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Woman's tale highlights digestive problems

Jordan Thomas, an Oklahoma teacher, suffers from Crohn's disease. Now she's the face of a fundraising walk to support research into digestive disorders.
by Ken Raymond Published: May 29, 2012

Something was wrong with Jordan Thomas.

Once she had raced and run in marathons; now she barely had the energy to make it through the day. She'd always been active; now she headed straight home from student teaching and fell immediately into bed.

She hurt. Pain had been growing in her abdomen. There were other symptoms, too, the sort you don't talk about in polite company.

She knew something was wrong, but what?

“I was kind of stubborn,” said Thomas, 24, of Owasso. “I kept thinking I was just stressed out because I was student teaching.”

But that wasn't the problem. After rounds of blood tests, MRIs and colonoscopies in Oklahoma and at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Thomas was diagnosed with Crohn's disease on Jan. 19, 2011.

“I had a really bad case,” Thomas said. “The doctor said it was one of the worst cases he'd ever seen.”

In fact, Thomas still has Crohn's. The disease — like its cousin, ulcerative colitis — is incurable. Both affect the digestive system, causing severe abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss.

The disorders affect each person differently. Some live with symptoms for years without relief; others have occasional bouts throughout their lives.

“They (patients) don't know if it'll ever go away,” said Joyce Jochim, who represents the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation in Oklahoma. “It can incapacitate them for days, weeks or years. A lot of times they have to go in and have surgeries and portions of their intestines removed.”

Even mild cases can be life-altering.

“They can't just go on a picnic,” Jochim said. “Even to take a walk, they have to be sure there's a port-a-potty on the route. You can never just go to a park without making sure there's a restroom there. You have to live your life around this.”

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by Ken Raymond
Book Editor
Ken Raymond is the book editor. He joined The Oklahoman in 1999. He has won dozens of state, regional and national writing awards. Three times he has been named the state's "overall best" writer by the Society of Professional Journalists. In...
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