Birthright trip for Crohn’s and IBD patients

When David (not his real name) traveled to Israel with the NFTY Reform youth group a few years ago, he hadn’t yet been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but he had the symptoms.

“While it was a great experience, I missed several events due to stomach and intestinal problems. Some days were bearable, on other days I stayed behind. … I tried not to let it get me down, but ultimately it did affect my experience,” David wrote in an e-mail.

David is one of dozens of young adults who hopes to travel to Israel on a Taglit Birthright trip this summer on a tour for people with Crohn’s, colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.

David, who went to Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Camp Hess Kramer, hopes he can get a waiver to attend, as people who have participated in organized tours to Israel aren’t eligible for the free trip. Now that he has proper medication to manage flare-ups, he is eager for the companionship of others who can understand his condition.

“A lot of people have fears of being in public places and try to avoid travel because of the unpleasant complaints of IBD [inflammatory bowel disease],” said Dr. Hillel Naon, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), who will accompany the trip. “On a trip like this, they will be able to connect with each other and feel good about themselves, without having the shame of trying to their hide symptoms, which isn’t so easy to handle on a daily basis on a long trip like this.”

CHLA is organizing the trip, and hoping for 40 participants from across the country. Along with Naon, a gastrointestinal (GI) nurse, and Beverly Daley, a social worker at CHLA, will accompany the trip. They are hoping to find counselors who also have GI disorders, and participants will meet with young Israelis who have Crohn’s and IBD, and will hear from an Israeli soldier with the disease.

“We want them to see that IBD does not have to limit serving your country, and doing whatever you want to achieve,” said Naon, who was born in Haifa and served in the Israel Defense Forces before he moved here 30 years ago.

Daley applied to Taglit Birthright for a grant to run the trip after she met with young patients who expressed their fear of traveling. Taglit Birthright agreed to provide the spots and the extra funding needed for the medical staff.

The trip will likely be in July, although the date has not been set yet. Registration is still open.

For more information, contact Beverly Daley at (323) 361-2490.