ImproveCareNow Remission rates are posted for September 2012 for centers with greater than 75% enrollment of eligible patients. We have also shared them on our website, in CIRCLE, and on our Facebook page.
Having a child with IBD means many things. It means learning a new language, a new way of living, developing new family dynamics, gaining a new perspective, and seeking, desperately, to get guidance (and to give guidance). Also, it reinforces the notion, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” But, luckily at my child’s care center, and across the ImproveCareNow Network in which our care center is a participating member, guidance is available to parents and guidance is also sought from parents.
As I watch my child learn to live with Ulcerative Colitis, I learn too. So, not only does my parental guidance come from her medical team and other parents, it comes from my child as well. She guides me by letting me know I am being overprotective or questioning too much – how did you feel today? what was your level of stomach pain? how many times did you go to the bathroom? – and that sometimes it is best to just leave the UC inquisition for another day. When she is feeling good, she just wants to relish the moment and forget about UC. She guides me to live in the moment as she has learned to do and to appreciate the gift of now.
Parents as partners and teachers is important to a child’s medical team. Parental guidance is a must when communicating a child’s flare pattern as it is as unique as are our children. My daughter’s care team relies on me and my husband to guide them through her symptoms and health pattern so they can care for her better and deliver better outcomes. It cannot be “family-centered” care without the family participating as partners in a child’s care. Doctors cannot provide the best care for IBD kids without parental guidance.
As my child is a tween, my parental guidance to her during a medical visit is to model clear communications with her medical team. When my children were very young, I would always say before a doctor’s visit, “Doctors are like detectives, and we have to give them the clues to help them solve the mystery.” Teaching our children how to communicate with doctors is a necessity. With her teen years fast approaching and college around the corner (in my mind anyway), I must use my parental guidance to prepare my daughter for life-long medical care without me. I must model the behavior she needs to learn to do life with UC on her own, someday.
Even though my daughter is only a tween, her transition to being able to care for herself must begin now. While I want to be by her side through her IBD journey forever, the reality is I cannot do that. So I must not fail her by not preparing her or guiding her toward this kind of independence. We are very fortunate, our care center has a formal transition program from pediatric to adult GI care. It is just this type of guidance that I need to receive from them to do this right.
ImproveCareNow (ICN) made transitions a focus at their recent Learning Session in Chicago. Young adult patients, medical professionals and parents came together to bring their perspectives, provide their guidance for the many transitions children with IBD face and how to navigate them as smoothly as possible. Across the ICN Network, parental guidance is not only needed, it is valued. The ICN Parent Working Group (PWG) is proof of that – parents from ICN centers are coming together to guide one another and the ICN Network.
When a child is diagnosed with IBD, or any chronic disease, parental guidance is important. Why? Because family-centered care requires a circle of communication and guidance from all involved at different points on the journey. It is the needed model to resolve the issues and meet challenges of pediatric IBD. Without the many facets of “parental guidance”, our children will not live as well as they should with IBD. So not only is parental guidance important, I believe it is required.
I was standing in a dimly lit ballroom, full of researchers in their weekend clothes, eating celery when I saw her coming towards me. Her being my friend and fellow PACer Sami, a backpack on and a big bag over one shoulder, a wide grin breaking on her face. We ran at each like you see in those slow-motion movie scenes, met each other in a big hug, then, smiling at one another, introduced ourselves in person for the first time. This is the funny thing about gutsy people meeting – we know each other in a way that others don’t, even though we’d never met face to face. And just like that, it was a gutsy friendship at first sight.
We were abuzz with excitement in the nerdiest way – surrounded by researchers and GIs – we couldn’t keep from smiling at the scene. The ImproveCareNow Learning Session was completely novel to me in how Sami and I, as the two C3N Project patient scholars, were included in a conference designed for researchers. It was sort of like looking over the fence into someone else’s backyard, and all of the researchers were more than welcoming and excited to have us there. In case it is not abundantly clear by the end of this post, I am a huge researcher groupie – like huge, I was geeking out the whole time – and was so thrilled to be a part of the Learning Session.
Sami and I begrudgingly discovered that we had been given individual rooms – a thought which would likely please someone else but not us – so we decided to remedy the situation and move her things into my room (because it would have been a tragedy to have lost bonding time!). The first night we stayed up way past our bedtimes sharing stories and showing off the things we had brought to put on our storyboards. Finally by 1:30 AM, we conceded that it was probably time to go to sleep since we had to rouse ourselves at 6 AM, so we climbed under the covers and said good-night.
Saturday was filled with so many incredible things that it’s hard to recount them all, for any words I pick cannot accurately describe my enthusiasm or the entire experience. Having been given access to the Twitter account so we could send real-time updates, I became (even more of a) Twitter addict, tweeting everything from that first breakfast (Chicago was so ready for me with all of the bananas!) to quotes during the opening remarks. As someone who has IBD, it was really humbling and phenomenal to see all of these dedicated researchers and doctors working to improve care in pediatric IBD. I have found myself over the years struggling to establish medical legitimacy for my disease, and yet amongst this group, everyone understood, encouraged, and believed in youth with IBD – it was unbelievable.
We got to attend a session with parents and it is something I will never forget. Their faces were bright with enthusiasm, their children so young and hopeful, but their futures unsure. There was relief in their faces when they saw me and the other patients – knowing that their own kids with IBD would be okay and happy and smiling and at school and living life. I had never thought of my parents in that way before – the uncertainty, the fear, the love for their children – and I was incredibly touched by their compassion and insight into what it is like when your child has IBD.
