IBD Patients Reveal Their Lonely Childhood Stories

Talking About Intestinal Illness and Symptoms Others Don't Want To Hear

Don’t Tell Anyone: Jonathan Vatner, pictured at age 29, was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 13. His parents told him not to tell others.
jonathan vatner
Don’t Tell Anyone: Jonathan Vatner, pictured at age 29, was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 13. His parents told him not to tell others.

By Linda Kriger

Published August 11, 2013.
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Martin shares the concerns of many other parents whose decisions on behalf of their children take them to dark places.

“IBD shakes up your life really profoundly,” she says. “I have to live with the guilt that my daughter has been on toxic medications for years. I feel terrible.”

The association of Jews with IBD continues to create confusion, especially outside of urban areas.

Kevin Anderson, now 36, was 15 and a high school sophomore in Lafayette, La., when he developed severe stomach cramps. In the emergency room, doctors diagnosed gas and sent him home. After multiple visits with the same results, Anderson, who is African-American, threw a fit.

“When the doctor did X-rays, prescribed Mylanta and said I just had a pocket of air in me, I couldn’t take it any more,” he says. Anderson knelt down, wrapped his arms around the doctor’s knees and wouldn’t let go until he agreed to perform surgery. Anderson had a complete bowel obstruction.

Had he been sent home again, he says, “there was a strong possibility I would have died.”

One doctor was “a Jewish guy from New York and he talked about me maybe having Crohn’s disease,” Anderson says. “The local doctor said no way possible, because I was black and I was male. The Jewish doctor explained that it wasn’t just diagnosed with Jewish women.” The local doctor still refused to do a colonoscopy, perhaps because Anderson’s family had no health insurance, he says. After more emergency room visits, a colonoscopy was performed six months later. Anderson was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s.

“It was really hard. That’s why I was suicidal at the time. It was really stressful on me. I didn’t want to socialize with other kids. I didn’t talk to them about what I was going through.” One high school rumor had it that Anderson had AIDS, he says.

Today, Anderson has come to terms with his Crohn’s. “I didn’t choose this life, but I have to deal with it,” he says. Every time someone asks how he’s doing, his answer is “As long as I have a heartbeat, I’m not complaining.”

Contact Linda Kriger at krigergutfeelingbook@gmail.com


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