Andrew Pearson knows what it’s like to be a teen with a “weird disease.” When he was 14, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC), a chronic disease that can cause abdominal cramping, nausea, bloody diarrhea, fatigue and aching joints. He had to have his colon removed to help alleviate the symptoms.
Andrew recovered well from the surgery and learned to live with the disease as he grew up. Now 14 years after his last surgery, he works in the audiovisual department at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy. Last year, he started telling people around the hospital that he would like to provide advice to kids who went through the same thing he did.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Russo took Andrew up on his offer.
Andrew meets Mason
Dr. Russo had a 14-year-old UC patient named Mason Rackley. Like Andrew, Mason underwent multiple unsuccessful therapies for his disease while his condition worsened. Like Andrew, to get any relief from his symptoms, he needed to have his colon removed.
Knowing the similarities in the two cases, Dr. Russo asked Andrew if he would speak with Mason and his family. Andrew was happy to oblige. He went to see the family after Mason was hospitalized for a severe UC flare-up.
“I said, ‘Fire away. Ask me anything.’ I told them my story and that everything would be fine, just that now was a difficult time. I told them about how I learned to live with my disease.”
Penny Rackley, Mason’s mom, says Andrew was the perfect person to speak to about what Mason’s life would be like if he had his colon removed.
“We could ask him anything – the most intimate and yet the most important questions for Mason,” she said. “Andrew was very free with that information. He is someone that Mason could totally trust and still is.”
Thanks in large part to Andrew’s visit, the Rackleys decided to go ahead with the surgery. Mason had his colon removed in April.
Andrew keeps giving
Andrew recently made Mason the honoree for his Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation fundraising team, which will run a half-marathon in Las Vegas Dec. 5. He hired a limousine to take Mason to the fundraiser kick-off party on Aug. 21. Mason, who Andrew describes as having a “zest for life,” got a big kick out of the limo, and is now telling all his friends about his experience.
Today, Mason, a straight “A” student even through his surgery and recuperation, is back at school and playing football.
“We’re just taking it day-to-day,” says his mom.