Who says snail mail is a thing of the past? For one 10-year-old in the Chicagoland area, connecting with fellow IBD pediatric patients is helping her cope, comfort and help others as she takes on Crohn’s disease herself. Meet Emily. This past February she received her chronic illness diagnosis. Even though she’s brand new to IBD life, she’s taking all the pain and all the setbacks in stride.
Her mom, Michelle, says watching her young daughter go through Crohn’s has been a punch in the gut.
“It’s overwhelming, lonely, and mentally draining for everyone involved. Her little body has been put through so much in the last few months and she just goes along with it all. I wish I could’ve done all the horrible tests and take away every ounce of her pain. My heart breaks every time she gets poked, every time she takes medicine, every time she has to do a test, or when I send her to school, knowing she feels horrible.”
Emily’s courage and compassion for others has inspired Michelle. Her Crohn’s diagnosis has spurred an interest to connect with other IBD kids. Rather than take on the disease in silence, Emily finds there is strength in numbers, a purpose for her pain. Her mom was able to reach out to fellow parents on Facebook about a pen pal program.
“How cool to come home from school and have a couple letters waiting for you from kids all over the country?!? Emily has already made 12 new friends with IBD from the U.S. and the U.K. I never want Emily to feel alone on this journey nor do I want any other kids to feel alone. I want Emily to see that other kids who have IBD are living a “normal” life and that she can, too! There may be days when I won’t understand what she’s going through, but her new friends will.”
From a parenting perspective, the pen pal group has introduced Michelle to other mamas going through the same fears and experiences. The connections have brought her peace of mind as she navigates these new waters with her daughter.
“Emily and I are firm believers in spreading positivity and what you give out, you get back. It’s up to us to find the good in this situation and what better way than making new friends? Friends who understand and continually cheer you on, no matter how far they are. My hope is that Emily will make life long connections and that these letters will serve as a constant reminder that she is never alone.”
Interested in joining this pediatric pen pal group? A Facebook page is in the works. In the meantime, you can get involved by emailing Emily’s mom, Michelle: firstname.lastname@example.org.