Seminar to shed light on bowel disease

A Southland man's dream of becoming an All Black was shattered as a teenager when he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease - a condition that thousands of people suffer from but may not know they have.

Kirk Rae was diagnosed with Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease, as a teenager.

The diagnoses put a stop to his dream of playing rugby for New Zealand because the disease meant he was not fit enough.

However, that had been his only real restriction, he said. "I had to give up on my dream of being an All Black."

He was now a rugby referee and was living a normal life. "Once I knew what it was I could deal with it and move on."

His mother, Mary, who also has Crohn's disease and is co-ordinator of the Southland Crohn's and Colitis Support Group, said it was believed that more people suffered from inflammatory bowel disease in New Zealand than type-1 diabetes.

In conjunction with Crohn's and Colitis New Zealand, Mrs Rae has organised a free seminar, to be held today, for people affected by Crohn's and colitis.

The meeting is to inform the public about the diseases, how the conditions are managed and bring people together to form a local support group.

Gastroenterologist John Wyeth, a former Southlander and the doctor who operated last year on Happy Feet the emperor penguin when he was blocked up with sticks and stones, will attend the seminar as a guest speaker.

Dr Wyeth said there were hundreds of people affected by Crohn's or colitis and hundreds more who were not aware their problems had a name and could be treated.

"There are more than 15,000 people in New Zealand with these diseases and it's unfortunate that the symptoms - diarrhoea and abdominal pain - are things that people don't often talk about."

Mrs Rae said the condition meant frequent trips to the toilet and she was anxious about going to new places. "It does affect your social life . . . always wondering where the toilet is."

The seminar will begin at 2pm at the Kelvin Hotel.

The Southland Times