ImproveCareNow Parents


Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…


The announcement from Daniel McLinden that the ICN Exchange was back up.

 

Recently, the ICN Exchange needed to undergo maintenance unexpectedly for two days. Some people in the ImproveCareNow Network probably noticed it more than others. I know that as someone who has come to rely on it to keep up with what centers are working on and looking at, I was keenly aware of its absence.  So you can imagine how thrilling it was when it came back online!

 

Now that the Exchange is back up and running (and better than ever - with plans and resources in place to prevent such outages in the future!) it occurs to me that even a quick glance at the Exchange clearly shows the richness, diversity, vibrancy—and the multifaceted dynamics of our community.

 

When I glanced at the Exchange today this is what I saw:

 

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters' DIGMA model demo video from the Spring 2014 Learning SessionImproveCareNow centers, like Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, jumping in and collaborating with parents, patients, and other centers to make sure that we are all learning together!
Call for clinicians to sign up for a focus group to dicuss what has worked and what hasn't worked when trying to get patients and families involved in QI work at ImproveCareNow centers.

 

Opportunities that highlight how much we really, really want and need to learn from each other so we can collaborate even better!

 

The first ever announcement for a ImproveCareNow Dietician webinar Multidisciplinary partners, like the RD group, are staying connected with each other and getting organized so they can The new online 90 day goals tracker for ImproveCareNow centers to track and monitor their Improvement project goals and progress quarterlytake on projects that will build their visibility and leadership in ImproveCareNow.

 

ImproveCareNow QI teams are becoming even more accountable and transparent in their day-to-day QI work.

 

The Parent Working Group of ImproveCareNow is now setting and working on 90 Day Goals and in the spirit of transparency is sharing them with the whole NetworkParent Partners are setting their 90 day goals, tracking their progress and keeping the Network informed!The Patient Advisory Council request to ImproveCareNow participants to co-produce an Ostomy Toolkit for patients with permenant or temporary ostomies.

 

And finally, amazing patients around the country are teaching us more and more every day.


 

And that is just a quick glance! So thank you to everyone who has been a part of helping us build this vibrant community. I, for one, can’t wait to see where the community goes next!



The ICN Exchange is an internal knowledge-sharing platform that the ImproveCareNow Network uses to communicate, collaborate and innovate across the miles. Clinicians, Researchers, Patients, Families and Improvers are able to log into the ICN Exchange and share seamlessly and steal shamelessly!  The ICN Exchange has enabled ImproveCareNow to extend our “all teach, all learn” collaborative approach to medicine far beyond our monthly webinars and twice-annual Learning Session. It allows us to identify ideas and best practices in pediatric IBD care and introduce them into the care delivery process much faster—improving care for our patients now.


When working for becomes working with...

Look on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other social media outlets over the past few weeks, and ImproveCareNow is all over the place. Many quotes about “parents as partners,” “real patient engagement,” and “amazing collaboration.” It’s fantastic to see the buzz we are generating. It’s huge, and important, and feels like it will catalyze many others who are working on similar efforts to jump in and do the same. We have a lot to teach now, even as we learn. It’s helping us achieve health outcomes we did not think possible and will probably help others do the same.

 

But what does this mean at the micro level, in the day-to-day shuffle (and sometimes tornado!) of getting the real work of running this complicated Network done? I don’t pretend not to realize that the care teams out there across in our 65 centers are doing the hard work – planning visits in advance, getting to know our new automated reporting tools, and trying to fit this all into their already complex clinic workflows. They (with the families they serve) are real heroes in this Network. But a lot of work also goes on at the ImproveCareNow leadership and staff levels to make it all possible. And I consider myself very fortunate to be in the position, as part of this team, where I get to see how many of the pieces fit together, and witness the not so subtle shift in what it means to “work for ImproveCareNow.”

 

I’m going to use our recently completed Spring Learning Session as an example. Even just one year ago, planning the Learning Session meant that the core Quality Improvement (QI) project team and I looked at Network priorities and recent lessons learned, identified who would do a good job speaking about these things, and pieced together what usually turned out to be a good agenda for a good meeting. Parents and patients were starting to attend Learning Sessions, but were on the fringes and some would tell you they spent their weekend trying to figure out where they fit in. We felt good about including them, but we didn’t feel good about not understanding quite how we all fit together.

