ImproveCareNow Pac

Make a Difference! Join the PAC!


What is the Patient Advisory Council (PAC)? You may already know, but the PAC is a group of young patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD) from across the country who are passionate about being IBD advocates and taking an active role in making care better for all children and youth with IBD. As a member of the PAC I get to work alongside many patients who are nothing short of incredible, inspiring people. We all have different stories of IBD battles and we all lead very different lives but we share two traits – we have IBD and we have a passion for making a difference. Our differences, combined with our passion, make us a powerfully unique group.


Crohn’s doesn’t hold me back.


10 years ago this past summer, I was a shy, rather-little boy sitting in a post-op room in the hospital hearing the words, “You have Crohn’s disease.” I had no idea what Crohn’s was at that time, why I had it, or what it meant for my future. I won’t go into my diagnosis and battle story, which we hear versions of so often. Instead, I want to focus on what this disease has done to my life that I’m grateful for. For the first four years after my diagnosis, I didn’t want anyone to know outside my family. I was embarrassed and just wanted to be “normal”, but who could blame me? I still have yet to really figure out what would be considered “normal”, so if anyone knows please let me in on the secret.

After those four long years of suffering in silence, I realized I could continue sitting around waiting for change to come and for things to get better, or I could get involved and help change things for the better myself. 

Project WOW (Wear an Ostomy for the Weekend)

Wear an Ostomy for the Weekend Supplies at ImproveCareNow Community ConferenceProject WOW (Wear an Ostomy for the Weekend) was created to help the ImproveCareNow Community learn more about what patients wearing ostomies go through on a daily basis. The Parent Working Group (PWG) and Patient Advisory Council (PAC) wanted to create a learning opportunity where we could work together. We knew this project would only give a snapshot of what patients go through because participants wouldn't have had surgery and the ostomy wouldn't be functional. But we still believed it would be powerful because participants would be learning from perspective, spending some time "walking in patients' shoes", which is something often times difficult to accomplish and not easily seen.

What now?

I am just over three months into my first year of medical school. I love it, really, I do. Every day is different and a new kind of challenge, causing me to both embrace and restrict change as I become and remember who I am.

Of course, one contributing factor to who I am is my ulcerative colitis. It rarely feels like a Disease, with a capital D. It is less of a dinosaur than a dandelion these days. Usually barely noticeable but ubiquitous in my fields of thought. But then, the slightest trigger of an associated idea or memory creates a flurry of emotion I can’t help but acknowledge.

Christian's Journey: The Final Chapter

We speed down the pavement towards Grand Canyon National Park. In a few hours this road will be jammed for miles, but right now it’s empty. The trees stand motionless in our headlights and the air rushes into the car through the open windows and back out into the night. There is a young buck on the side of the road, and his presence only accentuates the stillness of the scenery. We pass the empty ranger station, the closed visitor center, and continue driving to the rim of the canyon. Clouds cover the stars like a nightshade, and only the moon penetrates the veil—it is dark.

Christian's Journey: Part 4

It’s 3:00am, and we’re at a gas station ninety miles outside of the park. We’ve been up for twenty-two hours, and been on the road for sixteen of them. I pull out of the station and on to the open road. We roll the windows down and open the sunroof. The air hits my arms and my body shivers at the cold. I stick my left hand out the window and open my palm to the night—it keeps me awake.

Christian's Journey: Part 3

The interstate takes us through a Navajo reservation. It’s time to switch drivers, but there are no exits. Daniel slows from eighty and stops us on the wide shoulder next to dark grassland and a wire fence. I pull down the ceiling flap and open the mirror. My eyes are red. Sand from the dunes scratched them up, and the burn of the open windows left me squinting. When I rub them, little tears form at the corners and slide down my cheeks.

Christian's Journey: Part 2

The first three hours of the drive are easy. Daniel takes us out of government land, and we watch the sun set behind clouds that drop streaks of rain over the prairie. Although we had already been in the car for nearly ten hours before leaving the dunes, the adrenaline keeps us comfortable. I lean my seat back and put my feet on the dash until it is time to switch. My right hand grips the steering wheel and I rest my foot just above the brake in case my eighty mile-per-hour pace becomes too fast.

Christian's journey: Night Visions Part 1

I see the sign for “White Sands National Monument” from the passenger seat of the car. These milky white dunes are surrounded by government land used for missile tests and military operations, while the Parks Service protects a small patch in the middle. Entrance is free with our Annual Pass, and we cruise down the road of packed sand towards the far edge of the park. We see families sledding down the hills of sand on circular disks and couples eating sandwiches at park benches. We stop at the visitor center and buy a backcountry camping pass for one night.

Running with Crohn’s: Drake's Story

I had always been a sick child. I can remember constantly calling my parents from the nurse’s office. While sitting in the nurse’s office I found myself wondering what was wrong with me, and why everyone in the school office knew me by my first name. I was that kid.


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