Fighting the daily battle of Crohn’s disease

. February 1, 2017.
Crohns-AnnArbor-Michigan

On the surface, Nicky Andrews looks like a typical teenager. The Superior
Township high school sophomore likes to have fun with her friends and family.
She is heavily involved in dance. She enjoys forensic research. What is not
apparent are the biweekly injections she receives to help her fight Crohn’s disease,
and the team of doctors who work to keep her healthy and strong.

What is Crohn’s disease?

Of the 780,000 Americans who suffer from Crohn’s disease, about 5 percent are
children, like Andrews. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes
swelling, inflammation and pain along the digestive tract. Because there is no cure,
the goal for those who have Crohn’s is to manage the symptoms and hopefully have
their body respond well to medication.

Quick and unexpected onset

For Andrews the onset was quick and unexpected. When she was 12 years old,
she went to a routine doctor’s appointment and had no symptoms, but about
two months later her mom noticed her hands seemed “dainty.” The next day,
she had no strength to go out with her friends. They immediately consulted
the doctor. After undergoing various tests, Nicky was diagnosed with Crohn’s,
a disease she had never heard of before. Andrews and her mom consider her
lucky since her body has responded fairly well to the medication her doctors
prescribed. Crohn’s patients often try multiple medications before finding
effective treatment. Andrew’s first medication was administered intravenously
at the hospital. During one routine administration, she experienced a sudden and
severe allergic reaction. To counter this type of reaction, her doctors developed
an elaborate treatment plan that included medicine a few days before the IV,
Benadryl right after the IV, followed by steroids; all to attempt to minimize the
allergic reaction while still delivering the necessary Crohn’s-fighting medicine.

Adapting and finding ways to cope

Earlier this year she was switched to another medication and has responded
quite well. When faced with this medication change, Andrews was nervous
because she had heard that the biweekly shots hurt, but she is strong and has
found ways to cope. She says the 10 seconds of the shot are better than the six
to eight hours she was spending at the hospital for her IV treatments.

Hope for those who suffer

While there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, there is hope. Each fall Andrews and
her family participate in the annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis fundraising
walk at Gallup Park. Each summer she attends Camp Oasis, a camp for children in
grades 2-11 who have Crohn’s or colitis. There she has made friends who understand
what she is experiencing. Andrews says she wishes more people knew about
Crohn’s disease. She regularly has to explain what it is. Sometimes people
don’t understand or believe her because her physical appearance is healthy.
Greater awareness of Crohn’s disease will help the hundreds of thousands
of people who have the disease and who, like Andrews,
fight it every day.

Local Resources

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Michigan chapter
Local chapter of the national organization dedicated to funding research, raising awareness, providing education and support for Crohn’s and Colitis patients.
248-736-0900 | ccfa.org/chapters/michigan/

Camp Oasis
Annual summer camp held in Michigan and around the US for children who suffer from Crohn’s or Colitis search the ccfa.org website for “Camp Oasis.”

Ann Arbor Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis Walk
Annual fundraising walk to support Crohn’s and Colitis research held each fall at Gallup Park.
248-737- 0900 Ext. 6 |  cctakesteps.org