Dear Michael –
Out of 40 cousins on my mom’s side the family, you are one that I have actually gotten to know fairly well. Being the “East Coast” cousins, I’m so glad that our families have spent Thanksgiving and Easter together over the years, although not as frequently lately as children have grown and life is more complicated.
I’m thankful that you live near Washington, D.C., so that every time work took me to the area when I was in the military and Homeland Security, I was able to spend time with you and your siblings and parents.
It also has worked out nicely that your house is just about the halfway point between my home and my in-laws. We’ve been fortunate enough to see you a few times as we’ve traveled up and down the East coast.
You’ve grown into such a sweet, kind, quiet, and oh-so-incredibly-intelligent young man from the fiesty little blond child you once were.
I have memories of you telling me your stories – filled with imagination and intrigue… even at the tender age of seven or eight, your imagination far surpassed any other boy I’d ever met. As you grew, so has your ability to tell stories and to bring others into your world of fantasy and adventure. I treasure the memory of you taking my four-year-old son under your protective wing, and although you were a mature 12, you played with him. You made him a board game so that he could keep playing the game on the journey home. For YEARS, Bug would ask, “When are we going back to see Michael?”
We haven’t been back enough.
I’ve missed most of the last few years of your life. But I’ve watched from afar. I’ve watched how you’ve had to adjust your dreams and goals and ambitions due to physical constraints. I’ve watched how you’ve rolled with the punches, never complaining about the hand you’ve been dealt.
I didn’t know much about Crohn’s disease when you received your diagnosis a couple of years ago. Even after your father told the family the news, it still didn’t truly register that you were suffering from inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, causing abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.
The conversation that we had on Grandma’s farm last summer left a long impression with me. You so sweetly answered all of my questions and spoke so intelligently and calmly about the fact that you were on a diet consisting only of Boost to try to calm down your intestines and reduce the pain. Sweet 16 year old boy, who should be running around and causing trouble…
I didn’t know that as a 15 year old child you would become a man because of the pain caused by this disease. But I do know a little something about chronic pain. And I know that a child should never have to face this. Yet Michael, you are a warrior. You never complain, you take it like a man.
Tomorrow you’ll be undergoing a major surgery. I know that you are scared. I know your parents are scared. No parent wants to see their child suffer. It is a terrifying experience watching your baby (even if you are 17!) be wheeled off into surgery.
But you are a champ.
Be strong Michael. Be brave.
I love you.
Crohn’s Disease in Children and Teens
- Abdominal pain, often in the lower right area.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Obvious blood in the stools or black, tarlike stools.
- Weight loss.
- Failure to grow.
How is Crohn’s disease treated and managed in children and teens?
Treatment of Crohn’s disease depends on how severe it is and where it’s located. The disease can sometimes go into remission on its own. So it’s not always possible to determine whether a specific treatment has been effective. When Crohn’s disease is active, treatment is aimed at controlling inflammation, correcting nutritional deficiencies, and relieving symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, and fever.
In general, medications are the first step in treating Crohn’s disease in children and teens. Some of these drugs include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, antidiarrheals, and immune-suppressing drugs (including corticosteroids). For those patients who have nutritional deficiencies, supplements are often prescribed. There are also some studies researching dietary modification including an all liquid diet.