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Law Grants Restroom Access, Peace Of Mind

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#1 Jeffrey Roberts

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 08:02 AM

Law Grants Restroom Access, Peace Of Mind By LAUREN GROVERStaff WriterPosted on Thursday, July 19, 2007Ten-year-old Catherine Wicker was out shopping with her mom last October when she suddenly had to go.Diagnosed with a severe inflammatory bowel disease, Wicker's request to use the Austin retailer's restroom was urgent, and one she'd made many times before.The store clerk said no.Scurrying across the street to find a public restroom, Wicker was almost hit by a car, too anxious and bothered by her cramping intestines to look up.She wasn't hurt.But she didn't make it to the restroom. This story and others captured the attention of Texas lawmakers this year.For weeks, Wicker and other children with IBD roamed the state capital handing out toilet paper rolls written with "Vote 'yes' on H.B. 416 the Restroom Access Act!"And the result was far from child's play.Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed into law the Restroom Access Act, granting 115,000 Texans with IBD and thousands of others with bowel and urinary illnesses access to "Employee Only" restrooms at businesses all over Texas. The law will go into affect Sept. 1.The bill states that a doctor's note or medical condition ID must be presented and three or more employees must be present for the request to be granted.Refusing the request is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100.A quiet, embarrassing disease.IBD usually means Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis, two autoimmune diseases causing the breakdown of lining in the small intestine and colon.Symptoms include severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping."People that suffer from ulcerated colitis have to use the bathroom 10 to 15 times a day - it's real urgent," said Judson Stafford, advocacy chairman for the North Texas chapter of Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America."A lot of times they are homebound, because they feel trapped. This gives liberation to their lives."Stafford said the disease is very embarrassing for most people.Diagnosed with ulcerated colitis at 15, Stafford suffered its debilitating symptoms before having his colon removed.He often relied on a retailer's goodwill when asking to use employee restrooms."You end up explaining that you have this disease, saying 'Please let me use the bathroom,'" he said."Just asking has helped, but it hasn't helped everywhere - something that's legal, official, will definitely make a difference."EXPANDED ACCESSGeared toward IBD patients, the bill's passage means relief for thousand, all people who suffer permanent or temporary bowel or urinary problems.These conditions include pregnancy, irritable bowel syndrome, prostate inflammation, and urinary tract infections.They have only to get a doctor's note."It's not restricted - whether a woman is pregnant, or someone who has kidney stones," Stafford said.Dr. Gary Boyd, a Tyler gastroenterologist, said the population of people with illnesses resulting in urgent bowel movement or urination is huge.And, he said he finds the disclosure of a person's private medical conditions "interesting," especially in lieu of recent medical privacy measures, such as HIPAA.But, as a health provider for IBD patients, Boyd called the legislation a success."Those folks who are active - who are diagnosed but not in remission - are dealing with diarrhea, and it's unpredictable and can happen at any moment," he said. "It can disable a person, so badly they won't leave the house because of the fear of not finding a bathroom."IBD DEFINEDAffecting 1.4 million Americans, IBD diseases have no cure, and doctors work to treat patients with antibiotics, steroids and immune-modulating drugs, Boyd said.Crohn's disease, usually the more aggressive of the two, can be as mild as a stomach ache and as severe as a life-threatening full-body crisis, attacking the joints, skin and even eyes.Both Crohn's and ulcerative colitis tend to strike in either the teens and early 20's or the early to late 60's he said, and is most common in Caucasians, particularly those of Jewish ethnicity.If treated into remission, IBD patients tend to lead fairly normal lives, he said, although many resort to surgery.http://www.tylerpape...EWS01/707190307



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