Darcy Swope, a Nebraska/Iowa Chapter Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF) board member, has witnessed first-hand the impact inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can have on someone’s life. Her son, Riley, first experienced symptoms in high school but wasn’t diagnosed with ulcerative colitis until his freshman year of college. According to the Mayo Clinic, ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract.
“When Riley was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, our care manager at the Midwest Gastrointestinal Associates office introduced us to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation,” Swope said. The CCF dedicates time to finding a cure for children and adults impacted by IBD. Through her role on the board, Swope helps organize events and encourages others, including her coworkers at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), to come out and support the foundation’s mission.
“As a board member, one of my goals is to raise awareness of this chronic illness,” Swope said. “Because of his symptoms, Riley’s doctors originally misdiagnosed him with the flu or a virus before his liver enzymes dropped low enough to get a colonoscopy. It took two years to get an official diagnosis.”
Swope explained that approximately 3 million people are affected by Crohn’s and colitis today, most of whom are diagnosed before they turn 18, like Riley. After Riley’s diagnosis, he joined a support group through the CCF, which was life-changing for their family. “Just to have him in a room with other people battling the same conditions and going through the same treatment helped us cope,” Swope said. “As a mother, I was trying to find the right resources to help my son manage this condition and live his life.”
Now 27, Riley’s ulcerative colitis is in remission with treatment, and Swope said her son is “thriving, living his best life.” “I feel blessed there’s a foundation supporting these patients and companies like Blue Cross providing space and resources for fundraising, researching and educating on this disease.” she said.
Each year, Swope captains a team of BCBSNE employees during the CCF local chapter’s Take Steps event, which raises awareness, funds research, and honors the journeys of those living with IBD. BCBSNE is a proud sponsor of the event, which was held on Saturday, June 24th this year.
“In addition to participating in Take Steps, BCBSNE donates meeting space for physician education and sets up tables to show support,” Swope said. “Knowing my employer cares about me and my family’s health makes all the difference.”
Companies might be surprised how many of their employees benefit from Take Steps or other events hosted by the CCF. “Treatment and education for these conditions wasn’t easily accessible in the past,” Swope said. “We feel lucky Riley has found this support network, and by sharing our story, we hope other families who might be struggling with a chronic illness can find theirs.”
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