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      Infusion Medications Help Beloit Journalist Successfully Manage Ulcerative Colitis


      Faced with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis in his 20s, Austin Montgomery is managing this chronic digestive condition with guidance from and infusion treatments at Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA).

      Austin, who's now 29, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in 2010. But he was "stubbornly ignoring" the disease until he developed more severe symptoms in 2013 while studying abroad in Europe.

      "I was so sick, so anemic that I had to fly home from studying abroad, drive to the hospital straight from the airport, and had to stay multiple days in the hospital to get my disease under control. That's when I started to take it more seriously," he recalled. "No one wants to hear they have a chronic illness when they're in their early 20s. I felt like I was invincible, but I wasn't then and I am definitely not now."

      It was during that hospitalization that he reconnected with RGA's Dr. Ilche Nonevski, who started him on appropriate therapy for his UC.

      Ulcerative colitis symptoms include crampy abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood with bowel movements, loss of appetite and weight loss. Sometimes, the condition produces very few symptoms; other times, it causes severe flare-ups, which Austin experienced in 2016 along with a second hospitalization.

      Austin was managing intense cramping, severe stomach pain and frequency using the restroom almost daily. "My symptoms completely changed my day-to-day routine from when I woke up to the tasks I had each day," he said.

      In 2017, he started seeing RGA's Dr. Clinton Snedegar after having important conversations with Dr. Nonevski.

      "I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for his initial care of me in 2013 and his sage advice in the years after," he said. "I feel like Dr. Snedegar is intuitive and we've had a great relationship since I joined his care in 2017.

      "The entire RGA team is incredibly supportive, attentive and caring. I can't say enough of their professionalism and dedication to helping people find courses of treatment that work for them."

      Austin was taking a steroid medication in 2018 to fight a moderate flare-up and chose to switch from oral medications to infusion medications. He started doing the infusions at a local hospital but switched to RGA when they opened their infusion center in 2020.

      "The switch to RGA for my infusions has been great," he said. "I am fortunate to be on a course of treatment that has brought me to a point where I have never been before. I feel great, and I am able to have the energy I need to take on each new day."

      Ulcerative colitis runs in Austin's family, and he remembered thinking colitis only affected older people when he was first diagnosed. He said the hospitalizations were really sobering experiences for him and motivated him to take better care of himself.

      To others who may be struggling with similar symptoms – especially younger individuals – he emphasized that you're alone.

      "There are caring medical professionals out there who want to help you break out of your new normal," he said. "No one needs to suffer in silence. Listen to your body. Don't ignore your symptoms. Seeking help isn't a show of weakness; it's a wise thing to do. And remember that not every day is going to be a good day. It's about getting to the next one that really matters."

      He emphasized the need for patience and understanding for anyone who might not be familiar with ulcerative colitis and knows someone living with similar symptoms or a similar diagnosis.

      "I think most people can't understand people who suffer from IBD because on the outside, we appear fine. I am so thankful that I have a family and friend group who support me and trust me when I say I am not feeling the best or having the best day," he said.