My birthday wish this year is not for a cure for IBD.
This year, I’m asking for something that might be much harder to accomplish: better care for patients.
My wish is that no one ever wakes up post colonoscopy to be told:
“You have a disease with no cure, come back in two weeks.”
Instead, I wish for an IBD army of advocates to be in every hospital, with arsenals of accurate information and resources they are ready to provide to that new patient so they are filled with hope instead of fear. Let’s avoid the Doctor Google search and arm patients with the facts right from the start.
I wish for mental health care to become a standard component of the IBD treatment plan. When a patient feels isolated, lonely and full of anxiety at the thought of even leaving the house, it is hard to feel better or to heal at all. I wish we would teach coping skills and connect patients with mentors who can relate to their experiences. We must have the tools to fight IBD together and find ways to work, have relationships and (most importantly) enjoy life again.
I wish for patients to be seen as people instead of dollar signs and numbers. I want to break the communication barrier between the front of the office, the patient and the doctor. Let’s celebrate the nurses and doctors who empathize, and teach the ones who don’t. I want two-ply toilet paper in every hospital bathroom, and ear plugs and eye masks to help patients rest. Let’s stop with the 4 am blood draw and focus on the patient who needs rest in order to heal.
I wish for prednisone to only be prescribed when absolutely necessary. I want patient care to move on to better alternatives for treatment that don’t cause such long term damage. We must educate about alternatives, and that surgery to remove an intestine is not a cure. We need to talk about life after surgery, about ostomy bags and j pouches and remission, and how the fatigue never goes away.
My wish for World IBD Day is that we connect with one another, with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and GI offices all around the world. Let’s share our stories and compare what is working and what needs to change. I wish for those changes that will improve the lives of patients and caregivers and for those that will give a little hope to the newly diagnosed. Let’s make a change and spark some hope globally.
Happy World IBD Day.