SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida high school student is raising awareness and helping teenagers dealing with a health issue that may be too embarrassing for some of them to talk about: inflammatory bowel disease.
That’s what Bianca Hernandez, a senior at St. Brendan High School in Westchester, was diagnosed with last year. “Inflammatory bowel diseases are very embarrassing. A lot of people refer to them as pooping diseases,” she said. “However, there’s a lot more to it.”
Also known as IBD, this disease leaves patients with uncomfortable and uncontrollable bowel movements throughout the day. Hernandez said these conditions can cause a constant fear while at school.
In her case, Hernandez said, it led to a dramatic weight loss as she tried out diets and medications to get the disease under control. It raised concerns among the school’s staff.
That’s when one administrator’s idea changed everything. “She was like, ‘You have to have this opportunity because that’s what you need right now,'” said Hernandez. “She immediately gave me the option to use my own private bathroom, and it kind of changed my entire year.”
Hernandez said the helpful idea sparked a passion in her to help others. She founded “GO” Free, a program that offers support and information for not just those suffering from IBD, but for their families and the schools they attend.
After a simple and free online enrollment, victims can receive informational packets, a care package from Hernandez, and hopefully a sense of relief. “With the ‘GO’ Free program, I think this gives students the opportunity to go to school and live a normal life,” she said.
Among a number of individual students, 15 Miami-Dade schools have also enrolled in “GO” Free to comfort students suffering from IBD and provide access to private bathrooms.
Hernandez continues to spread her message through social media. One of her YouTube videos has already seen several thousand views.
While her program is only in schools for now, this senior’s vision isn’t stopping there. “We also have some scheduled meetings to meet with hospitals like Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and the psychology aspect of it to further enhance psychologists,” she said.
Hernandez said all ages can benefit from the “GO” Free Program, especially adults dealing with the disease at their workplace. For more information, or if you would like to make a donation, click here.
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