Local organization helps service member after life changing diagnosis

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One United States Air Force Staff Sergeant is especially grateful this Thanksgiving holiday.

Like many who serve the United States, Staff Sergeant Amy Arenas is passionate about her country and her career.

However, in 2017 her world was flipped upside down when what she thought was food poisoning turned out to be much worse.

“It got to the point where I lost 20 pounds in two weeks,” Arenas said. “It took everything away from me. For that whole entire year I was suffering,” she said.

Arenas was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disease.

“By the time that they diagnosed me, it had taken over my large intestine and it was pretty much too late too save it,” Arenas said about the gravity of her situation.

In two years, Arenas went through seven surgeries and was hospitalized over a dozen times.

Because of her medical condition, Arenas is currently awaiting medical separation from the air force, which has been a tough pill to swallow.

“I was notified that I could be medically separated and that was a big kick in the face because that was like, ‘I’ve done this for so many years. What am I going to do on the outside?'” Arenas explained.

When she needed it most, she found Wounded Warrior Ohana, an organization that helps veterans and their families.

“We contribute to high quality events that promote the healing, the safety and the enjoyment of our injured, ill, wounded warrior veterans and their families,” said director Jesse Allen.

Arenas said the organization helped her know that she can move forward.

“You feel like you’re the only one going through it, but when you actually meet people, especially through this program, you realize no you’re not alone,” Arenas said about how Wounded Warrior Ohana helped her.

U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Recovery Care Coordinator Cisco Johnson said Wounded Warrior Ohana does that for countless service members.

“For individuals, you just see that light come on like they can’t do this now. Yeah you can, but this is a different way to do it,” Johnson said.

Allen said it doesn’t matter if a service member’s wounds are visible or invisible. They will help all warriors.

“If you served the nation, wore the uniform, and were injured or taken ill in any way shape or form, you belong in our ohana,” Allen said.

Arenas said because of them, she has so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

“I’m thankful for my health, I’m thankful for being here, and I’m thankful for having a great great support system,” she said.

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