 

What a difference a year can make! In planning for the Spring 2014 Learning Session I found myself watching as unprecedented collaborations between clinicians and parents, data managers and parents, took place across the miles. In one instance, what began as an offhand comment about the potential for a parent panel at the Learning Session, which would address how centers can better engage families in QI work, became a series of many, many emails between a clinician, several parents, and ImproveCareNow staff. Over three months we worked together to co-design the objectives and draft a call-to-action that the panel could deliver to the Network. The result was one of the highlights of this Learning Session.

 

In another instance, a parent asked for permission to use Network remission data in his presentation—the kind of data that he knew could illustrate the ImproveCareNow story best. Again, I found myself watching an amazing email discussion unfold between the parent, our ImproveCareNow data manager and the centers that agreed to have their data displayed in a novel way by a parent. This kind of conversation about data (“send me that,” “no, let’s try it this way,” “yes, that will have the most impact”) happens all the time within ImproveCareNow. But until now, had been limited to QI, data management, communications, and IT staff.

 

I used to believe ImproveCareNow staff and leadership needed to work for the clinicians, parents, patients and others that make up this Network…they were partners, but also customers and we had to make it all work well for them. I now realize it’s all about working with them so they can help us get things right. So yes, I work with the many care teams who are providing more proactive and reliable medical, nursing, nutritional, social work, and psychological support to pediatric patients with IBD. But I also work with Justin, Jamie, Sami, JenJo, Jennie, Tania, Beth, David, and many, many others who have ideas and experiences that also need to be integrated into this learning health system.

 

Today these patient and parent partners email me just as any of my other coworkers would. They email me during the work day, but also at 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM, during their time. They do so despite having busy full-time jobs inside or outside of their homes and despite the extra time they already devote to caring for children with a chronic illness. They share their ideas, ask for my input, worry about pushing us too fast (I often hear: “we’re not going to get you all fired, are we?”), worry about not pushing us fast enough, and ask how my kids are doing. I push them to post things on our internal knowledge-sharing platform, the ICN Exchange, just like I push the care centers. They are creating 90-day goals to focus and guide their work just like the care centers.  Most of all, they are helping us walk together into a new model for running this Network, understanding we won’t get it right every time, caring about the impact on others who are new to this level of partnership too, and above all, making sure we all stay connected to what this work is really about:

 

 

 


Parents as partners in care

One of the joys of working with the ImproveCareNow Network is seeing the results of co-production introduced more broadly to a learning community. At the same time, communicating what this is all about can be tricky – the idea that patients and clinicians can actually be partners (in health, care, improvement, and research) - is such a paradigm shift.  In fomenting this culture change, we have come to a deep appreciation of story-telling, art, and other creative expression as a powerful way of communicating beyond the hard data. That's why it's so breathtaking when we see this come along:


https://twitter.com/michaelseid11/status/448458248627027969

Justin, who made this video, is a parent in the ImproveCareNow network.  Collaborating with other parents and with some (minor) input from ImproveCareNow staff, he distills, in less than 90 seconds, this movement to its essence so much better than my feeble words could do.


Drum Roll Please...

In only a couple of days, there will be a flurry of texting between Sami and I, sending pictures of packing and potential Learning Session outfits back and forth. Yesterday I sent Sami a few pictures of a sample outfit, to which she instantly texted back, “I like it!! It looks professional and cute!” (Note: said outfit was, indeed, packed immediately)

 

Last night I was pouring over an email with the Learning Session agenda, clicking on the various hyperlinks for teasers about the plethora of exciting things to come. One link sent me to pictures posted on the ICN Exchange of various ImproveCareNow teams; I chuckled at the Boston Children’s Hospital team’s faces photo-shopped onto duck statues (a la Make Way for Ducklings), the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team’s matching t-shirts, the MassGeneral Hospital for Children team’s “We love ICN” sign (complete with a full GI tract doodle), and – finally – the ICN Exchange “Team Oscar Selfie” (a gutsier version of Ellen’s now infamous Oscar celebrity selfie).

 

Nothing like previewing pictures of the big-hearted, gutsy-humored, determined-with-all-their-might-to-change-chronic-illness-care care center teams to get me excited about the Spring Learning Session!

 

Spring 2014 ImproveCareNow Learning Session

 

Sami and I have tried (and, notably, failed) at accurately articulating the pure excitement, joy, motivation, and positive energy that’s simply contagious at the Learning Session. Here in text, it sounds cheesy and like ImproveCareNow is prodding us to write down such ooey-gooey sentiments. But, let me reassure you on behalf of Sami and myself, our ooey-gooey praise is exceedingly well-deserved and comes directly from our hearts (read: guts).

