In elementary school, Rowan loved to eat school lunches on Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays. These meals were a big deal for her. But it wasn't always so much fun. For a long time, she had to eat a packed lunch every day because her celiac disease requires a gluten-free diet.
Rowan was diagnosed at Children’s National Hospital at age 4. At the time, her mom Amy, a single parent, was overwhelmed with the dietary restrictions and feared making her child sick and the risk of long-term consequences such as intestinal damage, behavioral issues and development of additional autoimmune diseases. Amy and Rowan found care, compassion and camaraderie in our Celiac Disease Program and our multi-disciplinary celiac clinic.
“Our connection with Children's National has given Rowan back so many things that celiac threatened to take away,” Amy says. “Rowan loves the weekend cooking classes and connecting with other kids facing the same limitations. The staff’s very personalized approach and being around people who understand the challenges of celiac disease has meant so much to us.” Many doctors and staff within the program have the condition themselves or are parents of children with it.
Our celiac program has led the development of national guidelines to help schools across the country care for children with celiac, including at Rowan’s school in Northern Virginia. “Rowan enjoying Taco Tuesdays is directly tied to advocacy at Children’s National,” says Amy. “She loved the freedom to enjoy lunch with her classmates and be like the other kids — happy and healthy." During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rowan and her family are enjoying Taco Tuesdays at home.
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