Ryan Gravedoni was six years old when he first became ill.
“Every four weeks, automatically, he would get a fever,” his father, Dennis Gravedoni, said. “We'd go to the doctor and it would only last two and half days and then it would go away.”
Bloody diarrhea led to a hospital stay. However, doctors weren't able to perform a colonoscopy as his colon had “basically closed up,” his father said. Doctors treated the youth with steroids and heavy antibiotics. When a colonoscopy was finally performed, it showed nothing.
Four weeks later, the symptoms returned.
Ryan's parents, Dennis and Chantell, suspected he might have Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. But because he didn't have the typical symptoms, such as constipation or diarrhea, doctors didn't think it could be Crohn's disease.
“As a parent, you know something's wrong, so you keep pushing to try to open those doors to get the answers you need,” Dennis said. “Fortunately, on the second colonoscopy they found it was Crohn's.”
Today, Ryan, who is now 14 and will be a freshman at Blair High School, faces treatments every eight weeks. He had his 30th infusion just last week.
“He's a trooper. He rolls with it and does what he needs to do,” Dennis said.
Because of Crohn's, Ryan is limited on the food he can eat. He can't eat gluten or milk.
The first time he realized he couldn't eat or drink milk and milk-based products was during a trip to Michigan.
“It was my sister's birthday and we had a lot of ice cream,” he said. “The road trip back was pretty miserable.”
Ryan will occasionally have flare ups, which include headaches and he becomes nauseous. His illness has caused him to miss more than 30 days of school a year. However, both he and his dad said his teachers and principal have been understanding.
“Blair Schools has been fantastic with the whole situation,” Dennis said.
Ryan was recently chosen as the Omaha Take Steps Pediatric Honored Hero for Omaha Take Steps + Virtual Walk, which will take place at 11 a.m. June 20. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event, which is typically held at Werner Park in La Vista, will be bring together patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, family and friends virtually, according to a press release.
Ryan and his family have participated in the walk for the past six years, raising funds, which go toward finding a cure for Crohn's and Colitis. They also make fun shirts, often with #RyanStrong on them, to show their support.
Ryan will share his story with those participating in the event. He'll also tell about a special camp he has attended where all of the campers are youth who deal with Crohn's and Colitis. He's made plenty of friends while attending the camp.
“There are other people that actually understand what you're going through and it's just a really life changing experience,” Ryan said.
To visit Ryan's page for Take Steps, visit online.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/site/TR/Events/General?team_id=215329&pg=team&fr_id=8806.