Driven to Make a Difference
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I am driven to make a difference through empathy. Each person has had a struggle, whether it is life-changing or day-changing. I have always believed that with struggles, comes an incredibly powerful change. What that person does with their obstacle can have a profound impact on this world. My struggles have become a reason for me to make a difference.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age six. Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the entire body. At that age, I did not know that my medical struggles would prove to define my future physically and mentally. Elementary school for me was about taking steroids, six large capsules, and about how to gain weight. Middle school became dreadful as my body began to torment me the most it ever had as I suffered from recurrent flare-ups. My mother became increasingly aware of my symptoms of having to frequently use the restroom and the resulting accidents, and she was afraid to tell others for fear of bullying. As a result, I lived in isolation and was admitted to Riley Hospital for Children several times a year, and was so sick that I could not walk up the stairs to my room by myself. Treatment for my disease included nutrition, infusions through PICC lines, and resting at home. My disease progressed in spite of taking every possible medical treatment. I finally had my entire large intestine removed as a freshman in high school. Several major surgeries and procedures followed and I had a whole lot of invisible emotional healing to overcome.
Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are two very difficult diseases to talk about. Together with my late best friend, who passed away with Crohn’s Disease and Osteosarcoma, I created the Crohn’s and Colitis Teen Times, a now 501c3 nonprofit organization that has users internationally. There is not enough support for individuals battling these two diseases and we wanted to create that fundamental support system that is so needed. Creating this organization has opened up various other platforms for me to share my story and create more advocacy.
I was selected as a 2014 Riley Hospital Champion for my resilience with Ulcerative Colitis. This year was life changing because it gave me the confidence that I can make a difference and that I can overcome the enormous obstacles in front of me. This year gave me the opportunity to share my story and my work through public speaking at fundraising events, leadership conferences, and Children’s Miracle Network dance marathons. Later, I was invited to regularly blog for U.S. News and World Report as a patient advocate and many blogs have also been featured on media platforms such as the Huffington Post and Yahoo! News. Now, I am spreading my outreach to make a meaningful difference for individuals with all chronic illnesses not just inflammatory bowel diseases. I recently had the opportunity to blog for a United Nations alliance, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. I wrote about the need to eliminate primitive cooking methods that result in four million deaths each year.
Through being sick, Riley Hospital has been my second home and now I serve as a member of the Riley Teen Leadership Council. It is a way to meet other amazing teenagers with chronic illnesses who have truly inspiring stories. I am in my second year of being on the council, and each year there is a project. The projects are to show what having a chronic illness means and to spread awareness about chronic illnesses. Being a part of this group has been amazing because there are monthly meetings where we can share our ideas and things that we are worried about for the future. Mentors are there to ask questions, and guest speakers come to answer our questions about college life with a chronic illness, as many of us are seniors this year.
To anyone who has yet to follow your passion, the first step is to find it. Find your passion, and dedicate your time to it. You will never know the feeling of helping others and gratitude unless you try, so today I encourage you to make a difference, whether it is big or small.
Sneha Dave is a recent graduate of Center Grove High School. At age 6, she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. She founded a nonprofit organization the Crohn's and Colitis Teen Times and serves as a motivational speaker for various events. Sneha blogs as a patient advisor for U.S. News and World Report and her advocacy efforts have been broadcast on both television and radio.