As 13-year-old Chris was heading out the door to leave for summer camp, he told his mom, Ann, that his stomach was hurting. Remembering he had complained of abdominal pain earlier that week, Ann decided to take Chris to the doctor instead of camp. Suspecting appendicitis, the pediatrician sent them to a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Emergency Department.
Scans revealed Chris did not have appendicitis, but did have a large abscess in his intestine. He spent a few days in the hospital getting antibiotics to clear the infection, but doctors told him this would not be the end of his stomach pain. Chris was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory intestinal illness. Such a diagnosis can be overwhelming and scary, but both Chris and his mom credit Children’s staff with easing their fears.
“I felt that I was in good hands,” Chris says. “The specialists helped me understand and gain some perspective on my condition.”
Not much is known about what causes symptom flares in Crohn’s patients, and different people are triggered by different foods. While medication did help Chris, there was a lot of trial and error involved in figuring out which foods he should avoid.
Chris lived a pretty normal life for a couple of years, thanks to medication and regular checkups, but eventually, his pain became severe and more frequent. After three trips to the Emergency Department at Children’s, doctors concluded that part of his intestine had narrowed and would need to be removed.
Following surgery, Chris’ health began to improve. Now, Chris has the disease under control with medication and diet, and he’s beginning to transition into managing his own healthcare. According to Ann, Children’s—and his doctor, Glen Lewis, MD, in particular—is helping with that, too.
“Dr. Glen Lewis and all the people at Children’s are so supportive. I think that gives Chris more comfort in dealing with his own illness,” she says.
Chris, now a student at Emory University pursuing a career in medicine so he can give that same support and hope to others, agrees.