Living Free with Crohn’s Disease

What started as mild digestive discomfort in 2011 kept becoming more painful.

Ethan of Niagara Falls was six years old when his family physician referred him to McMaster Children’s Hospital. It was discovered that he had developed a fistula, which resulted in an abnormality in the tissue of his lower digestive tract that made him prone to infection.

MacKid Ethan

Ethan Zahn, the Patient Ambassador for the 2018 Champions program

“I underwent surgery for the fistula,” recalls Ethan, “then other symptoms starting popping up. I was throwing up a lot, my stomach hurt, I had cramps in my legs and my body was sore all the time.”

A shocking diagnosis

Further examination at McMaster Children’s Hospital revealed inflammation throughout Ethan’s digestive tract. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a bowel condition that can result in chronic stomach pain, fatigue and malnutrition.

“Crohn’s disease is a potentially life-threatening illness,” says Ethan’s mother, Kristina.

“It was scary for us as parents because we didn’t know what the future would hold for him. We hoped for the best, but were prepared for a difficult road ahead.”

Ethan was always passionate about playing sports, especially baseball and basketball. He was afraid that his condition would leave him on the sidelines as a spectator.

Next steps on the journey

“The next step was to determine which medication was best for him,” says Ethan’s father, Bob. “Luckily Ethan responded well to a medication that reduces inflammation. He started to feel better and he was soon back on the sports field.”

Ethan visits the Hospital every eight weeks for infusions of his medication, which takes about three hours to complete.

“All the doctors, nurses and Child Life Specialists are so caring,” says Ethan. “They always take the time to talk to me and make sure I’m comfortable.”

An active lifestyle

Thanks to the care he receives, nothing can hold Ethan back from playing the sports he loves.

“I have an active lifestyle thanks to the amazing people at McMaster Children’s Hospital. I’m grateful to them, and to donors who help patients like me live life to its fullest.”

Ethan was selected to represent McMaster Children’s Hospital as the 2018 Children’s Miracle Network Champion presented by Walmart. The program unites patient ambassadors from children’s hospitals across Canada.