Teen Diagnoses Her Own Disease in Science Class

Filed under: Weird But True

Teen Jessica Terry diagnosed her own disease. Photo: sxc.hu

Sick and tired of being sick and tired, 18-year-old Sammamish, Washington student Jessica Terry took matters -- and slides of her own intestinal tissue -- into her own hands.

The teen had suffered from bouts of abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting for years, but despite testing, her doctors couldn't find the cause of her illness. In fact, the one who finally solved the mystery -- eight years later -- was Terry herself. In her AP science class, Biomedical Problems (and by the way, when did high school science class get so cool?), Terry put slides of her own intestinal tissue under a microscope and spotted something interesting.

That something was a granuloma, an area of inflamed tissue that also cleared up any questions about the cause of her symptoms. Terry has Crohn's disease. "She was pretty excited about finding the granuloma," Terry's science teacher Mary Margaret Welch tells CNN. "....I said, 'Jeez, it certainly looks like one to me.' I snapped a picture of it on the microscope and e-mailed it to the pathologist. Within 24 hours, he sent back an e-mail saying yes, this is a granuloma."

Now admittedly, granulomas are apparently hard to find. Still, getting showed up by a high school student can't be a comfortable feeling. (A friend of mine still gets a nod of respect from her OB after discovering the source of her infertility issues on her own, after he'd done countless tests.) But Terry's teacher credits local pathologists and the class itself for giving Terry the knowledge and power to investigate her disease.

While Terry's diagnosis isn't a great one -- there's no cure for Crohn's and it'll likely get worse as she gets older -- she's moving forward with a nursing career and a new book -- on Crohn's disease, of course -- for kids. Something tells me that, illness and all, this kid's going to be just fine.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.