 

In addition to the undeniable culture of optimism and innovative thinking, there are always particular sessions we just cannot wait for. Following are the things we look forward to most at the Spring Learning Session:





    • PAC Reunion: The Learning Session is the one time when the PAC Leadership is able to brainstorm in-person (and also eat lots, and lots of candy!). We look forward to seeing each other face to face, and are always astonished by the amount of important work we get done in a couple of days. This Learning Session will be the first where our full PAC Leadership will be in attendance (PAC co-chairs - Jennie & Sami, and Patient Scholars - Katherine & Tyler) – we just can’t wait!!

 


    • QI Fundamentals: Sami and I stumbled upon this last year as we both arrived early, and were quickly enthralled with the phenomenal centers who are our newest family members in the network. This is a wonderful opportunity if you’re in need of some inspiration (note: by the end of the weekend, you’ll be bursting with inspiration!) or a Quality Improvement refresher, and is a fantastic way to meet upcoming superstars in the network.

 


    • Opening Reception: Here, there, and everywhere – the reception is filled with amazing people and is an awesome chance to network, socialize, and get the 411 on the network’s progress and innovations with the variety of poster presentations. Also, keep an eye out for some Patient Advisory Council members who will be reprising their roles interviewing reception attendees!

 


    • The Learning Health System Today and Tomorrow: The opening never fails to deliver in motivating every cell of every attendee, and – who are we kidding – we always love seeing Dr. Margolis and Dr. Colletti (and, if we’re lucky, they’ll coordinate their outfits!).

 


    • Lunch: Food, food, more food, and lots of networking! We always fill up with some nourishment and get the chance to meet new centers, parents, and the clinicians at various centers that we are humbled to call friends.

 


    • The Learning Health System, The Months Ahead: The closing is reliably the time when you will need a stash of tissues compliments of the remarkable speeches from parents and patients. After the excitement of the weekend and the endless research ideas and connections you’ve developed, the closing is a perfect opportunity to digest (yes, pun intended) the entire experience and head home with genuine motivation that you won’t soon forget.



We can’t wait for the collaboration, the innovation, the passion, the insight, and to continue to watch children and their families living with IBD receive better, and better holistic healthcare.

 

So pack your bags (or join us on Twitter and follow the Learning Session hashtag #ICNLS) and get excited – the Spring Learning Session is just around the corner!

 

Jennie + Sami


Transitioning at Children's Mercy Hospital

When I was little, I had a lilac-purple colored bicycle. There were shiny streamers at the ends of the white handlebars, which would often catch the wind as I rode through a field near our house, my parents cheering and running behind me holding tight to the lip of the seat. Having gotten used to the stable comfort of riding my tricycle around our quiet suburban cul-de-sac, I remember feeling both terrified and thrilled at the expanse of the field and my ‘big girl’ two-wheeler. Learning to ride my bike – like most things in life – was a skill that required a lot of technical and emotional support from others, and a belief that I could do it.

 

A few months before I graduated high school at 17, I went to the hospital with my Mom for the so-called “transition appointment.” We had been sheltered and insulated in the pediatric world, full of pastel-colored murals, teddy bears, and bandages that were cut into heart shapes. The adult medical world was cryptic and distant – a new building, new doctors, new nurses, new everything. While everyone was perfectly polite, the transition appointment consisted of being told which adult doctor I was going to see and when/where I had to show up; there were no choices, no decisions, no questions. And there was no road-map for how to get from point A (pediatric care) to point B (adult care).

 

There are two important concepts that often get conflated: transition is the careful, premeditated, and inclusive process of educating and empowering an individual to be responsible for one’s health, while transfer is the physical change of moving to a new medical facility (e.g., pediatric to adult hospital). Transition is the meaningful process of gaining and growing skills like medical literacy, advocacy, adherence strategies, and so on. It requires a team of people (patient, parent, pediatric and adult doctors, nurses, etc.) working together to empower the patient. It’s the difference between learning to ride that little purple bike in a big field with lots of support versus just being given the bike with no guidance about how to use it.

