From the outside, Chichester teen Jack Angell might look no different than he did one year ago – but in the last 12 months the 17-year-old has been diagnosed with a condition that has changed his life.
Jack is now hoping to raise awareness of invisible illnesses like his and help break the stigma by doing a sponsored skydive for charity.
The teen had been studying hard for his A Levels at Chichester High School and playing football regularly when, just days before Christmas last year, he suffered excruciating stomach pains and was taken to hospital in agony.
He was diagnosed with Acute Severe Fulminant Ulcerative Colitis and in early January, was rushed into emergency surgery where he had his large bowel removed in open surgery.
He was fitted with two stoma bags and spent his 17th birthday in hospital recovering.
Jack said being diagnosed with the illness, which currently has no cure, was a complete shock.
“It was like it came out of nowhere. There were no signs,” he said.
Adjusting to living life with an illness that is invisible to others has been challenging, Jack said, particularly when it came to issues such as using a disabled toilet.
“It appears from the outside that I’m completely healthy and fine,” he said.
“Everytime I go to use it I feel the bad attention, people staring. It kind of gets to a point where you feel a bit paranoid.”
Despite the difficulties he faces, Jack is determined to continue life as before.
He has adapted his diet, is working to build up his fitness and even returned to lifeguarding last month with good support from his employers.
He said: “Originally after the surgery, I did feel very hard done by, like why has this happened to me, why have I been picked out of nowhere.
“But eventually I just started to realise there’s no point really feeling like that.
“I don’t want to let the illness stop me doing anything I would have done before. That’s letting the illness win.”
Jack is hoping to travel and volunteer on a gap year in south east Asia after finishing school and before going to university.
His skydive in February has already raised more than £500 for the charity Crohns and Colitis UK in just ten days – and Jack has promised to dye his hair purple if he reaches £1000.
He said: “Skydiving is something that I’ve always wanted to tick off my bucket list, so the fact I can do it for such a great cause is even better.”
As well as doing the skydive, Jack also strives to raise awareness through his Instagram page fighting.crohnsandcolitis
Through sharing his story, he hopes to let other young people with the condition who might feel ‘alone or isolated’ know that they are not the only ones suffering.
His mother, Tracey Angell, said of her son: “We are really proud of how brave,inspiring and helpful to other people he has become.”
Donate to his fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/JackVsIBD