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16 year old Charlotte Livingstone's story with Crohn's Disease

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16 year old Charlotte Livingstone is the Youth Ambassador for Crohn's and Colitis NZ.

She was diagnosed with Crohns at the age of 12.

Crohn's is an autoimmune disease, which attacks the digestive system. It causes inflammation in the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, blood loss, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.

People can be affected anywhere from the top of the digestive tract, or mouth, right to the lower end. There is no known cure for the disease. For Charlotte, this means weekly injections into the abdomen, also a pile of tablets to take twice daily.

Also fed medical, nutritional liquids through a tube surgically inserted into her stomach. Spends at least two hours a day hooked up to a pump, sometimes more.

The main effect is her energy levels, getting tired and needing even more sleep than a regular teenager.

Over 20,000 people in New Zealand today are affected by Inflammatory Bowel disease, which is an umbrella term for both diseases. Awareness helps with issues such as funding from Pharmac for life changing medications.

Charlotte would like to increase the support for the I Can't Wait' campaign. There is a fear of having an accident in public. CCNZ has a card that patients can present at toilets to jump the queue or gain access to a business or workplace toilet when there are no public toilets nearby. Businesses can display an 'I Can't Wait' sticker

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