Jon Haskins, a 16-year-old sophomore at Minot's Central Campus, is dealing with more than the typical teenage worries.
At age 11, he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a chronic auto-immune disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract.
On Feb. 17, Haskins had a life-changing surgery at Mayo Clinic as part of a last resort to control a flare-up of the disease. His large intestine was removed, and he now uses an ileostomy bag.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Jon Haskins, pictured with the family dog, has undergone a life changing surgery to combat Crohn’s disease.
"My friends and family have gotten me through it, and my faith," Haskins said. "It has had a big impact on me. There is stuff that I can and can't do anymore, and there's certain stuff I can't eat."
When Haskins' journey began, he had several surgeries before being diagnosed with Crohn's. After the diagnosis, his physician started him on immune suppressing medications to stop the inflammation caused by the disease.
"It seemed that after every 20 months, he would stop responding to medications and needed to switch medications," said Jon's mother, Kathy Haskins.
I would say, 'Here's my story in a nutshell.' But I now say 'My story is in the bag.'
from a benefit poster for Crohn's disease survivor 16-year-old Jon Haskins
"If he has a flare-up, even if we catch it in time, he could lose five pounds a week," she added. "There's just drastic weight loss with this condition."
The medications seemed to control the condition for awhile, but in August 2010 he had another flare-up. He had to give up swimming on the Minot High swim team, but was offered the opportunity to be the student manager. He also started curling to join a sport.
By December, he had lost 12 pounds. He had an appointment with his pediatric gastro-intestinal physician at the Mayo Clinic on Feb. 5, and was hospitalized immediately. Haskins didn't respond to any new medications, so he had his large intestine removed Feb. 17 to save his life.
Haskins has been able to cope with his new life change, especially with the help of a camp counselor he met at a Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America summer camp.
"Going to the camp has definitely made him more confident, because he realizes he's not the only one. As a teen, you definitely don't expect to be on five medications a day!" said Jon's father, Art Haskins.
Now, Haskins hopes to become an ambassador for the Minnesota/ Dakotas Chapter of the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, as well as a camp counselor for the foundation's camp. He hopes to offer support for other young people who have the same condition.
The Haskins family does have some worries that Jon may suffer another flare-up, but still try to live day-to-day life as normally as possible.
"With Crohn's disease, it's just a matter of when it's going to happen," Art Haskins said. "The medication and surgery could potentially be temporary fixes. Some people will go into remission, but others might have more flare-ups."
"It is kind of scary, thinking about if it ever does come back and not knowing what's going to happen," Jon Haskins said.
In the meantime, however, Jon continues to work hard on his schoolwork, stay involved with friends and live his life.
"We continue to try and live as normally as we can, and we don't make a super big deal about it," Art Haskins said.