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Colitis can't stop Hanna Guttentag's plan for life
By Dale King / April 1, 2017

Hanna Guttentag of Parkland is just 16 years old but has already experienced a vast range of emotions. The satisfaction of helping charities by donating proceeds raised through a home-based business, the thrill of victory on the lacrosse and soccer fields, and the love of a closely-knit family - mom, dad, a younger brother, Evan, 13, and a Golden doodle named Oliver.

Three years ago, Hanna started having health issues. Her initial medical visits were inconclusive. In April 2016, a colonoscopy pinned down the disease. She has a chronic condition called Ulcerative Colitis - inflammation and ulceration of the colon - that has no cure. "Because of severe complications from my UC, I spent seven weeks in the hospital last summer," said the courageous teen. "I had to miss my last year of sleep-away camp and the last five weeks of ninth grade."

Now a sophomore at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Hanna said she "loves school. My teachers are amazing." They understand she must often leave the classroom at a moment's notice, and that, her mother, Mindy said is an immense help. "Stress and anxiety are very bad for her condition," Mindy said. As for fellow students, some comprehend the situation; some don't. "It makes me feel much better knowing the teachers understand," Hanna said.
Hanna Guttentag

An infusion of medication every four to six weeks keeps Hanna going. The alternative would be removing her colon - an option she declined. The teen has high praise and kind words for Dr. Amber Langshaw, her lead doctor at Jackson-Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami where she is treated. She has also bonded with Dr. Jacqueline Larson, a pediatric gastroenterologist who had suffered from UC, and underwent the colon removal. "Dr. Larson helps keep Hanna grounded," Mindy said.

Daily life isn't always easy for Hanna, who can only eat foods from a list of 14. But it was worse last year after her illness was diagnosed. "Throughout my hospital experience, I wasn't able to eat at all and could only receive nourishment intravenously," Hanna recalled. "I had seven blood transfusions, two colonoscopies, two MRE's, multiple treatments of antibiotics, and many other invasive treatments."
With a sigh as she laid her head on her mother's shoulder, she softly said: "I never want anyone to experience what I went through."

UC hasn't diminished Hanna's desire to fight for her own good health and support research to find a cure for the affliction that afflicts 1.6 million people. "On April 22, I will participate in the 'Take Steps for Crohn's & Colitis' walk in Fort Lauderdale, the nation's largest event dedicated to finding cures for digestive diseases." Her personal goal is to raise $5,000 (up from her initial quota of $2,000) and hopes the story of her personal struggle will entice people to back her. Last November, she received contributions totaling $5,000 during a Crohn's and Colitis Walk in West Palm Beach.

An energetic young lady, deeply involved in horseback riding, playing soccer, and lacrosse always considered herself "pretty normal." She and two friends, Stacey Gringauz and Sofia Rothenberg, created Three Heart Strings, a home business that creates bracelets and other accessories. Money raised from the sales go to charity.

Hanna recently won fourth place in a statewide DECA (distributive education) presentation that was "like the TV show Shark Tank," Mindy said. "She wrote a business growth plan. She's a 10th grader who was competing with 12th graders." The win qualified Hanna for a national competition in California later this year. The problem to overcome? How does she get proper nutrition on the trip?

"I am so worried every day," Hanna said. "I worry that it could all come back." But she remains optimistic. "I am so happy when I have a good day."

For more information on Take Steps, visit Hanna's page at
http://online.ccfa.org/site/TR/TakeSteps/-Chapter-SouthFlorida?px=3453433&pg=personal&fr_id=6765




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