Using My Patient Journey with Crohn’s Disease to Influence Healthcare

My Patient Journey

As a woman who has battled Crohn’s disease for nearly 12 years and as a new mom, navigating my “new normal” is daunting.

It’s a realm of new experiences, joys, and struggles. The worry of when the next flare-up will strike and how I’ll deal with it when I end up in the hospital and need to be away from my son, Reid, are all a part of my patient journey. Aside from all of this, another part of my patient journey is having the ability to contribute to my family’s financial health, while staying home with my son.

In the weeks leading up to Reid’s delivery, I came across WEGO Health’s Experts platform.

I don’t believe in happenstance.

I was immediately intrigued and inspired and filled out an application. WEGO Health Experts would provide me with endless consulting opportunities, from the comfort of my home. Best of all, I would be able to use my patient journey – the good, the bad, and the ugly – to drive social change, improve advocacy efforts, and provide a unique expertise.


Chronic Disease is Less Isolating Through the WEGO Health Platform

When you battle a chronic illness, oftentimes it’s an isolating experience, which is why I was relieved to find that the WEGO Health platform provides a safe haven for those just like myself:

  • Professionals who can provide a patient perspective.
  • Professionals who thrive in a flexible and comfortable work environment.
  • Professionals with a story to tell on top of the skills they already possess.

This platform is an enabler. It enables me to take a step back, reflect on everything I’ve encountered since the day I was diagnosed, and use that knowledge to inform and shape the future of healthcare. That’s powerful!

Having the opportunity to connect with forward-thinking companies across the country, be a voice for the millions who suffer in silence, and be compensated for my efforts is a win-win.


Your Patient Journey Can Empower You

This growing community of chronic illness patients and professionals is evidence that, just because you may battle a difficult disease, it doesn’t mean your condition needs to hold you back from following your dreams. It’s an emotional and thought-provoking revelation when you realize that your patient journey can help you and your family thrive.

The WEGO Health Experts platform lets those of us throughout the chronic illness community take charge and lead the way. With Crohn’s disease (and most other illnesses), you often feel a lack of control; flare-ups pop up out of nowhere, and you face a constant inner dialogue about your own pain and worry.

This platform allows you to hold the reins and determine which engagements and projects make the most sense for your story – and your life. You have control over your messages and you determine how your experiences are shared to advocate and help others.

It’s empowering to know the experiences I’ve endured while cowering in a hospital bed can now be used to my advantage. Those nights balled up on the couch in pain with tears rolling down my cheeks were now for a reason. When I give myself a biologic injection every other week to manage my illness, each second of pain has been bottled up to make me stronger.


A Renewed Perspective

Through the hard times and the feel-good days, my patient journey has brought me to this current place of where I am today. It hasn’t been easy, but with pain and suffering comes perspective: a perspective that is unique to me, a perspective that is valuable to companies looking to reach those in the Crohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) community.

The fact that WEGO Health is able to recognize the power of patient stories and the impact we can all provide gives us all superpowers.

Since I was diagnosed, I have worked full-time. I spent nearly 10 years working at television stations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as a news anchor, producer, and reporter. I then spent more than three years doing Corporate Communications and Public Relations. This meant countless days and weeks of putting a smile on my face while my pain level escalated on the news desk or in the boardroom. Now, at this point in my life and career, I realize each experience, both at work and at home, brought me to where I am today as an independent freelance Patient Expert.


My New Journey

I am a professional, with a chronic illness, and I’m passionate about being a vocal advocate. I’m a triple threat! As I embark on my new life patient journey as a mom with chronic illness, my gratitude for the WEGO Health Experts platform and my sheer excitement about the possibilities is difficult to put into words. I’ve always believed, “God gives his toughest lessons to his greatest teachers.” Thank you, WEGO Health, for recognizing that.

How does your patient journey empower you? We’d love to hear your stories.


Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden, 33, is a former TV news anchor with Crohn’s living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2005. Through the years she’s endured several hospitalizations, countless medications and flare-ups. In August 2015, she underwent bowel resection surgery that involved the removal of 18 inches of her intestine. While it was a difficult chapter in her disease battle, it truly gave her a fresh start and enabled her to reach remission.

Her blog, “Lights, Camera, Crohn’s: An Unobstructed View” covers everything from overcoming struggles to celebrating small victories. Natalie’s focus is to inspire others and connect with those battling IBD in an honest and transparent way. As a passionate health advocate and journalist, she strives to show that there is more to life than your diagnosis and illness.


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