Hometown Hero Brings IBD Awareness to His Community
In 2012, Andrew began coming down with what his family thought was a stomach virus. After days of testing, it was revealed he had ulcerative colitis.
“We went from procedure to procedure. He was in so much pain and unable to keep any food down. At that point, we did not know what was going on with him. It was very scary when we were first admitted and the doctors had no answers,” says Heidi.
This is not the first time Andrew has dealt with health challenges in his young life. At just 2 years old, Andrew was diagnosed with Autism. So when he was diagnosed with IBD, his family immediately knew what they had to do.
“That was the first time we heard the words ulcerative colitis. When we heard, the words UC, I instantly got back into research mode. We got as immersed in knowledge and figured out how all this would affect Andrew.”
The first thing his parents did was empower Andrew with full knowledge and awareness of his disease and how it affects his body so he could be independent. Now he is more aware of his symptoms and how certain foods make him feel.
Since then they’ve become involved with IBD advocacy initiatives in their home town of Atlanta, GA, connecting with the government, eventually getting a proclamation in Georgia passed during IBD Week 2013 with the help of Andrew’s story.
“I had no idea how many people were affected in my state with these diseases. The more we are able to educate our community, the more we can support people with these diseases. Awareness is the key. “
Andrew has not let colitis or Autism stop him. He is very involved in his community, volunteering at various organizations and working part-time at an animal shelter.
“Andrew taught me to always celebrate accomplishments. Even if it is the smallest accomplishment, we celebrate. What we have learned in this process is to take day by day. Every day is a gift. Andrew has worked very hard because he has overcome so much with the autism and more the colitis. He has worked so hard, and we are just extremely proud of him. ”