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      RGA Telehealth helps Cherry Valley man manage Crohn’s disease

      Loren Slartman was diagnosed with Crohn's disease 34 years ago, and a new technology through Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) helps him manage his condition virtually.

      The 75-year-old Cherry Valley resident recalled being on a business trip in Florida back in 1986 when his symptoms first started. He had stomach pains that would cramp and then release at night. "I called my wife in the morning and told her how they were acting, and she said it sounded like labor pains."

      He quickly scheduled a flight back home, and his wife picked him up from the bus station and drove him to SwedishAmerican Hospital, where RGA founder Dr. Roger Greenlaw was practicing at the time. That's when Loren first learned about Crohn's, which is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause serious complications.

      Crohn's causes flare-ups that can land individuals in the hospital and sometimes require surgery. Loren had his first surgery in 1987 and has had several more since then: "They've taken about as much of my intestines as they can."

      Medications have helped him manage the Crohn's through the years, as does watching what he eats (like avoiding spicy foods). He's been seeing RGA's Dr. Steven Ikenberry for a decade ever since Dr. Greenlaw retired in 2010.

      Loren sees Dr. Ikenberry for a checkup every six months, and his regular appointment landed in April during the COVID-19 pandemic. RGA Telehealth services launched this month offering virtual visits for patients as an alternative to coming into the office.

      RGA staff called Loren before his appointment to ask if he'd be open to doing a Telehealth visit. On the day of his appointment, a nurse called him to review his medications and ask a few check-in questions to see how he was feeling. After that, he talked to Dr. Ikenberry like he would during an in-person appointment but this time through a Google Duo video chat on his phone.

      "I very much enjoyed the phone option," Loren said. "With the virus here, I didn't want to go into the doctor's office. It was a nice option."

      Loren stayed connected to RGA even when he lived in Arizona from 2014 to 2017. He and his wife would travel back to Rockford to see family and also make time for an appointment with Dr. Ikenberry. They ended up moving back to Rockford because the dry heat would cause Crohn's-related complications such as kidney stones.

      Even though RGA isn't a far drive from his Cherry Valley home, Loren likes having the Telehealth option as another option for consulting with his doctor.

      "I think it's fantastic for people to use. It was so easy to download the app and get it set up, and on the day of the appointment, you just switch right to it," he said.