Dancing means the world to Gabriella Martina.

"I started when I was younger and it was just kind of something fun to do but it's grown into more of a passion it's just a way that I can let my emotions go."

At 14 years old, she is already an accomplished dancer.

"I danced with the Moscow Ballet. I've been to nationals, won with my solos, I've done many first place, platinums, golds," says Gabriella.

At age 12, she was diagnosed with pediatric Crohn's disease.

"Crohn's disease is one of the two inflammatory bowel diseases. These are autoimmune or auto-inflammatory diseases of the intestinal tract. Crohn's disease can affect anywhere from the mouth down to the bottom," says Dr. Viraine Weerasooriya, a pediatric gastroenterologist on the medical staff of the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Characterized by stomach pain, bloody stool and weight loss. Gabriella's brother has it too.

"They're very strong, very strong kids. I would say stronger than I am that they handle it better," says their mother, Karen Martina.

"We know it's an interaction between the environment and our genetics. So somebody's genetically susceptible to have and then there's a trigger," says Dr. Weerasooriya.

There is no cure for Crohn's, it's a chronic disease managed by medications. With the right therapies, patients can expect to lead a normal life.

"What we try and do with therapy is to induce remission, where that inflammation is turned off and we have some medications that are better than doing that than others," says Dr. Weerasooriya.

Steroids spark remission but aren't good long term. Dominic gets IV infusions every eight weeks.

"It helps it for a period of time. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like I have it," says Dominic.

Gabriella doesn't respond to the same drugs so she rotates through medications.

"It's kind of like a game like you have to figure out what works and what doesn't," says Gabriella.

Crohn's disease varies from person to person, making it as individuals as the people who have it.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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