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FirstHealth couple seek help with Crohn’s awareness, fundraising effort

| Date Posted: 5/23/2011

Andrea and Jeremy Heldt

Andrea and Jeremy Heldt have mounted a personal awareness and fundraising campaign about Crohn’s disease, the chronic gastrointestinal condition that has afflicted Jeremy since he was a college student. The Heldts will be participating in the Triangle Take Steps Walk fundraiser in Durham on June 18 and would like to encourage others to get involved.

PINEHURST – Jeremy Heldt has ridden the no-fun rollercoaster ride of Crohn’s disease since he was a 19-year-old college student in Minnesota. That was 12 years ago.

His diagnosis came after he went into surgery for what he thought was a bad appendix. Instead, he learned he had the chronic gastrointestinal system inflammation that affects between 400,000 and 600,000 Americans. There is no cure, and treatment options are limited to controlling symptoms, maintaining remission and preventing relapse.

When Jeremy has a flare-up, he is virtually assured of several days in bed. “There’s not a lot you can do when it happens,” he says.

Last year, Jeremy and Andrea, his wife of almost three years, moved from their native Minnesota to Pinehurst to take jobs with FirstHealth of the Carolinas. He handles government billing in Patient Accounts, and she is a pharmacist at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. Together, they have mounted a personal campaign of Crohn’s disease awareness and fundraising that includes the upcoming Triangle Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk.

The Heldts call their team The Gut Busters, and they’re looking for people – friends, co-workers, others – to walk with them, form their own team, donate to the cause or just show up to cheer them on. The Triangle Take Steps Walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 18, at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham. Registration begins at 4 p.m., and the walk will get under way at 5 p.m.

“It’s a two-mile walk, not a marathon,” says Andrea. “We can handle that.”

Jeremy Heldt’s condition affects every aspect of his life and essentially limits him to work and an occasional game of golf. His current regimen of care includes oral medications and a three-hour IV infusion of Remicade, a monoclonal antibody that is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, every four weeks.

“It’s a maintenance method,” Andrea says. “So far, it’s been the best one results-wise for him.”

“In 12 years, that’s the best thing we’ve come across,” says Jeremy. “For the time-being, this keeps the Crohn’s in check.”

Jeremy’s Moore Regional caregivers include gastroenterologist Wayne Lucas, M.D., and primary care physician Fabian Rodriguez, M.D., both of Pinehurst Medical Clinic; the urology team at Pinehurst Surgical; and Pinehurst Medical Clinic infusion nurse Kristie Davies. That means a lot of time in medical offices – 60 trips to the doctor in 2010 and another 30 so far this year.

The Heldts hope that the money generated by Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation fundraisers like the Take Steps Walk will promote research that will eventually lead to a cure. Right now, they concentrate on keeping Jeremy’s condition in check while learning as much as they can about the disease and new efforts for controlling it.

“We try to stay on top of everything as we can,” says Andrea. “It’s a lot, but we get through it.”

You can support Jeremy and Andrea Heldt’s Crohn’s disease efforts by making a tax-deductible donation to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Donate online at http://online.ccfa.org/site/TR/2011TakeStepsWalk/Chapter-Carolinas?px=2205003&pg=personal&fr_id=2646 or mail checks made payable to CCFA to Andrea Heldt, 60 Spring Lake Drive, Pinehurst, NC 28374. If you have questions, contact Andrea Heldt at andrealeigh71@hotmail.com or (218) 329-1805. For more information about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, visit ccfa.org.

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