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Growing Up with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Dr Hirsch and CelineGrowing up is hard enough, but for kids who have chronic bloating, stomach pain, and bouts of diarrhea, it can be embarrassing. Knowing they’re not alone and learning from the experts and other patients provides some much-needed support.  

“I was 11 years old when I learned my severe cramping, chronic diarrhea, and weight loss was caused by Crohn’s disease,” says Celine of Chicopee.  

Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affecting the intestines or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract is responsible for food digestion, absorption of nutrients, and waste elimination.  

“I am 17 now and have been in remission for five years, thanks to Dr. Barry Hirsch,” says Celine. “He always made me feel comfortable by including me in conversations and answered all my questions in a way that I understood what was going on.”  

Hirsch, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Baystate Children's Hospital, says most patients with symptoms are diagnosed and begin treatment at a young age when their parents are mostly responsible for managing their care. However, it is important that young patients learn to take ownership of their own health care.  

Transitioning to Adult Care

To make it easier for teens and young adults to manage their own care, Baystate Children's Hospital offers an IBD Transition Clinic to help them successfully transition to adult care. The transition clinic features a shared group meeting that includes a pediatric gastroenterologist, adult gastroenterologist, social worker, psychologist, nutritionist, nurse, and other IBD patients.  

Each patient in the group meets privately with the pediatric gastroenterologist first to go over their medical history and any current issues they may be having. Then everyone participates in the shared group meeting to discuss how to successfully transition to adult managed specialty care.  

Topics include:

  • Managing your care when away from home
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Managing medications
  • Importance of a 504 plan (504 plans help individuals with special health care needs)
  • Dorm living with IBD
  • Relationships and your IBD
  • Differences in medical expectations for the pediatric and adult patient      

“The IBD Transition Clinic was very informative and helpful in preparing me to transition to an adult GI doctor,” says Celine. “They explained everything and taught me next steps in caring for my disease. I enjoyed hearing other patients talk about their experience,” she says.  

Meetings are held at the Baystate Children’s Specialty Center, 50 Wason Avenue, Springfield. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 413-794-KIDS.