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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student advocate becomes town ‘Honored Hero’

Tanner+Garza+%26%238212%3B+THE+BATTALIONCommunication+senior+Bridget+Riley+was+diagnosed+with+Crohn%26%238217%3Bs+disease+during+her+sophomore+year+of+high+school.

Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION

Communication senior Bridget Riley was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during her sophomore year of high school.

Bridget Reily, a communication senior, has become a leading spokesperson for Crohn’s disease awareness in her hometown of Tyler, Texas.
Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s five years ago during her sophomore year of high school, she has become highly involved in her local chapter of Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, CCFA, an organization that promotes awareness and raises funds for Crohn’s disease research.
“After a trip to the doctor we quickly realized that what we thought was a terrible stomach bug was something much more serious,” Reily said. “After a few tests and procedures, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.”
Dr. Narendra Kumar, an associate professor at A&M, specializes in Crohn’s disease research.
“Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract and belongs to a group of conditions commonly known as inflammatory bowel disease,” Kumar said. “Currently there is no cure to this disease.”
According to CCFA, 70,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.
“Since the past four decades, CCFA has been at the forefront of [inflammatory bowel disease] research with 50,000 members and worldwide collaborations,” Kumar said. “Today, both CCFA and the National Institutes of Health actively support research in the field, and there are approximately 80 new therapies in the pipeline.”
While Crohn’s Disease is a life-altering disease that impacts daily routine, Reily said she was able to find hope.
“I feel like a big part of my story has been finding joy and success despite of the difficulties,” Reily said. “My faith has been a really big part of my journey with Crohn’s. In a weird way Crohn’s has been a huge blessing in my life because it has taught me that I can be strong. I can have joy even in the midst of the pain of Crohn’s.”
Since her diagnosis, Reily has become an active advocate for Crohn’s disease awareness.
Through the “Take Steps” for Crohn’s and Colitis program, CCFA chapters host walks to sponsor those diagnosed with the disease and raise money.
Reily will participate in the October walk with a goal of raising $500 for each year that she has had Crohn’s disease. She has currently raised $1,785 of her $2,500 goal.
In addition to raising funds for the CCFA, she is also this year’s “Honored Hero,” someone who stands out for using their story for awareness.
Al James, walk manager of “Take Steps” in Tyler, Texas, commended Riley for her strength.
James said Reily has a passion for helping other people that are fighting the same difficulties that she faces every day.
“Most people her age have never had to deal with anything like this, she really does this with dignity and grace,” James said. “To be able to step forward and put a face on it so others can speak out and feel comfortable to talk about their disease, that is how we are going to get closer to finding a cure.”
In addition to her advocacy for Crohn’s disease, Reily is a fulltime student at A&M. Riley said she was grateful for the Disability Services on campus.
“I just love A&M’s disability program because they really try to personalize the program to your needs,” Reily said. “That is a big reason why I have been able to be so successful here.”
Reily said she wants to continue advocating for Crohn’s disease advocate after graduation.
“My goal is to educate people about what it really means to live with Crohn’s and colitis,” Reily said. “I feel like Crohn’s is more about that you never know how you are going to feel. You never know if you are going to be able to do certain things. I just want people to know what it is really like and how it really affects you.”

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