 

According to Dr. Michele Maddux, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, who helped develop their transition program, Mercy’s efforts had previously involved transferring medical records and, “finding an adult provider, with significantly less focus on equipping adolescent patients with the tools and skills needed to successfully manage their health care needs.” Seeing this gap, Dr. Maddux and a dedicated transition task-force set out to create a holistic transition program that managed the clinical issues while taking lifestyle matters and family perspectives into account. They started by interviewing each of the pediatric gastroenterologists (GIs) on service to ensure physician engagement in the project and to capture their unique perspectives. They also created a GI roundtable and invited pediatric and adult GIs to have transparent conversations about transition. This resulted in a provider database and helped to dispel some of the myths that pediatric and adult GIs had about each other. The success of the roundtable and the transition task-force’s efforts culminated in the hiring of a transition coordinator and the development of a transition readiness screener for patients as well as educational materials for patients and families undergoing transition. The educational materials were vetted by Mercy’s general parent and teen advisory boards (i.e., not IBD specific) and by parents of children living with IBD.

 

Cue Jamie Hicks – a perfect fit into the role given her nursing background and a busy mom of three, including 10-year-old Colson who lives with Crohn’s. Prior to reviewing the transition materials, Jamie said, “[i]t simply wasn’t on my radar… I think of him growing up and how the disease will impact his future. But I never linked that to him taking over my ‘job’ as the manager of his health care.” Jamie praised the educational materials as “fantastic”, underscoring the importance of a defined direction and plan over guessing and uncertainty. Jamie’s main contributions were adjusting the material’s language, which she believes can have a large impact on how the information is received and understood by kids and families. According to Dr. Maddux, “Jamie brought a much needed patient/family voice to our materials that gave us a unique opportunity to craft our educational materials to meet the needs of families.”

 

Both Dr. Maddux and Jamie reiterate the vital importance of creating space for parents in research projects. Dr. Maddux pointed to the language and format changes as key edits that would have gone unaddressed without parent and patient engagement. Jamie addressed the critical role parents play as the people who most intimately understand their children beyond the clinic by helping to appropriately tailor educational materials and provide ‘behind the scenes’ information about children's motivations and worries. Similarly, they are both passionate about transition being relationship-based and starting as early as possible so the changes in medical responsibility are empowering and fitting for each child and familial situation.

 

We may not have a cure for IBD, but thanks to the insight and persistence of Dr. Maddux’s team and parents like Jamie, it is possible to implement a comprehensive, team-based transition program that prepares young patients with IBD to manage their own care. We can give our patients the encouragement, support, and information they need to ‘ride their bikes’ with strength and confidence.

 

After dozens of tries back in that field on my purple bicycle, I finally pushed off the ground, my feet finding the pedals and my eyes trained on the horizon, newly sturdy and sure of myself, and off I went pedaling across the field as my parents clapped and whistled. It hadn’t been easy, but I did it.

 

And together, we can make sure all of our kids can do it too.

 


This is not how it ends.

Thumbs up and thumbs down indicating conflicting opinions Image courtesy of Teerapun / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My daughter asked me to write an honest retrospective on how she wasn't always like how she is now. The changes happened on her terms, in her time, on her own. And, as well as I know her, even I didn't see it coming. I view that as the “even better” part.

 

My daughter was diagnosed with IBD in early 2008. The following is just a snapshot of life then; a story about a high-schooler and her parent experiencing normal life, though ours was further complicated by a chronic illness. Our story might not make anyone's journey any easier, but I hope it will help everyone have a deep-breath moment and think (to quote a favorite song) - this is not how it ends. I hope other parents can relate to these experiences and know they're not alone.

 

Fall 2008: Six months post-diagnosis, I found out we knew someone else with IBD, right in her age group and right at our school. I couldn't wait to tell her when I picked her up at school, but she took the good news with silence. And then she said she knew! She knew? Apparently, he was in one of her classes and mentioned his IBD out loud in class, but she didn't want to "bother him." I eventually (well, maybe very eventually) let the subject drop as I often would during those years. I didn't want to upset her further. Several years later, after high school, the two former classmates connected and shared their experiences. I was very happy, but thought of the knowledge and support we could have gained earlier if not for my child's silence.

 

Note: Whenever I expressed that sentiment (of not upsetting her) out loud to her, it would backfire and she would get extremely upset, saying I was treating her differently now that she had a disease. I couldn't totally deny it, as I knew stress could exacerbate her disease, so I did watch myself. Thus, guilty as charged!

