Info session to tackle Crohn’s and Colitis

Courtesy Photo / spectrum-health.com
Harold Conrad, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Spectrum Health

Courtesy Photo / spectrum-health.com Harold Conrad, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Spectrum Health

Susie Skowronek

The Crohn’s and Colitis Student Initiative (CCSI), in partnership with CCFA, will offer the Grand Valley State University community a closer look at a couple of prevalent but often overlooked diseases.

An informational session, “Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease: What Every Patient Needs to Know,” will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Pere Marquette Room of Kirkhof Center.

CCSI president Justin Gray said the presentation will provide an opportunity for professors to learn more about the diseases and how to offer support to students who have them.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic digestive disorders of the intestines, collectively known as inflammatory bowel diseases. IBD has no known cause, and symptoms – persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, fever and weight loss, blood passing through the rectum and others – can flare without warning. Medications can alleviate symptoms, but while surgical removal of the colon can cure ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease has no cure.

“You can have these two diseases but have no outward signs,” said Gray, who has had Crohn’s disease since age 10. “So this is kind of a way to open the eyes of professors and students here on Grand Valley’s campus to what these diseases are and the problems that they can cause in regards to missing school and class work, tests, leaving to use the bathroom frequently, and things of that nature.”

The lecture will feature Harold Conrad, pediatric gastroenterologist at Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, who will give a presentation similar to one he gave on campus last year.

He will speak about resources for people with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Camp Oasis, a camp for children with Crohn’s and Colitis, and the Take Steps Grand Rapids walk, a fundraiser that will take place on May 1.

“On a daily basis, you have to deal with multiple bathroom visits, cramping, headaches, migraine, dehydration,” Gray said. “Food allergies can be a huge problem, like gluten-free, allergic to egg, dairy. There are a lot of food problems, especially with eating on campus and things of that nature.”

Gray said the medications for IBD can suppress the immune system and make people more susceptible to other illnesses.

“There are chemotherapy agents that can make you really nauseous and sick after you take it,” Gray added.

He also wants to use the event to raise awareness about the student organization, the Crohn’s and Colitis Student Initiative, which currently has about 15 members.

“It helps give you people to relate with,” said sophomore Ryan Vanravenswaay, a member of CCSI who also has Crohn’s disease.

Although Vanravenswaay said he would be sick in bed or the hospital without medication for his disease, he added the members of CCSI do not seek the pity of classmates or professors.

“Everyone has different challenges,” he said. “We have ours to deal with, and if there is someone else out there who has Crohn’s and who has not gone to our group, it would be good fellowship.”

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According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), about 1.4 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, with 30,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

on Tuesday p.m.on Registration is appreciated, but not required.

Conrad will also explain IBD and the differences between Crohn’s and Colitis and give updates about current research and medical breakthroughs.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic digestive disorders of the intestines, collectively known as inflammatory bowel diseases. IBD has no known cause, and symptoms – persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, fever and weight loss, blood passing through the rectum and others – can flare without warning. Medications can alleviate symptoms, and while surgical removal of the colon can cure ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease has no cure.

The educational seminar can also give students inspiration to overcome their own physical obstacles, Gray said. Multiple surgeries and doctors visits – they can happen all the time. Tons of medication.a“It’s fun, it’s relieving, and it’s good to know there are other people who are going through the same things you are going through.“The Crohn’s and Colitis Student Initiative meets once a month for dinner at the Kirkhof Center. To be added to the mailing list for the student group, email [email protected]