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Say "Cheese!"



This month, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is very pleased to honor someone who is all smiles, Dr. Robbin Cramer. Not only is Robbin a dedicated NFCA volunteer, she also is a dentist specializing in family and cosmetic dentistry. In other words, she can make your smile as radiant as you are. This is dentistry to smile about!

For the past two years, Robbin has worked diligently to help NFCA raise awareness of celiac disease. Her help with the raffle, silent auction and program book for NFCA’s annual fundraiser, Appetite for Awareness, has been invaluable. And, all of it was done with a brilliant smile!

Why was Robbin so interested in this cause? You guessed it! One of her children, Todd, learned that he has celiac disease just three years ago.

As is true with most families, a diagnosis of celiac brings an initial period of confusion and a true need for information about the gluten-free diet and how a teen-ager can manage his life in a gluten-filled world. Fortunately, Robbin knew Alice Bast, NFCA Executive Director, and gained help and support in these early stages.

For years, Robbin had wanted to get involved in charity work but wanted to be certain that her work would have a direct impact for good. Robbin told us, ”NFCA allowed me to truly make a difference.” And, she has!  

As a mother, Robbin has been an integral part of Todd’s story as she watched her healthy son become sick and, after diagnosis, return to health and a dynamic life. This is a true success story!

A very athletic young man, Todd loved basketball and played B-Ball morning, noon and night from the age of 7. So, it was particularly disconcerting when he became lethargic and stopped practicing. During the summer of 2004, Todd lost 20 pounds in one month. They checked for parasites, ulcers and administered test after test.  At last, the family doctor suggested that they try a test for celiac disease. Bingo! A positive blood test led to a biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis.

Todd embarked on a strict gluten-free diet but remained sick for about six months. Then, suddenly, life got better. He grew 5-6 inches and returned to the basketball court. This summer, Todd was one of nine (9) young men selected to be part of the Philadelphia Delegation at the Maccabe Games, an Olympic-style competition held annually.  There were 53 other delegations and the Philadelphians brought home the gold medal in the basketball competition.

Even at a wonderful event like the Maccabe Games, eating gluten-free can be challenging. The athletes stay with families, most of whom have never heard of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. This was a case when that food package from home was more than a treat.  

When asked what she wished for in relation to celiac disease, Robbin was quick to answer, “A pill that would allow those with celiac to eat gluten without damaging the intestine.” Understandably, she would like to have her son be able to eat the food that he enjoys.   The biggest challenge comes in going out with his friends to a pizza place. Usually, there is nothing for him to eat safely.

In thinking back over the last three years, Robbin remembered how terribly sick Todd was and how dramatically he changed in such a short period of time. Nonetheless, she is grateful that the problem was celiac disease as the treatment is at hand and has allowed Todd to return to a normal and very healthy athletic life.

Three years ago, Robin’s conversations with Alice Bast helped her feel that she was not alone, that there were resources that could help her and enable Todd to grow healthier day by day. Now, it is Robbin’s turn to be that friend in need. Through her work with NFCA, she is helping to spread the word about celiac disease and improving the chances of those who remain undiagnosed. This is a woman who is making a difference.

Smiles all around!