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NDSU Bison Brighten Young Patients’ Day



Ian Foley is a typical 13-year-old from Casselton, N.D. Like a lot of boys, he eagerly roots for his favorite football teams during each and every season. But this time, Ian had members of the North Dakota State University Bison football team returning the cheers.

A visit to Sanford Children’s Hospital by head football coach Craig Bohl and three players helped brighten Ian’s day during a challenging time, which began only a few months earlier.

Toward the end of 2013, Ian began experiencing flu-like symptoms. His mother, Stephanie, wasn’t worried initially, but when the symptoms kept returning and intensifying, she grew concerned for her son’s health.

“The problem just became worse and worse, and I knew he needed to see his doctor,” Stephanie says. “This was much more than the flu.”

Dr. Mark Blaufuss, pediatric gastroenterologist at Sanford Children’s, ordered a CT scan, which revealed a partial bowel blockage and ultimately a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. The inflammatory bowel disease is a condition that causes portions of the digestive system to become swollen and inflamed.

Melissa Schmautz, a child life specialist at Sanford Children’s, says this isn’t something parents anticipate happening to their child, and the condition can be quite challenging.

“Crohn’s is a life-changing disease,” Melissa says. “His parents did the right thing and were proactive in getting the care he needed. The earlier the disease is discovered and treated, the better the outcome is for our patients.”

Because of his condition, Ian was required to stay at Children’s Hospital for a short period of time in November 2013, which led to a visit he will never forget.

“He was so excited to meet the coach, members of the team, and the mascot, Thundar,” Stephanie says. “He had a smile on his face the rest of the day. These guys are celebrities in this area, so it meant a lot to our son.”

The coach, players and mascot not only visited with Ian, but also other patients at Children’s Hospital. They handed out gifts, signed autographs and showed their support for the kids. Melissa commended the group for the extra time and genuine care they took with each child they visited.

“At Sanford Children’s, our patients are treated for their physical ailments, but their overall well-being is equally important here,” says Melissa. “These kids are often going through a difficult, or even frightening, time in their lives. Little things like this visit can make a huge difference.”

Ian is currently managing his disease with medication and is happy to begin living a healthier life. He has a T-shirt, gym bag and a Thundar stuffed animal to remind him of the very special day.

Stephanie is grateful to NDSU for the visit, but is most thankful for the exceptional care her son received at Sanford Children’s.

“This disease can be overwhelming, especially for a teenager,” she says. “Ian’s entire medical team is the most sincere and supportive team. They have always been there to answer all of our questions and lean on when times got tough.”

Posted Date: January 2014

NDSU Bison Brighten Young Patients’ Day

Ian Foley’s life changed when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and required a short stay at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, N.D. A team of great physicians and great football players helped improve his health and overall well-being.