 

Late Winter 2009: She called me from a school bathroom, doubled over in pain. She sounded exhausted and scared, and sheepishly admitted she had been symptomatic for several weeks. She never told me - actually, she outright covered it up, as I asked her often about how she felt with very pointed and specific questions. Now, she sounded desperate. She wanted the blood to stop, as she had a math test the next period and had an A for winter trimester at that point. I gave her a few (extremely reasonable) options, but she rejected them all. She insisted she would get to the test somehow and not say anything to anyone. She hung up on me and was even more upset when I saw her later. Medically, she felt horrible. Academically, she had blown her A. Emotionally, she didn't want to deal with anything, including me questioning the cover-up, its wisdom (or lack thereof), etc.

 

Spring 2011: While completing her senior year internship, a requirement for high school graduation, a new flare. Her internship hours were set, but we needed to schedule a colonoscopy. She did not want to request an accommodation and miss any internship hours. I wasn't allowed to talk to the school either. Thus, the colonoscopy had to be the week after the internship ended - just a few days before graduation. Given her pediatric gastroenterologist's schedule, she did need to agree to have it the day of her internship report. She begrudgingly agreed to do her talk one day early, though two days early (when no other presentations were scheduled) would have been better. When I asked why, it was clear she chose the easy way to avoid discussing details with the school. This meant she had to present and come immediately out to me in the parking lot to start drinking the prep (a few hours late). The colonoscopy occurred as planned, but two nights later, she told me she couldn't even sit still for five minutes without pain – and had been in pain since the procedure! The graduation ceremony was the next morning. After talking to the pediatric gastroenterologist on call, he assured us it was just a difficult colonoscopy with lots of maneuvering; the pain was all muscular-skeletal. Graduation went smoothly, but her choices made that month so much more difficult.

 

Early Summer 2011: The colonoscopy showed nearly the best results we could have hoped for and her medication plan was fine, with one addition, enemas. I was so relieved. She was so upset. Back in the spring, her college had been wonderful when learning of her IBD and even offered a private room right in the freshman dorm. She had refused; she would not alter her freshman experience based on her disease - even now, with the enemas changing her routine up. I suggested she be open with her roommate, but she presented the same freshman experience argument. With downing thirteen pills a day and storing large boxes of enemas in a tiny dorm room, she was going to need to explain something to her roommate, but she just rolled her eyes at the thought. Thus, her nightly bedtime routine at home became a "dress rehearsal" of a strange technique - doing an enema in the bathroom and holding her butt together while shuffling back into bed (note: not an exact enactment of what was to come, as she couldn't practice ladder climbing - yes, she was going to elevate her dorm bed and yes, bed height was also part of the freshman experience that could not be altered. I had given up debating this freshman experience thing by this point!). Ultimately, I am not sure if she ever mentioned her IBD to her freshman roommate. My mom-sense did lead me to casually mention it to her roommate's mom, though.

 

Winter 2012: On the phone from college, she told me she wanted to volunteer as a counselor at Camp Oasis. I was shocked. I was not against the idea; quite the contrary, just stunned. I had begged her to attend as a camper for three years. Not once could I finish the sentence before she shut me down. I could go on about similar refusals regarding IBD learning conferences, IBD peer support events, etc. Although she did happily participate in CCFA walks and other fundraisers, I was still amazed at her insistence on volunteering at Oasis! She applied and was accepted as a counselor. She has been loving it every summer since and admits she wished she had experienced it as a camper. (I can't help but think those four words kids hate to hear from their parents - I. Told. You. So.)


Zip Line MisadventureMy daughter asked me to write this for all the parents and their kids facing the same types of challenges we did. It's not easy - but where you are now won't be where you end up - just like Sami and me.

With much Love to and Admiration for ICN, C3N, and Jennie and Sami, Always,

Sami’s Mom


Words Into Action

It was a Monday and I had a migraine.

The hospital room was grey and muted.  I was on my side with my eyes closed, trying to wish away the headache. A suave, slicked-hair doctor – the new GI for the week – strode into the room, the curtains whooshing slightly with his arrival, followed by his resident, and my mother stood up from her chair. They all stood at the foot on my bed, a semi-circle, as I pulled my legs closer to me and rolled onto my back.

