Officer shares 25-year battle with Crohn's disease

- School resource officer William Connell's been dealing with Crohn's disease for more than 25 years. 

"Imagine you're worst flu, compound that by 100. That is my day to day life and that's hard to live with," he says. 
      
Along with fatigue, flares cause bleeding, pain and diarrhea.  Access to a bathroom affects every aspect of his life. 

"The average flare is a painful experience. Painful because it hurts, you can't leave the toilet, painful because your body is basically shutting down on you," he recalls.

Connell says for the past year and a half, his job at Lealman Innovation Academy has given him access to plenty of restrooms. 

"I like have the keys to everything, not a problem to get somewhere if I have to," he said.

However, for more than twenty years, his former profession as a Clearwater Police Officer was far more challenging.

He says, he didn't let his disease stop him from doing his job.

"I did everything from bicycle patrol to training to swat negotiator, you name it I did most of it," Officer Connell said.

He remembers one instance, where his Crohn's kicked while negotiating with someone on the phone. 

"I basically the conversation real quick, went to use the restroom and come back, reestablished contact and everything was fine. But I had to end it which you never want to do," he said.

Although he's now on weekly injections and more than a dozen pills a day, it isn't stopping him from traveling and spending time with his daughter. 

"You go on a roller coaster and do all this fun stuff, not a lot of bathrooms on the Skyride," he said.

But he also worries that not everyone understands why he often skips social gatherings.

"There's a fear factor. You're afraid of hurting. You're afraid of the fatigue. You're afraid being invited someplace and you can't go and people think you're unsocial," Connell said.

He hopes by speaking out, he can reduce the stigma and raise awareness.

"It's kept inside and most Crohn's and Colitis sufferers are strong people. We don't talk about it, we kind of hide it," he said. "You don't want to be embarrassed, you don't want to have to explain it, you don't want to have to say you're fine again and again." 

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