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 Knightstown Native Dana (Davis) Stensrud Seeking Help

May 14, 2008 - It’s a pain in the gut, according to those who suffer from it. All jokes aside, though, Crohn’s Disease is more than just a pain. It’s a serious disorder involving inflammation of the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract.

A former Knightstown resident, Dana (Davis) Stensrud, knows exactly how much of a pain the disease can really be. She began suffering from Crohn’s in late 1996 and struggled with its symptoms until 2005 when she had major surgery that saw the removal of her large intestine and most of her small intestine.

The daughter of former Knightstown residents Denny and Carol Davis, Stensrud, a 1989 Knightstown High School graduate, now lives in North Carolina.

One might never know that Stensrud has suffered immensely with such an oppressive disease. After all, her tall, thin frame and blonde hair speak of health, instead of sickness. She doesn’t look sick at all. But, her tale of woe is all too real for the thousands of Crohn’s Disease sufferers all over the world.

Stensrud started getting sick in December of 1996. She lost 20 pounds almost immediately and found herself in the hospital, fighting a malady which was, at that time, unknown to her. Doctors’ first diagnosed her with ulcerative colitis and gave her a barrage of steroids. “That didn’t work too well,” Stensrud said. “The steroids ate holes in my knee caps.”

She was in the hospital almost constantly throughout 1997 and 1998. Seeking additional opinions on her condition, Stensrud went to the Cleveland (Ohio) Clinic, where doctors told her she had Crohn’s Disease, instead of ulcerative colitis. “It turned out to be the wrong thing do,” she said, “But, I fought this disease as long as I could.”

According to Stensrud, her life was great prior to the onset of Crohn’s. She was an ambitious Sallie Mae employee earning good money and leading a normal life. Normal, that is, until the disease put her flat on her back in one hospital after another. She said between August 2001 and September 2005 she was staying in the hospital at least two weeks out of every month. “I had almost every complication of Crohn’s you can have,” she said. “It was absolutely horrible.”

Stensrud was ultimately forced to quit her job at Sallie Mae, a leader in issuing student loans. Now on Social Security income, she wonders what her life would’ve been like if she’d been free of Crohn’s. “I was a three-sport athlete in high school,” she said. “Now I have no immune system.” Luckily, her last major surgery, which involved the installation of an ostomy, helped bring her condition under control. She’s been in remission for over two years, but the spectre of Crohn’s returning reminds her that her health could always take a turn for the worse.

Nevertheless, the 35-year-old’s attitude is pretty good. “I am tough. I’ll admit that,” she said, smiling. “Now I’m putting a lot of energy into helping find a cure for Crohn’s and helping young people deal with the disease.”

To that end, Stensrud is seeking pledges for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s annual “Take Steps” 5k walk on June 7 in downtown Indianapolis. She was the walk’s top fundraiser in 2007 and her competitive personality is pushing her to top the list again this year.

Those interested in contributing to Stensrud’s cause can contribute online at www.active.com/donate/takestepsIN07/dstensr or simply visit www.ccffa.org.

“These funds are there to help find a cure and find the gene that is causing it,” Stensrud said. “I would greatly appreciate any donations in my name.”

 

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