Within minutes, I went from sleepy and calm to sobbing and furious. I could hear myself talk, I could hear the escalation of my voice and the rising tremor as I began to cry, but no one was listening. Everything I said was countered – I said, “I want to go home,” and the doctor would say, “Yes, but…” and I would say again, demanding this time, “I want to go home,” and the doctor would repeat, “Yes, but…” Finally I broke eye contact with him, my voice boiling higher and higher, and instructed him just to tell me what he wanted since I clearly was not making my point. “Do whatever you want,” I said, “You just make a decision for me and stop pretending like I have a say, because clearly I don’t. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

I am someone who believes in the patient voice, in working with doctors, in pushing for what you think is right, in being persistent. What had happened to that girl and who was this person, someone who just threw her hands up and willingly handed over her decision-making rights to a doctor she’d never met?

It is very easy to talk about change and use wonderful terms like “patient-centered care” and “shared decision-making.” It is easy, and often it is done with the best of intentions. It is much more difficult, however, to put these things into practice alongside busy lives and complicated patients. How do you achieve patient-centered care and shared decision-making with a patient such as myself, one with refractory disease who has ‘failed’ every traditional medication, has already undergone aggressive surgery, and who sits in front of you on her hospital bed, legs folded, eyes blurry with tears, asking you for the rest of her life, and all you can offer is another fluid bolus. What happens then?

In some ways, it was easier as a pediatric patient when I was not responsible for my care in full. And even though now I have legal rights as an adult patient, to decide what I think is best, in upsetting and frustrating situations I do notice myself defaulting to needing my parents. I find often my doctors are talking directly to my parents and forgetting that I am there. And, like that Monday, sometimes I feel like I have no power or ability to direct my care.

For me, there is an incredible and palpable dissonance between sentiments expressed about chronic illness care at ImproveCareNow Learning Sessions and in my own adult medical experiences. The system at play in many adult hospitals is, in various ways, broken and offbeat with patients – nevertheless, it functions ‘well enough’ that it’s left untouched, unchanged, unaffected by the gleaming and exciting collaborative thinkers just an arm’s length away. As someone who has been steeped in medical decision-making literature for the past several years, it feels appalling and shameful to admit that I hand over my care with such frustration and carelessness as I did that Monday. And yet, I’d also like to think that it exemplifies the sheer monstrosity of the challenges and barriers for patients who aspire to be involved in their care. Is that truly such a futuristic ideal? Is there really not room for me in my own care? As a young person with a chronic illness, I have found these types of encounters to be ineffably defeating and disenfranchising – to have to defend yourself, your beliefs, your values, and your preferences to every person in a white coat is offensive. It is as if the doctors claim ownership of your body, as if they can scrape your soul clean, fix your body, and then hand it back to you, as if a disease is your life versus a disease happening in the context of your life.

So what then am I saying about the young child in clinic, who will sit on your exam table, crinkling the thin paper as they climb up? What does all of this have to do with them? Firstly, it is your job – moreover, your responsibility – as clinicians and parents to empower that child in her medical care, to cheer her on, to apply an unwavering commitment and determination in helping her achieve her goals and ambitions. Even though a child does not have the legal ability to choose, there can always be small decisions for them to make (e.g., “Do you want the needle in your left arm or right arm?” or “Which bandage do you want?”). Secondly – and I wish I could say this to every person face-to-face who is reading to convey the seriousness and weight in this – young patients will grow up and will one day be adult patients. Two of the best strengths you can foster in these children are a conviction for medical advocacy and an unbreakable spirit to defend what they believe in. It may sound insignificant or small, but by always instilling a belief of ownership, we are opening the door to true participation in health care.

Because if we don’t tell them, who will?

Jennie

 


Why?

Why?

I ask myself this question as I cry at night.

Why is my child sick?  Why has he been diagnosed with this disease?  Why so young?

Why?   

I ask his doctor this question at his appointment.

Why does it not get better with treatment?  Why so many medicines? Why surgery?

Why?

I ask this question to God as I pray.

Why does this child suffer like this?  Why does he have this cross to carry? Why him?

Why?

No one will ever forget the day that their child was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis.  From that point on, everything becomes “before and after.”  When you have a sick child, all else seems to stop.  Your world, your life, your very being centers around helping him or her; all else falls to the side.  At least it did in our home when Jimmy was diagnosed.

My name is Liz.  My husband, Jason, and I have three sons.  Our youngest son, Jimmy, was diagnosed with UC in October of his kindergarten year.  We had a very rough year and a half trying to get him into remission.  Currently, he is a happy, healthy eight year old with the help of Humira.

