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This guy is challenging how we think about invisible diseases in a really important way

Just because someone looks healthy doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering a lot on the inside. That’s what one man with Crohn’s disease is teaching us with a powerful Facebook post that’s going totally viral.

Ste Walker, a 24-year-old from Halifax, England, has been suffering from Crohn’s disease — a chronic, incurable inflammatory bowel disease that affects up to 1.6 million Americans, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America — for most of his life. He suffers from extreme pain and complications from his disease that can make day-to-day living excruciating sometimes. But because he looks “normal” on the outside, he is often questioned and harassed for doing things such as parking in handicapped accessible parking spots.

Recently, Ste decided to use all of the assumptions people having been making about him as an opportunity to educate. He posted two pictures of himself — one with his shirt on, where he looks “normal,” and one with his shirt off, displaying all of the medical equipment he must use daily. “People are too quick to judge these days, just because I look normal and speak normal, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a major disability,” he wrote. “. . . ask me questions, and soon you will realise that I have a major illness.”

Ste then went in depth about all of the ways Crohn’s has majorly impacted his life. He has a Hickman line, which comes out of his chest and is used to feed him, as his stomach doesn’t work correctly; he has a ileostomy (also known as a stoma) to collect excrement; he has a rhylls tube down his nose and into his stomach, which drains the stomach because it can’t empty, he explained. He also has a large scar down his chest, “which is where I’ve been opened up 3 times in the last 2 years for major life saving [sic] surgeries,” he wrote.

People are too quick to judge these days, just because I look normal and speak normal, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a…

Posted by Ste Walker on Sunday, October 25, 2015

On top of this, he has much shorter intestines than the average person and a section of his bowel attached to his stomach, because it doesn’t empty through the structure it’s supposed to. “The loop of bowel I had joined to it (gastrojejunostomy) was meant to solve this problem but because my stomach hasn’t worked in so long it won’t start working again so that’s why I [am fed through the Hickman line],” he wrote.

He also has to take all of his medications through an IV, but the medications have made his body deteriorate in other ways, such as clogged arteries — all on top of the conditions caused by Crohn’s, like osteoporosis and chronic pain. But the physical symptoms aren’t even the half of it, he continued:

“. . . there is also a mental battle raging inside me all the time. . . So the next time someone says to me “well you look perfectly fine, why are you using that disabled toilet, or parking in that disabled spot, [you’re] conning the system, you’re] not disabled, you don’t need that walking stick” just stop and think maybe I just want TO BE FINE or to feel normal. . . so stop and think before you speak, think about the struggle I’ve gone [through] just to get out of bed and get dressed and tried to look ‘normal’.”

Ste’s post has resonated with thousands, getting over 36,000 likes and being shared over 11,000 times, and for great reason. It’s so important to remember that you can’t trust everything you see on the outside, and you have no idea the intense turmoil and pain someone else is going through. The judgment from others when those with invisible illnesses use a handicapped space? That’s just adding to the struggles they have to face every single day. Thanks, Ste, for opening the eyes of thousands while speaking up for those who may be going through the same thing.

(Image via Facebook.)

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