Ohio Man Will Swim Across Lake Erie and Raise Awareness of Crohn's Disease

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Stevens
  • Stevens
Four years ago, Ryan Stevens found himself diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Profound lethargy and chronic diarrhea left him withering away to about 120 pounds. He arrived at the Cleveland Clinic in 2011 for three surgeries that would ultimately remove five feet of his colon.

Tomorrow, he's going to swim across Lake Erie, from Long Port, Ontario, in Canada to Free Port Beach in Pennsylvania. It's part of a $10,000 fundraising goal that will benefit Crohn's and colitis research at the Clinic, ABC reports.

Many are somewhat familiar with Crohn's disease, but the details of the diagnosis and symptoms are largely under-reported in most mainstream media. Here's a brief overview, though the ABC report includes much more context and background to Stevens' history:

"Crohn's is a terrible disease," said Dr. Meagan Costedio, a colorectal surgeon at Cleveland Clinic who treated Stevens. "In the way the body is supposed to work, when it senses something — a virus or bacteria, it makes antibodies called antigens that fight it off. But in this disease, the body senses the small bowel as an antigen and attacks it. We don't know why this happens."

Most of the time there are no genetic markers for Crohn's disease. No one in Stevens' family has the disease. His has been a particularly virulent form.

"Some people take just mild meds and they work perfect," Costedio said. "Some people flare and it doesn't matter what we do, it gets better on its own. And some don't get better, as is the case with Ryan. His Crohn's mainly affects his colon and he would get sick every time he ate."

Many patients have diarrhea up to 20 times a day and often bleed so much they require blood transfusions, she said. "In addition, you feel like crap. People are very sick and very miserable."

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