Speaking up for IBD month

Monarch Park student Maxwell Price is speaking up on behalf of what many of his peers might be to embarrassed to talk about.

Price, 15, was just starting Grade 9 a little over a year ago when he started experiencing more frequent bowel movements and discomfort. He ended up in the hospital, where he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The condition generally includes inflammation and sores in the large intestine.

His condition began to have effects on Price’s day-to-day life.

“It pretty much stopped me from going out,” he said. “I would be out and wonder, ‘what if I have to go to the bathroom?’”

The medication he took at first – a cocktail of pills including a steroid – might have done as much harm as good.

“The steroid did have many side effects, including weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, and hunger,” said Price. “Every time I tapered down I would have a flare-up.”

He’s now being treated with Remicade, a medication administered intravenously about every eight weeks. It inhibits a protein that can cause swelling and inflammation, and is used for treating Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, as well as some types of arthritis and psoriasis. The new drug is much more effective than the steroids he had been taking, with no serious side effects for him so far, said Price.

As November – Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month – drew to a close, Price and geography teacher Michael Mead spoke about the importance of education for teachers.

To that end, the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation and advocacy group Robbie’s Rainbow recently released a document called Blackboards and Bathrooms, aimed at helping teachers understand how to deal with students suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

Mead said any growth in awareness can only be a good thing, particularly since IBD is not something that’s generally a hot topic of conversation.

“I have relatives who have it, colleagues who have it, but you don’t really see it,” he said.

According to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the CDHF, one in 150 Canadians lives with one of the two forms of IBD, and that rate has been increasing.

Accommodating students with IBD is one more form of equity that should be adopted in schools, according to Mead.

He said he’s now thinking twice about telling students who seem to ask to go to the bathroom frequently to just hold it. After all, he said, suffering from IBD and not being allowed to leave the classroom for a bathroom break could be almost traumatizing for some students.

“That would be your worst nightmare, wouldn’t it?” he said. “You’ve got to really re-evaluate that and think about it.”

While Price said talking about his condition is a lot easier for an outgoing student like him, having the Blackboards and Bathrooms document passed around to teachers is still a benefit, particularly to other students who are not as forthcoming as him about IBD.

“Having that burden lifted by this program being in place is great,” he said.

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