Author: written by Hillary Stanton, drawn by Joe Stanton
Pages: not paginated
Publish Date: 2007
Publisher: Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America
Author website: http://www.ccfa.org
Additional info: available as a PDF here: http://www.ccfa.org/assets/pdfs/ccfa-online-comicbook.pdf
guest review by Ed C.
Children diagnosed with chronic diseases and medical conditions often have to adjust their lifestyle, bearing new responsibilities different from their peers. As someone diagnosed with asthma at the age of five, I grew up knowing when to use the albuterol inhaler that was always in my pocket. While I had the support of my parents and the understanding of my teachers, I never really had any specific instructional material as a kid to help me better understand and live with my condition. “Pete Learns All About Crohn’s and Colitis” addresses this with a different chronic medical condition, informing parents and their children who are recently diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
The comic narrates how a child named Pete gets diagnosed with IBD, and how he is able to continue his everyday life with the support of family, school staff, social workers, and healthcare providers. It is divided into four short sections, with information and activities for the child between each part. It also has a note to parents at the beginning, and has suggested topics to discuss with their child about the condition.
In the first section of the comic, the child Pete experiences signs and symptoms while at school and at soccer practice. After seeing his regular doctor and a gastroenterologist, Pete undergoes several tests. These tests show the reader the process to figure out if a patient has IBD, from Pete drinking barium to coat his insides for a GI scan, to having a liquid prep before a colonoscopy. Although Pete has natural reactions to these tests, like having to use the washroom a lot in preparation for the colonoscopy, the story stresses how all the procedures are easy, so that children reading this also would not fear it as much.
When the results come in, the doctor explains that Pete has Crohn’s disease. By addressing that they can now address Pete’s symptoms since they now know what is wrong, it encourages kids to get checked if needed as well. The doctor also discusses how it is not contagious, but a chronic disease, and the medications will help control the symptoms. These aspects help bring awareness of the condition to the child. The story also addresses some thoughts any child might have, such as confusion or thinking he or she will never be the same and cannot pursue his or her regular activities anymore.
Following the first part of the comic, there is a picture of the GI tract and a glossary of definitions to help parents and their children better understand the different types of IBD, their symptoms, and the tests to diagnose them. The remaining parts of the comic bring up, through Pete, the difficulties that may arise when children are first diagnosed with IBD, such as missing school, responsibilities for taking new medications and eating particular foods, and what to say to other students who ask about the condition. It also includes entertaining sections to help the child learn, such as a matching game with terms and definitions, a crossword puzzle, and how to create a booklet showing their support system and what activities the child enjoys doing. At the end of the comic, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) provides descriptions of the resources they provide for kids, such as a pediatric support group and a summer camp.
While Pete Learns All About Crohn’s and Colitis does not use the comic medium in any unique way in relation to medicine, it does not need to. The primary use of the comic format is educational, to inform and connect with children about the serious topic of IBD in a comfortable and enjoyable way. I appreciate how the comic stresses reassurance throughout each section, that each child with IBD is not alone, but part of a team that includes family, teachers, social workers, and healthcare providers. This work also shows that the team includes the child with his or her own responsibilities, like taking medications and eating the correct foods, or letting their teachers or parents know if something comes up. I also like how the comic stresses that the kids can still attend school and pursue activities they enjoy, and that they are not the only kid their age with the condition. Although the art is a bit old and the plot elements are kind of corny, it still does an effective job of informing a child and their parents of how to better understand and live with IBD. However, it seems limited to a certain age range. It may be too childish for a teenager but good for younger children. In conclusion, while I would not necessarily recommend “Pete Learns All About Crohn’s and Colitis” for healthcare students and providers as an educational tool, it is a wonderful resource for pediatrics, or for caregivers whose child has been recently diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease or any type of IBD.