JoAnn Mitchell: A Bay Area Advocate for Celiac Disease
From February 2008
JoAnn has put the “active” in activist! This bundle of energy works vigorously to make the world a better place for those with celiac disease.
This month, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is pleased to honor JoAnn Mitchell as the Awareness Advocate of the Month. Since learning that she has celiac disease four years ago, JoAnn has been a lively member of the celiac community participating in the activities of a number of groups in her area.
NFCA is most grateful that JoAnn found time to work with the NFCA Team as we prepared for the Gluten-Free Cooking Spree held in San Francisco on February 2, 2008. Over 350 people enjoyed fabulous gluten-free food and an evening of fun without having to worry about what they were eating. Thanks to JoAnn for contacting local vendors, gaining ads for the program book, and selling raffle tickets at the event. JoAnn also made sure that kids with celiac disease knew about the event and were able to join the fun. JoAnn’s ten year old daughter, Autumn, also has celiac disease.
JoAnn is a very active member of two Celiac Support Groups in the Sacramento Area, both affiliated with the Celiac Sprue Association. Sprue & You is a large and busy group serving a four-county area just 90 miles from San Francisco. She also works with two Cel-Kids groups, including the Cel-Kids’ Sacramento Chapter.
This year, JoAnn has started an exciting new venture called Mommy and Me. JoAnne and her daughter Autumn have begun to give cooking classes focused on preparing gluten-free food. If you are in the Sacrament/Davis area, look for Mommy and Me classes at the Whole Foods Market store in Sacramento and at the Davis Food Co-Op. JoAnn reports that Autumn is a good eater and loves to cook!
This year brings another first for JoAnn. She has begun working with Camp Arroyo celiac kids’ camp sponsored by the Taylor Family Foundation in Livermore, CA. Once again, JoAnn is using her very strong powers of persuasion to get vendors to supply gluten-free food for this marvelous camp that is available at a minimal cost to children with celiac disease. A true innovator, JoAnn has inaugurated a Vendor’s Fair for the last day of camp so that children and their parents can taste-test gluten-free items and make purchases to take home.
JoAnn came to a diagnosis of celiac disease after years of suffering through health issues of all kinds. Like many celiacs, JoAnn had a range of problems from migraines and blurred vision to intestinal issues and surgeries for gallbladder problems plus exploratory surgeries to try to determine the cause of her difficulties.
At long last, a dietitian with whom JoAnn was consulting diagnosed JoAnn’s problems correctly as celiac disease. She recommended getting a blood test. The test was positive, as suspected. Twenty-four hours after starting a gluten-free diet, JoAnn was free of the symptoms that had plagued her. Her vision returned to normal almost immediately.
Two years later, JoAnn’s daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. Autumn has adjusted well to the gluten-free lifestyle and has embraced making gluten-free meals with her Mom. The Mitchell household is now entirely gluten-free.
We all have dreams and goals concerning the future of celiac disease in America. For JoAnn, the most important thing is gaining universal support from the medical community for those with celiac disease. JoAnn believes that it should be a requirement that all healthcare professionals learn about celiac disease both in their medical training and on an annual basis. Since new findings emerge regularly about celiac disease and related illnesses, JoAnn proposes that celiac should be a standard topic that earns continuing education credit (CME).
Again, huge thanks to JoAnn for her help at the NFCA Gluten-Free Cooking Spree. JoAnn, you motivate all of us to get active!