Posted by Sami Kennedy on June 27, 2014
It was the spring of 2007, and I was finishing up my junior year of high school. It had been the hardest year of my life with classes becoming increasingly more difficult and a mysterious illness plaguing my body. With daily diarrhea, debilitating stomach cramping, anemia, and other severe problems (which I will spare you from) it became clear that something was seriously wrong –– it was more than just the gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome I was previously diagnosed with. My illness was at a tipping point and my quality of life had decreased dramatically.
I was finally given a colonoscopy and subsequently my mystery was solved: I had moderate to severe Crohn’s colitis. While I remember feeling relieved to finally have a diagnosis, I was also extremely disappointed that it had taken nearly a year. How much needless suffering had I endured? Soon after my diagnosis and one failed surgery later, I made the transition to the UCSF pediatric IBD clinic with Dr. Mel Heyman. This may have been the most important decision of my life. Dr. Heyman, along with Laura, the nurse practitioner and a team of other medical professionals, identified the right medications for me, referred me to an exemplary surgeon at UCSF and ordered additional tests. Over the following months, the substantial decrease in my symptoms was nothing short of miraculous. To me it felt like being released from a confining and painful space, into one that was warm and safe.
Over the years, I have felt truly empowered by the team at UCSF to take an active role in the treatment of my illness. Some of the modifications I’ve introduced into my care plan have involved: a gluten and dairy free diet, the intake of potent probiotics, and getting plenty of exercise. I am an avid surfer, and feel really energized by the rough waves at Ocean Beach here in San Francisco. I have also recently become interested in how psychological stress may negatively impact patients with IBD, and would like to investigate this further. I am grateful beyond words to have had Dr. Heyman as my pediatrician and to be currently volunteering my time as part of the UCSF IBD team.
Andrew graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with majors in Neuroscience and Psychology. He is currently volunteering with the UCSF IBD clinic, and plans to attend medical school starting in the fall of 2015.