Many people don't know how debilitating a digestive diease can be...especially for a child.
A brother and sister team from North Branford, both living with Ulcerative Colitis, are sharing their stories in an effort to raise support and awareness.
The Gargano family moved back to Connecticut in Oct. 2012 during a tumultuous time. Tracey Gargano, mom to JJ and Jazzmine, was going through a divorce.
"My son became very ill at the end of November," says Gargano, noting that he had diarrhea and blood in his stool for ten days. "He ended up in the hospital. He was hospitalized for three weeks. He lost 21 pounds, was on a liquid diet. He was just very, very ill." He was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 11 years old.
Then, only months later, JJ's older sister, Jazzmine, began experiencing abdominal pain and flare-ups, as well. She got so sick that she missed the first two weeks of high school.
"It was heartbreaking and devastating to be going through this," says Gargano. Both kids were put-on a medication called Remicade, received through IV infusions.
Along with Crohn’s disease, Colitis affects over 1.4 million Americans. 150,000 patients are under the age of 18. More than 16,500 individuals suffer from these digestive diseases here in Connecticut. The cause of the conditions are not entirely known but they appear to be aggravated by stress and diet. They can also be hereditary.
Now, the Garganos are being honored as "Pediatric Honorary Heroes" at the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) Take Steps Walk on Saturday, October 25th at Hammonasset State Park in Madison.
Tracey is proud that her son and daughter are speaking out: "I definitely think it's important because I had no idea about these diseases until my kids became sick." Both Jazzmine and JJ are now managing the disease, feeling better and doing well in school.