Rio Rundown: Ali JawadBy Jennifer McGregor -
Jennifer McGregor is a fashion and invisible illness blogger. She is one of approximately 115,000 people in the UK living with Crohn's disease. To keep up to date with Jennifer, check out her blog.
In the run up to the Paralympics in Rio, Brazil, it is important to highlight the athletes who have fought through adversity to become outstanding in their sporting field. There is such a diverse range of athletes who make up this year’s Paralympians and there is one athlete in particular who was born in Lebanon without legs and discovered his passion for powerlifting over 10 years ago at the age of 16.
Ali Jawad excelled in powerlifting over the next few years, so much so that he qualified for the Paralympics in Beijing in 2008. He was then dealt a difficult blow when the night before his chance to compete Ali became very unwell but had no idea what was wrong. He did, however, come in ninth place despite being ill which is an amazing achievement in itself.
Over the following months Ali became increasingly unwell and lost a staggering amount of weight (4 stone). He was then diagnosed with the incurable Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease is a serious form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive system. The inflammation can occur anywhere in the body but mainly attacks the small or large intestines.
The common ways to treat Crohn’s Disease are through corticosteroids, immunosuppressing medicine or major surgery to remove the worst effected areas in the hope of bringing on remission. However, such surgery may leave the patient with an ostomy either part time or for the rest of their life if the intestines cannot be joined straight away or at all. If the ostomy is only temporary it can be reversed in the form of a J-pouch or a straightforward reversal.
There are some major symptoms of IBD, which include massive weight loss like in Ali’s case, blood in your stools or prolonged diarrhea, abdominal pain and fatigue.
Alongside being a debilitating illness, IBD can be emotionally trying and can often leave the sufferer feeling alone and depressed. Ali can be quoted as saying:
“I just didn't want to wake up anymore really because of the pain that I was in, the complications of my Crohn's, my whole life had changed overnight. One night I was at the Paralympics representing my country, the next day I'm diagnosed with a condition that I'm never going to get rid of. “
Ali's intestine was removed and he retired from sport for six months. Ali was able to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics despite this difficult time.
Ali trained harder than ever before and won gold at the 2014 World Championships in the 59kg Powerlifting class and also won gold in the 2015 IPC Powerlifting European Championships. Ali now has his sights set on winning the gold in Rio which he hopes will make him the first person with Crohn’s Disease to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal. We're rooting for you Ali!
One thing’s for sure, Ali has faced a lot of adversity due to his Crohn’s Disease but it has made him a very deserving champion since he has built himself back up mentally and physically after his initial diagnosis. Alongside surgery and also dealing with the everyday struggles of living with a debilitating illness, Ali is an inspiration to thousands with Crohn’s disease. His strength and determination shows that you cannot let your disability hold you back when you have a dream.
No matter how impossible it may feel when you are at your lowest point, just like Ali, you should aim for gold too.