Local Hero

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2017 Honoree Winston Wardlaw

My name is Winston Wardlaw, and I am the 2017 Washington, DC Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis Honored Hero. I am 14 years old, and I attend Alice Deal Middle School. I am very grateful to be an Honored Hero, because I believe that sharing my story with ulcerative colitis (UC) might help other children, and possibly adults, who are also living with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). My UC journey started in December 2015, when I was 12 years old and began experiencing strong stomach pains and finding blood in my stool. My family and I did not know what was going on. After a few trips to the Emergency Room, an ultrasound, an endoscopy, and a colonoscopy, I was ultimately diagnosed with UC by Dr. Benny Kerzner, who has been a tremendous support throughout my entire IBD journey.

For the first half of 2016, we were able to manage my UC pretty well with medicines. I was able to participate in all of my normal activities. For example, I made the U.S. Soccer Development Academy team for the Bethesda Soccer Club, played the alto saxophone in the Jaqueline Henry Green Youth Orchestra of Alfred Street Baptist Church, and was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.

But over the summer and into the fall, my UC got worse. I continued all of my activities with success, but the intestinal and rectal pain was getting worse and worse. I had to leave class and/or get picked up from school at least once or twice per week because of the pain. I went to the bathroom sometimes up to 20 times per day, and I was losing lots of blood every time, causing my hemoglobin level to drop to about 50% of the normal range. I also lost 11 pounds within a few weeks. I started wondering if being in constant pain would just be my new life.

I was admitted to National Children’s Medical Center on December 20th, 2016, where I spent nearly two months. The only thing I liked about being in the hospital was having the ability to ask detailed questions of all the knowledgeable doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals all day long while I was there. (At this point, I am pretty sure I am going to become a doctor!) But my UC was not only in a flare, I also had developed a C. diff infection. I was losing so much blood that I had to have two blood transfusions during my stay. I had taken Lialda, Uceris, Prednisone, Metronidazole, and Remicade along the way, but none of the medicines were able to bring my UC out of the flare, and the only way I could maintain my weight in the hospital was through intravenous (IV) nutrition.

My family and I came to the understanding that surgery might be the best option. Not just any “surgery,” but a “laparoscopic total colectomy/appendectomy with ileostomy” (i.e., removal of my entire colon, and the creation of a temporary bag that would collect my stool from a “stoma” on the lower side of my stomach). It takes a little while to wrap your mind around that. Especially considering the fact that when I entered the hospital we were not willing to even consider surgery. But as we learned more about the surgery from speaking with some very wonderful people and from reading courageous personal stories on places like the CCFA website, I came to the understanding that this would be an amazing way to regain my life – And it certainly helped when I met Dr. Timothy Kane, who would be the awesome GI surgeon to perform this major procedure.

After the surgery and a few more days in the hospital, my colitis and rectal pains were gone! I could eat ANYTHING I wanted with NO ISSUE. I could GO HOME from the Hospital! I could see a future free from all the limitations of my UC! At the time that I share this story, I still have two surgeries ahead that will ultimately result in me being able to use the restroom like others without U.C. – another miraculous result of medical research.

Through it all, I am thankful to my brother, Julian (who has supported me the entire time I have been going through this), my mom, and my dad. I am also thankful for all of the family, friends, church members, and friends of friends, who have been praying for me all this time. 

I am so thankful for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation for the support services and research that they fund, because finding cures for UC and other IBDs is so important! Raising funds in the Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis Walk is one major way to do that, and I am so honored to be a part of it all. 

Join me on June 3rd by clicking here!


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