Now our goal is to build up what was lost during those years of active disease.  We are checking off delayed milestones – riding a two wheeler, trying sports, as well as physical milestones like delayed growth and loss of those precious front teeth.  These diseases affect the whole person and the whole family in ways it is hard for those who have not lived it to comprehend.  It is our role as parents to help shift the focus off of why and onto how - how do we build up our children?

In October 2013 I attended my third ImproveCareNow Learning Session as the parent representative for Riley Hospital for Children.  It is the development of these “how’s” that inspired me to get involved with ImproveCareNow and with my care team at Riley.  Not only do we want to understand how these children get this disease and how to treat it, but I love that ImproveCareNow focuses on other how’s - like how to achieve a higher remission rate, how to increase adherence and how to transfer children successfully into adult care.

At the Fall 2013 Learning Session there were twenty parents in attendance.  As pre-work for the session, the parents were asked to answer two questions:

What is your vision of improved care?

What does pre-visit planning with your child mean for you?

Parents at the Fall 2013 ImproveCareNow Learning Session completed pre-workThe objective of asking parents to answer both these questions, and our attendance at the Learning Session, was to give perspective on the whole picture of these diseases.

[Editor’s Note: Liz D is the mom of a three boys.  Her youngest son was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age 5.  She volunteers her time as a parent representative on the Riley Hospital for Children Parent Mentor Group, where she is an advocate for all families with IBD receiving care at Riley.  A mechanical engineer by trade, Liz has “retired” and loves her role as a full time wife and mother.  This has also allowed her to pursue her love of all that is artistic and creative.  Over the past 12 years, she has taught both photography and memory preservation classes to both adults and kids.]


Tyler Moon for Empowered by Kids

Empowered by Kids Featured Patient Tyler MoonHave you ever felt like the Internet holds a vast amount of both the scariest and most wonderful information all at the same time?   Do you feel like when you’re searching for “good” news, hope or inspiration the only things you find are stories of darkness or bad news?  Well, there is a brand new place to share inspiration, hope and great stories from people just like you and me - who live with IBD.  This website also has a collection of trusted resources to visit for the most up-to-date information on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

It’s called Empowered by Kids! Here is the link: http://empoweredbykids.com so you can check it out if you haven’t already. On it you’ll find stories and videos by kids and parents from around the country and the UK sharing their amazing IBD journeys (my story was just featured on December 8th). These  bring to light the many wonderful things these families have done to make a difference in the lives of others with IBD.  Empowered by Kids has given these patients and family members a place to share their voices, and to share the many ways we all can help make things better and easier for others with IBD.

Think of the number of people that could be impacted by each story! Wow, doesn’t that make you want to send your story in?  Wait, there's more!  Some of the stories on this site were collected and printed in a book especially for newly diagnosed IBD patients and families – to remind them that they are not alone. The Book of Hope is now being given out at ImproveCareNow centers. It’s all part of the amazing work happening within the ImproveCareNow Network. Together, we are making a difference for all patients and families impacted by IBD.

If you know someone who would like to share their story on Empowered by Kids, here’s the link to the online contact form http://empoweredbykids.com/our-mission/contacts. They can also send an email to info@empoweredbykids.com and share their story that way too.

[Editor's note: Tyler Moon is currently a C3N Project Patient Scholar and member of the ImproveCareNow Patient Advisory Council. He asked us to share this post on his behalf.]


Who is an advocate?

In honor of IBD Awareness Week, which wrapped up on Saturday, I thought I'd come back from my blogging hiatus and talk about what it means to be an advocate.

Over Thanksgiving break, I had a revealing conversation with my mom about my life in high school with ulcerative colitis. Her memories of how I coped with UC are not always how I remember myself coping. There were things that I heard from her perspective for the first time, and some of them were hard for me to revisit. I was reminded that I was once a vulnerable high-schooler - and while this is/was true for all of us, it was nevertheless hard for me to be faced with things from my past that I had unknowingly blocked for years.  I remember how much I once idolized many of the 'popular' IBD bloggers. I didn't really begin regularly reading IBD blogs until my senior year of high school, but once I did, they had a strong influence on me. One blogger ran a few opportunities for her readers to submit to group projects, and I emailed her a submission once. I remember just glowing when she responded. Of course, I realize now that she's just a normal young woman like me with IBD, but she was a celebrity to me then. It was around this time that I first started to imagine that just maybe I would one day be like her. That I could be an advocate, too.


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