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Local hero recognized for Take Steps campaign

Village News/Courtesy photo

Fallbrook resident Jerica Sanford and her son Grraison enjoy time at a park as Sanford continues to deal with the side effects of her battle with ulcerative colitis.

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation has named Fallbrook resident Jerica Sanford its Take Steps 2024 Honored Hero for its "largest and most impactful fundraising event." The foundation's website says, "Take Steps is a walk experience that brings communities together – letting inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and their families know that they're not alone."

The event is scheduled for June 2 at NTC Park at Liberty Station in Point Loma with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. Sanford's goal is "to bring awareness

to what ulcerative colitis is and how it can drastically alter someone's life,

which is why I am walking and raising funds in an effort to show hope (this is my seventh walk)."

Sanford's fundraising page is at https://takesteps.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=32331

Now through March 18, all donations to the walk will be matched up to $100,000.

Sanford explained that "This disease is hard, unpredictable and life altering. But together as an IBD community we keep taking steps, raising funds and creating and generating that awareness to help future generations with the goal of a cure. To be very clear, there is no cure, only drugs that may or may not work as everyone's genetic makeup is so different. This is not a cookie cutter disease and there are no cookie cutter solutions. It is all trial and error."

Sanford was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 27 in April 2014, almost 10 years ago, and it "undoubtedly changed my entire life," she said, "Like many, I was misdiagnosed in the beginning. It took seeing three different GI doctors before someone understood my symptoms, and scheduled my first colonoscopy."

During that first hospitalization, she was given heavy doses of pain medications and after days of testing, scopes, bowel preps and more colonoscopies, she was given her first biologic infusion.

"Nothing was helping and I spent weeks at Pomerado Hospital. I was then given a second dose of the same biologic a week and a half after my first infusion. The second infusion almost killed me. I had a life-threatening reaction, and was told less than 1% of the population have had this reaction to this biologic infusion," Sanford said.

"It was after my first near death experience, that my mother would strongly encourage me to seek another route as medications nearly took my life...I made the decision to decline further medications. This was when I asked for my care to be transferred to the best in SoCal, and I would transition my care to the IBD team at UC San Diego," she explained.

She began undergoing the required procedures to have her colon removed, but she developed a life-threatening infection and suffered more allergic reactions to new medications.

Sanford said, "2014, 2015 and 2018 were my 'almost didn't make it' years. After my spiral of reactions, sepsis, and seizures, I waited for my body to 'heal' before I would try the takedown surgery for a second time. I thought, what could possibly happen? In my mind I had been through it all, but I was wrong."

She continued, "I knew deep in my defective gut that I had to be my strongest, and I did everything within reason to get there. It was a good thing I did. I checked into the hospital on April 25, and would be released on June 28, 2018. What I didn't prepare for was that I would be in a medically induced coma for the entire month of May and wake up just days before my 32nd birthday in June."

But she did survive and she thinks it was because "my mind has always been stronger than my body. My mind is what I believe has saved me from death more than once...Code blue, sepsis, TTP, IVC filters, blood clots, bowel preps, platelet paresis treatments, biologics, 6MP, Prednisone, fear, pain, resilience, EMDR therapy, Dilaudid, anxiety, depression, tracheostomies, hallucinations, coma, ECMO, life support, IVIG infusions, hair loss, weight loss, incubation, G-tubes, NG tubes, PTSD – these are just some of the examples of what can happen to someone with ulcerative colitis."

She added that "through every single horrific situation I endured, I knew I kept surviving for a reason. I knew my life had a purpose because I was so close, so many times to not surviving, but God had a purpose for me. My purpose would be my son, Grraison... I knew the moment I was pregnant, this was my purpose the whole time. The reason for my survival. My son was the light at the end of that long IBD tunnel I had been walking through for eight years."

He was also "the reason why I pushed on so hard. There was a drive inside me not knowing where I was going, but I kept on going. One step at a time, I just kept taking steps," Sanford said, and now she will be leading the Take Steps walk to raise money for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation which is the leading nonprofit organization focused on both research and patient support for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with the mission of curing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and improving the quality of life for the millions of Americans living with IBD.

According to the foundation, "nearly 1 in 100 Americans suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, which is a group of severe disorders that cause chronic inflammation of and damage to the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which affect both children and adults. These diseases greatly affect quality of life, causing fatigue, pain, diarrhea, bleeding, nausea, and weight loss, among other symptoms. Current treatments can help to manage symptoms, but there is no cure for IBD."

For more information on Crohn's and colitis, visit https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/ call 888-694-8872, or email [email protected].

 

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