having to suffer from a disease."
Quinn's Disease, believed to afflict one in every two million Americans, is a non-fatal genetic disorder that impairs the parts of the brain that control alimentary and digestive functions. Symptoms include severe gastrointestinal distress, esophageal inflammation, and constipation and gaseousness. In certain cases, a narrowing of the colon and extreme impacting of the bowels can result, with the pressure becoming so great that a violent hemorrhage of blood and fecal matter occurs.
Quinn's ailment makes it necessary for him to submit to round-the-clock medical surveillance and a grueling regimen of thrice-daily enemas and anti-constipation drugs. In addition, since his March 1999 diagnosis, Quinn has undergone 11 operations to clear his large intestine of densely packed, highly toxic waste matter.
Given the choice, Quinn would prefer to derive fame from other aspects of his life, such as being a devoted father and husband and a skilled potter. Quinn is particularly proud of having spearheaded a 1987 effort to preserve and restore an 18th-century farmhouse near his home that was slated for demolition. But the public seems unanimous in its opinion that none of these accomplishments are as noteworthy as the colon-obstructing disease that bears his name.
"I heard that Lou Gehrig had a problem with ALS being named after him," Quinn said. "He was always telling his wife, 'You know, I was a completely disease-free pro ballplayer for more than a decade before I started to show even the slightest symptoms.' Boy, can I relate. Except, at least Lou Gehrig's Disease is also referred to as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. They've never even given my condition a scientific name. It's just Quinn's Disease, and that's it."
Continued Quinn: "Sometimes, I wish I'd contracted a syndrome instead of a disease. Syndromes are often given descriptive names like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I begged the doctors to reclassify my disease as a syndrome and call it, say, 'Anal-Blockage Syndrome,' but he refused because, technically, a syndrome is defined as a group of various symptoms that culminate in an abnormality. Mine is not an abnormality: I just can't shit properly."
Nevertheless, Quinn remains hopeful that, by giving the disease a human face, he has helped raise awareness of Quinn's Disease, increasing the likelihood of a cure.
"If my pioneering example can help one day eradicate this terrible disease, it will have all been worth it," Quinn said. "But until that day comes, I'm just Nicky Quinn, the exploding-feces guy."