Meet Ste Walker.
He looks like your everyday, average 24-year-old. Strapping, young, handsome and healthy. Right?
Ste has Crohn’s disease, and though it’s a condition that is not readily recognizable to the public, it is a painful and debilitating condition that affects your digestive system.
He’s had many complications associated with his disease and has had to undergo 80 operations. Ste also hasn’t been able to consume solid food or drink anything in the last two years.
But Ste isn’t looking for a pity party. What he’s looking for is respect. He recently posted a viral “rant” that exposes the damage we do when we judge a book by its cover.
Because he looks normal, people generally assume he’s healthy. So Ste gets lots of accusations, questions, and harsh comments when he uses designated parking, handicap toilets, and his cane or mobility scooter.
Some have even gone as far as to harass him for being so selfish by taking advantage of these devices when there are other other people who “really need” them.
Fed up with the false accusations, Ste posted a side-by-side pic on Facebook of what really goes on underneath his shirt, along with a vulnerable tale of what life is like inside the guise of what appears to be this “healthy” human:
“People are too quick to judge these days, just because I look normal and speak normal, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a major disability….to look at me I look like any normal guy my age, but that’s because I want you to view me like that….look abit closer tho, or ask me questions, and you will soon realise that I have a major illness…
- I have a Hickman line, which is a line that comes out on my chest and rests in my heart. This is what is used to feed me on something called TPN as my stomach doesn’t work correctly.
- I have a ryhlls tube down my nose and into my stomach to help drain it, because my stomach doesn’t empty like a normal person’s does.
- I have a scar that runs from the centre of my chest to the top of my pubic bone which is where I’ve been opened up 3 times in the last 2 years for major life saving surgeries.
- I have an ileostomy, or stoma as they are more commonly known, this is a section of small bowel that comes out of my abdomen which I then attach a stoma bag on to, to collect poo because inside my bowels it’s full of crohn’s disease, ulcers, strictures, fistulas, narrow sections, tumours etc.
- a normal person would have about 20 foot of small bowel and 5 foot of large bowel, due to all my surgeries I have 3 foot of large bowel left and only 8 foot of small bowel left. This cause major problems, short bowel syndrome (SBS) is one of them. This causes me to have a high output in my stoma which in turn dehydrates me, it also means I don’t absorb nutrients from food (which is why I’m on TPN) and I don’t absorb oral medications, liquids or tablets as all these are absorbed in the small bowel.
- I have a section of bowel attached to my stomach because my duodenum is full of strictures and active disease so my stomach doesn’t empty threw it. The loop of bowel I had joined to it (gastrojejunostomy) was meant to solve this problem but because my stomach hasn’t worked in so long it won’t start working again so that’s why I use TPN.
- all my medication are IV and I give them threw my Hickman line, this means at least I can use medication to help me cope, but the downside to this is it has caused one of the arteries in my liver to clog up. My kidneys are also not in the best condition as I am dehydrated constantly.
- then there’s the conditions that I have got because of crohns disease, things like osteoarthritis in my knees from prolonged steroid use, gastro-paresis from not using my stomach in so long, chronic pain syndrome, anxiety from spending all my time in hospital, these are to name but a few.
- it’s not just these physical conditions I have to deal with and fight everyday, there is also a mental battle raging inside me all the time, not been able to eat a meal in 2 years, or only been at home for 4 weeks in the last 18 months, been away from my family and friends, seeing what my illness does to them has a massive effect on my mental state of mind.
So the next time someone says to me “well you look perfectly fine, why are you using that disabled toilet, or parking in that disabled spot, your conning the system, your not disabled, you don’t need that walking stick” just stop and think maybe I just want TO BE FINE or to feel normal, you don’t no what I go threw on a daily basis and you have no right to judge me just on your perception of me that you can see because you don’t no what goes on inside…..so stop and think before you speak, think about the struggle I’ve gone threw just to get out of bed and get dressed and tried to look ‘normal’…..
Sorry for the super long post but I needed to rant :)”
Walker said that he made the post as a way to vent and didn’t expect it to go viral. He said that the responses to it have been amazing, and that he receives tons of messages of support daily.
Ste had no idea that his post would go viral. He just thought he was releasing a little steam, but he is overwhelmed with gratitude for all the support he’s received. He gets tons of messages daily from strangers who feel for his condition, whether they be Crohn’s sufferers or not.
However, he’s still fighting daily. The battle with his disease is far from over.
“I’m just some guy from a little town in West Yorkshire battling to keep going,” said Walker.
Ste is a prime example of why we need to treat people with the utmost respect regardless of what we may initially assume, because beneath what we perceive as ‘picture perfect’ may just be a dark, painful reality that is invisible to the untrained eye.
…It’s amazing what we can see in people when they remove the shell and show what’s really going on underneath the surface.