I Hate It When I Miss This Stuff Jan 1, 2012

by Rick Rader, MD

While I can fully appreciate the impossibility of not being able to know everything that has an impact in a particular field, I Hate it when I miss stuff.  The amount of medical knowledge "doubles" every 10 years so you can forget about knowing it all. You can forget about not knowing what you will never know; but you shouldn't forget about what you don't know that you should know. I'm dealing with that now.

This thing that I missed has to do with Crohn's disease, a cruel digestive disease. I'm not a gastroenterologist, I'm not a Crohn's patient and no one in my sphere of affection struggles with Crohn's,so I can probably grab a "pass" on my ignorance.

Why I am beating myself up about this is that I should have known about "Ally's Law." Ally's Law impacts on me for two reasons. I shop andI have bowel and urinary needs (not pathological needs but strong human nature ones nonetheless). Operationally it works this way: if I'm shopping and I have to use the bathroom, I stop shopping and reorient my priorities to finding a bathroom. Despite signs that have appeared saying,"Bathroom is for Customers Only," or "Bathroom for Employees Only," or"Not for Public Use," I have simply ignored them and used them.  When You have to "go," you have to "go," and you should be able to "go."  Thanks to Ally's Law, you and I can "go."

When Ally Bain, a senior at Lake Forest College, in Lake Forest, IL was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at the age of 11, she was shocked. She was an otherwise healthy, vibrant young lady. Learning she had the disease was a life altering experience, she knew it was important to stay positive. Ally's story unfolds in her own words."

When I was 11-years-old, I was diagnosed with a chronic digestive disease called Crohn's. The doctor said I would expect the more frequent usage of a restroom as well as some dietary limitations.Although I knew this incurable disease would bring about many obstacles,I never thought one would actually be for the better.

During the summer before my freshman year in high school, my mom and I were shopping at a large retail store in the Chicagoland Area when I suddenly needed to use the restroom. My mom alerted an employee who said they didn't have any public restrooms. Already hunched over in pain, I knew I was in trouble.

The manager met with us, and although he claimed he knew whatCrohn's was, he continuously denied me private restroom access. With Tears racing down my cheeks and my arms wrapped tightly around my stomach, I felt defeated.

It got to the point where my mom and I were pleading for him toilet me use the store's restroom. 'I'm making a managerial decision,' he said and walked away.

Walking out of the store in pain, I was humiliated. However, my mom and I knew we would not let this go unnoticed. My mom promised that this would never happen to me or anyone else ever again. With that promise, I contacted Illinois State Representative Ryg. I met her while on an eighth grade field trip to Springfield, Illinois, where my class toured the capitol and learned how a bill was created and passed.

Within months, I was helping Representative Ryg write a state bill that would allow anyone with a medical emergency to use a private restroom.

I traveled to Springfield and testified in front of a judicial committee. I reiterated my horrible experience to the 12 to 13 people in front of me.The head of the committee, Representative Fritchey, said, 'I have a dear friend afflicted with Crohn's.' With that, the bill passed unanimously through the committee. It also passed unanimously through the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate.

It was signed in 2005 as Ally's Law, otherwise known as the Restroom Access Act. Now anyone in Illinois with a medical emergency must beallowed private restroom access in any establishment as long as there are three or more employees.

The first of its kind, Ally's Law has also passed in Minnesota and Texas. It is pending in 12 other states.

Three years ago, I never would have imagined helping to write and testify for a state law when the manager denied me restroom access.However, through my experiences and political activism, I havelearned that one voice can really make a difference.

I recently learned from the Illinois Speaker of the House's analyst that Ally's Law is now pending in 23 other states due to grass-roots efforts from citizens around the country."

As the Editor in chief of EP (Exceptional Parent) Magazine, allow me to applaud Ally's mother (obviously an "exceptional parent") who supported her, mentored her and encouraged her. Other parents mighthave simply said, "C'mon let's go find us a bathroom honey." Thatdidn't fly with Mrs. Bain. They drew a line in the sand.

Thus the courage, diligence and commitment of a young girl who had to"go," indeed found out that she had to "go." The place she had to "go" waswhere we all have to "go" when we encounter indifference, prejudice and arrogance—and that is to the portals where injustices are addressed. Sometimesthat is to court, to legislators, to picket lines or to town meetings. For thousandswho have been told, "You can't go there," knowing where to "go" is not thehurdle. It is having the stamina, the fortitude and the strength to "go."

Ally's Law was formalized into law in 2005. I must have used the restroom in stores at least a dozen times since then. It never dawned on me that my right "to align with nature" was due to Ally Bain. LikeI said, I hate it when I miss this stuff.

The staff at EP (Exceptional Parent) Magazine also hates it when you miss this stuff; which is why it has assembled the most comprehensive listing of organizations, associations, programs, centers and agencies that work diligently to insure that others like the young girl named Ally don'thave to find themselves in the corridors of justice. Others like her need tobe out shopping with their mom or friends, knowing that when the time comes, they can, without question, just "go."

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