The patients and parents had set up storyboards on the periphery of the conference room, and I would peruse them with Sami at my side, the two of us falling in love with all of the children. There is something odd and unnameable about looking at a child and knowing some of the IBD challenges in his or her future – those nights when there’s nothing to do but cry, days in the hospital falling asleep to daytime television, and times when the very thought of leaving the house seems impossible. But I know too that there will be moments – bigger and greater than the moments of pain – where the world will open right up for these kids and they’ll be unstoppable. I wish I had met them in person – but that can be my next trip to meet my little IBD crushes.
For the last day of the conference, Sami and I had been asked to choose our ‘IBD theme song’. On Saturday night, Sami and I laid on our bed, exchanging song options until we had found the perfect ones. The big reveal of our IBD-theme-song-extravaganza had been saved for the very last part of the conference, and we handed over the songs on a USB stick. But when it came time to announce the songs, instead they called Sami and I to the podium. We got up and began to laugh nervously as we threaded our way through the sea of chairs and tables. Sami went first and played ‘The Fighter’ by Gym Class Heroes and we began to dance at the front of the room. Upon introducing my song, I explained that it was an ode to my colon – and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ by Taylor Swift began to play. The researchers laughed and clapped as Sami and I began to dance again and we were laughing with them.
It was the conference I’d be looking forward to for so long, enjoyed so much, and was over way too soon. Before I could blink, I was sitting on a plane bound for Boston. All of my roommates were out when I came home. I unpacked and called my parents, telling them all about the trip and the countless amazing things that had happened. The next day, I went to the gym and just before I put my headphones in, a certain song came over the loudspeaker and I couldn’t help but grin. ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ was on and I briefly considered taking out my ostomy and dancing, but felt that the joke would be lost on my college peers. I put my headphones in, the smile stuck on my face, thinking of my weekend and the great things to come for all pediatric IBDers.
I’ll start by saying writing this post has caused me internal agony – and I’m not talking about the gutsy variety, but more like the heart-wrenching writers’ block variety. Why? I’ve been asking myself that from the time I first sat down to write this in the airport nearly two weeks ago. I think it’s because I still can’t comprehend that the Learning Session (henceforth known as ICNLS) is over.
As the inaugural Patient Scholars, Jennie and I traveled to Chicago the weekend of October 5 – 7 to work, learn, and represent the PAC, ImproveCareNow’s Patient Advisory Council, at ICNLS. The “pack” is a group of motivated high school and college students with IBD, dedicated to paying our experiences forward to benefit ImproveCareNow’s interventions and the next generation of pediatric IBD patients.
ICNLS is a semi-annual opportunity for clinicians and researchers representing ICN care centers around the country and London to come together to share and inspire each other. This Learning Session integrated Jennie and myself as PAC representatives to learn from the team presentations, participate in PAC leadership brainstorming sessions, and interact with the care teams. As the commencement ceremony of our initiatives as Patient Scholars, we hardly had a moment to reflect on our incredible circumstances. Yet, despite the restless nights spent in awe of our company, I couldn’t have asked for a more energizing weekend in IBD wonderland.
Exhilarating. Fast-paced. Wonderful. Inspiring. Incredible. Over. When Jennie and I danced to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a song Taylor Swift wrote especially for Jennie’s dear and departed colon, we didn’t yet realize the words would later hurt. For the record, I don’t expect to never ever see you again, but even six months can feel like forever when you know what’s out there. A group of strangers never felt more like home. Thank you.
The theme of the Learning Session was Transitions, in hindsight even more appropriate than I initially realized because the Learning Session itself was a notable transition for me. A Great Point.
The first Great Point in my IBD career was The Diagnosis. My first night in the hospital I spent in room 310. Vulnerable. Alone. Guilty. Feelings I should have never felt, but I did. Vaguely hopeful. For what? I didn’t know then. Remission? I didn’t realize I could or expected to engage in a deeper goal. I thought Moving On meant fighting IBD until I felt as if the whole dirty mess had been a crazy dream. I wasn’t a sick kid, not in my stubborn mind. There have been other significant moments in my journey since then (scopes, Camp Oasis, the first enema, the Prednisone Disaster of 2009, learning that perms do not in fact make steroid face look any better), but none as life-changing as The Diagnosis or worth the title of Great Point.
I wish I could’ve known I’d spend two incredible days in a much nicer room 305, only five digits and (less than) five years off. I wish I could’ve heard the sound of Jennie and I laughing on the twelfth floor of our grand hotel in Chicago, sharing stories about flying with Miralax and ostomates climbing literal mountains. I wish I could’ve felt the rush of our breakout sessions, planning our initiatives for the coming months, feeling the most beautiful kind of butterflies in my stomach rather than stabbing pain. I wish I could have seen Molly, Diane, and Sydney holding up a beautifully ridiculous little sign in the airport and us laughing as we walked to the hotel – the beginning of the next Great Point. I would have smiled more. I would have reached out more. I would have felt okay more. Perhaps I would have known too much. Perhaps I needed the struggle to know why I’m working for change.
ICNLS is over, but this is just the beginning of a new Moving On. A more beautiful and hopeful Moving On.
Are you ready? We are.