When you have issues with your bowel or bladder, it’s easy to focus on activities you can’t do because of those problems. You might feel like you’re missing out on things that others take for granted. But what if the opposite happens? Anna’s story is one of achieving milestones she was told were beyond her reach.

Anna, 18, developed necrotising enterocolitis soon after birth. In everyday terms, this means that there was a loss of blood supply to part of her bowel, so she became acutely unwell. The affected portion of bowel was removed and Anna had an ileostomy formed to divert her poo into a stoma bag worn on her tummy.

Anna was determined to experience life without the poo bag, so she bravely opted to have the ileostomy reversed when she was 13 years old. 11 surgeries later, she now empties her bowels in the normal way.

Her gut is now much shorter so everything travels through a lot quicker. As a result she has to go to the toilet frequently…up to 20 times a day. And her tummy rumbles a lot which can make Anna feel self-conscious. But she won’t let it stop her from enjoying a full and active life! She runs, she cycles, she swims, she takes part in triathlons.

Anna joined ERIC’s children’s panel three years ago to help other kids facing similar issues. She wants them to know dreams can come true for young people with wetting or soiling problems.

Anna said: “My medical condition has made me who I am today. More determined and more active as well as more caring and resilient. I was told I could never swim. A few months ago I took part in a relay and with my team we crossed the channel. Dreams can come true for us too. Don’t let your bowel or bladder problems beat you!”

We asked Anna what she likes about ERIC, this is what she said: “I never talk about my condition to my friends. When I met other young people on the ERIC panel, it was the first time I had the opportunity to open up about my issues. Being able to share tips and stories with others who know what it’s like is interesting and empowering. It’s turning something which could be perceived as negative into a positive experience.”

Anna addressed 250 health professionals at the ERIC conference in October. Her inspiring and uplifting presentation left tears in the eyes of the audience.

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