Raphael T. Richard, Jr. jokes about being taller as one thing he wants to change in his life, but the truth is he wishes he can face a different challenge in life.
“If you asked me what I would change about my life two years ago, I would have said I didn’t want the cure for Crohn’s Disease, but today I am thinking a little differently,” Richard continued.
At the age of ten, Richard was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Crohn’s Disease is a chronic disorder that causes irritation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. It mostly affects the small
intestine and/or the colon. There is no single test that can be performed to diagnose a person with Crohn’s Disease. There is also no medical cure for the disease, but medication is prescribed to patients to ease inflammation and various types of pain.
Richard traveled back and forth every two weeks to his hometown of Baton Rouge to see three different types of doctors. He sees a gastroenterologist for his issues dealing with Crohn’s Disease, a primary care physician to have blood work done and a psychologist to help with mental issues that are also related to having Crohn’s. Richard takes 15 pills a day, goes to work and class and worries about finances to pay for his off campus apartment and medication expenses.
This semester, Richard said that he misses classes on a regular basis. He is considering taking a year off from school because he needs to have an operation to remove his colon. He said he loves Dillard and wouldn’t be anywhere else but he feels drained and needs a break.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, the most common complication generated from the disease is blockage or obstruction of the intestine caused by swelling. This could result in the thickening of the bowel wall and a drastically narrowed intestinal passage. Other complications include sores or ulcers within the intestinal tract.
“My disease is minimal compared to what some students are going through. I always know things will get better for me. I have been through worst and have gotten better,” said Richard.
With the support system of his mother, father and close friends, Richard has completed two years at Dillard and held leadership positions with a smile on his face, while he was in pain.
“Sometimes I feel that I have let my peers down because I can’t be the leader that I once was. I was involved in so much my first two years here, and now I am in the position where I can’t even go to class half of the time,” said Richard.
The current president of the Pre-Alumni Council, sophomore president of the class of 2008, the Melton Foundation and Stars and Squares are some of the organizations that Richard has been involved in during his first two years at Dillard.
Traveling to such places as Berlin and Chile through the Melton Foundation, Richard said he feels that he has gained a good sense of cultural awareness. He originally wanted to be a teacher so that he could educate people, when he came to Dillard in 2004. But after being in the Hilton last year, Richard feels that he wants to make a change in the city of New Orleans by giving back, and then educating people. That is a prime example of why Richard is an urban studies and public policy major.
During his first semester at Dillard, Richard obtained a 4.0 grade point average because he said he feels that he was in seclusion and did not know many people. His first year at Dillard, Richard lived alone in Williams Hall- which was a sophomore dormitory then- because he said he felt that students would not be mature enough to handle the severity of his condition.
“Some people are not mature enough to handle my condition and I don’t want to burden them with that either, because I know it’s a lot to deal with and understand,” Richard stated.
Richard said he wants students to feel free to ask him questions and not make assumptions. He has no problem answering any question students might have about Crohn’s or anything else.
“I want to be as honest as possible. I have nothing to hide. The more the public knows, the better educated we will become as a whole,” Richard said.
“And no, Crohn’s Disease is not contagious,” Richard said laughing as he walked
out of the room.