At age 14, Luke Jackson already has his heart set on a career as a firefighter. His medical journey has driven his passion for helping others. “I want to help people on their worst day, just as I was helped so many times,” says Luke.
Although on the outside Luke is the picture of a typical teen, inside he battles the “invisible” Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition that affects the lining of the digestive tract. It all started when he was 7 years old when his family thought he caught a stomach bug that was going around at school, but his symptoms kept getting worse. “It was taking a toll. He lost so much weight and he didn’t want to go to school or hang out with his friends,” says his mom, Kristi Jackson. Eventually, Luke’s Riley physician in Bloomington, Ind, Dr. Scot Moore, referred him to Riley Pediatric Gastroenterologist Marian Pfefferkorn, M.D., at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. She immediately suspected Crohn’s disease and confirmed the diagnosis.
Luke was admitted to Riley for a week. Although his initial medication failed, he started Remicade infusions in 2013 and they changed his life. “He never looked back,” said Kristi. Four years later, Luke still travels to Riley six times a year for infusions and checkups. “Luke, with the support of his parents, has been very compliant with his treatment plan and is in clinical remission,” said Dr. Pfefferkorn. “Having Crohn’s disease has not stopped him from participating in activities he enjoys.”
Luke has been taking the stage at Riley Dance Marathons since 2015 to speak about his condition and the importance of kindness. “Many people are battling invisible diseases,” says Luke. “I want people to think before passing judgment. You never know what someone is fighting.”
In 2015, Luke and his father organized a golf tournament in French Lick, Ind., raising $1,000 for Riley, allocating a portion to the Riley Endocrinology Department in honor of a friend who has type I diabetes. Luke has also enjoyed representing Riley as an announcer at the annual Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort, which benefits Riley. “It feels great to give back to a place that has helped me so much,” Luke says.
His doctor can’t help but be impressed. “It is very inspiring and heartwarming for a teen with a life-long illness to have the desire to give back,” says Dr. Pfefferkorn. “I am so proud of all he does!”
Just how far this young man will go is anyone’s guess. As Luke likes to say, “This is just the beginning.”