24 Children From Across Canada Learned from NHL Hockey Icon, Fernando Pisani

The true spirit of those living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease was alive and well in Edmonton this past August.At the first ever Score for Colitis & Crohn's event, which raised $20,000 for four gastrointestinal and digestive disease organizations – including the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation – took place at the West Edmonton Mall's Ice Palace on Saturday, August 29th and featured Fernando Pisani of the Edmonton Oilers.

"I knew something was wrong with me, but was embarrassed to talk to someone about it. As time went on I began to feel worse. I was going to the washroom 20-30 times a day. I could barely leave the house and had lost about 40 pounds when the disease was at its worst," says Pisani. "I knew I needed to get well and to see a doctor. I finally did and that's when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and received a biologic medication."

"Within three months I was playing hockey and my life was on track again. I'm glad I now have the opportunity to reach out to other people suffering from the disease to let them know that they can lead a normal and active life and do the things they love."

Over 200,000 Canadians suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive system that may affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn's can occur at any age, however, it most frequently first occurs in young people, and about 10 per cent of newly diagnosed cases are in children under age 10. Ulcerative colitis affects only the inner layer of the colon or large intestine and can also occur at any age, but most people are diagnosed before the age of 30.

"When Fernando came to see me, he was in pretty bad shape. He was thin and didn't have a lot of energy. He had lost six pints of blood already and had temporarily developed diabetes," explains Dr. Richard Fedorak, Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta in Edmonton and president of the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. "I started Fernando on a biologic treatment, the latest generation of medications, because it blocks the inflammation and helps to relieve the pain. It's important for patients to understand that life goes on after the diagnosis, that there is support available, and there are excellent treatment options for those suffering from digestive diseases."

Essay submissions from across Canada were submitted by children between the ages of 10 and 12, for an opportunity to participate in the Score for Colitis & Crohn's national contest and for the once in a lifetime chance to play with an NHL icon. The contest encouraged children to share their stories about how ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease has affected their lives or why they wanted to help those suffering from these diseases. Twenty-four individuals were invited to play with fellow contest winners. Each goal scored raised $500 for the Foundation.

Out of the 24 kids who were flown to Edmonton to participate in this fun-filled day, four have ulcerative colitis, 11 have Crohn's disease, and nine have one or more family members suffering from either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

Enhancing lifelong health

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation believes our ability to help establish, enrich and protect a healthy gut microbiota is the key to lifelong health