My Brother’s Story/Documentary: An Insight Into Crohn’s Disease

When my brother Chris was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I was spending my first semester away at college. As a result, while his situation was unfolding, I only picked up on bits and pieces about what was happening. I called my parents often, and I could tell when they were upset and worried about him. My stomach would get that sinking feeling, but I wouldn’t ask too many questions. I didn’t want to stress them out even more, and I knew they would tell me about anything I needed to hear if his situation worsened. Overall, I had trust in them to take care of Chris, and for Chris to take care of himself. I hated that he was in pain, but I figured he would be symptom-free soon since he always adamantly lived a healthy lifestyle.

Two years passed, and I transferred to Rutgers. Since I was so much closer to home, I saw more of what was happening with Chris. At first, I was mostly just frustrated that he had to deal with Crohn’s while he was teaching full-time. It should’ve been a happy time in his life, where he could feel settled, but instead, he was constantly running to the bathroom all day. That made me uneasy to think about. The worst, by far, was when he got pyoderma gangrenosum (painful sores and ulcers) in his leg. At that point, my parents couldn’t hide how panicked they were anymore, and I was hyper-aware of everything. I started staying at home more because it bothered me to be upset around my roommates, who were partying and laughing and enjoying college. They were more examples of what is fun about life when you don’t have to worry about the next time you need to go to the bathroom and watching them gave me a tremendous sense of guilt. Then, I watched Chris lose a ton of weight, lose color in his skin, and become reduced to laying on a couch all day. That was a side of Chris that I never thought I would ever see. Even when he came home from the hospital, I remember him sitting across from me at the dinner table, eating a few bites of grilled chicken, making a face like he was about to puke, and then shuffling to the bathroom. I cried that night and barely slept.
I made this video because of the feeling that I had that night. More than anything I was so frustrated because of how confusing the situation was. I would tell my roommates what was happening to him and they would respond with, “wait, he has an infection in his leg? But I thought Crohn’s was in his stomach.” I wouldn’t have a response to this because I didn’t understand why that was happening either. Then, in one of my classes at Rutgers, I was assigned a project to make a documentary. Of course, I chose to make it about Chris’ story, because I can’t imagine where he would be today without Russell’s help. Quite simply, people need to hear this story, whether pharmaceutical drugs work for them or not. People need to know that there are other options when the side effects of drugs outweigh their benefits like they did for Chris. The way my whole family views food now is completely different. We are more educated, and we can use that to our advantage to prevent other members of my family from developing a stomach, bowel, or colon disease. Russell’s work changed Chris’ life, my life, and my whole family’s life.

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