Amy Ruddick

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Early experience inspires career choice

My name is Amy Ruddick and this is a brief personal story about my journey with Crohn’s disease over the last seven years. I hope this inspires further funding of IBD nurses.

I WAS 14 years old when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. As a young teenager, my life took a turn as I very quickly deteriorated with all the classic symptoms of weight loss, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cramps and bleeding. My GP assumed I had some form of gastro and sent me home with gastrolyte and told me to take the next day off school. My mum took me to the emergency department after she saw how much blood I was losing. After a week in hospital on IV prednisolone, a colonoscopy, two blood transfusions and various other medications, it was the paediatric nurses at my bedside that helped me and my family through the turmoil.

The diagnosis was shocking, relieving and confusing and raised many questions for the whole family. The nurses provided us with the support, education, the listening ear and understanding that we needed at such a fragile time. I now remember my first relapse as a turning point to come to terms with the illness we had never heard of. It was time to get to know how the disease works, how to treat it, and how to accommodate Crohn’s into our lives, rather than emphasising the pain, suffering and the things that I missed while being unwell.

After various other relapses, when I turned 17, I was too old for the paediatric ward. I was transferred to a general medical ward and no longer had the rapport my mother and I had built with the paediatric nurses. This was hard on mum and me during that time. The nurses were just as lovely and caring, though I know I would have greatly appreciated the option of having a specialist IBD nurse through my whole experience, helping me through my diagnosis, teenage and adolescence years, and helping mum with home-cooked meals, information on medications, activity tolerance and treatment options. To have an IBD specialist nurse that my mother or I could have contacted, with a greater knowledge base and the expertise we desired, such as ties in the community, would have assisted us through tough times. Having the chance to build a rapport with my mother, three sisters, my brother and I, as a family, with a dedicated IBD nurse who knew our personal values would have helped us with ways to accommodate Crohn’s into our lives.

I had already decided I was going to be a nurse before my diagnosis, through my battles living with Crohn’s disease has further strengthened my passion. I have just turned 21. I am in remission, and have been for the last two and a half years. I am currently completing my last year of university at Deakin, and am very excited about starting my career as a nurse. With my experience suffering a chronic illness through my teenage years, and the inspiring dedicated, compassionate nurses I have met, I am able to relate to my patients on a different level of understanding, and I strive to provide the same care that I received during my treatment.

I know CCA is supporting a push for government-funded IBD nurses, a cause I fully support. Having a nurse to support me through my future employment, travels, decisions about starting a family of my own, and whatever life brings mewould be much appreciated. I intend to complete further research into Crohn’s disease after my degree, aiming to contribute to providing a better quality of life for people living with IBD. With my experience, passion and interest in the field, I may wish to become an IBD nurse specialist one day myself.

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