Pennsylvania educator battling liver disease raises community awareness

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WARMINSTER, Pa. (WPVI) – “It was a tough trip for me,” said Shawanna James-Coles. “But I am so grateful to have been chosen for this trip.”

Just a few months ago, in April 2021, James-Coles’ blood tests returned with alarming results. Upon further analysis, it was discovered that she suffered from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with stage 3 fibrosis.

“My first question was, am I going to die,” she said, “Because I’m a mother of two. I’m a woman.”

Before she knew it, the other faculty members had found creative ways to stand by her side. They organized a fundraiser for a t-shirt with a design that read “His fight is my fight” on the front and “#TeamShawanna” on the back. Profits go to the American Liver Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Seeing the love and support that I received throughout the district is my motivation,” said James-Coles. “It gives me hope.”

She has lost 46 pounds since her diagnosis, adopting a healthy lifestyle that she hopes to encourage in people of all ages.

“We have to be aware of what we put in our body and its impact on our body,” she said.

James-Coles kept his diagnosis confidential over the summer. But while researching liver disease, she learned that it even affects children. This prompted her to involve the children of the Bucks County Centennial School District.

As the school district’s Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Education, she brought together a wide range of students to think about ways to raise awareness.

“We will start to form a collective group. We are going to extract reviews from scholarly sources. We want to offer items to add to our newsletter so that our families have healthier options in their daily lives. Said Taylor Simononis, a senior at William Tivez High School. “We’re going to try to do fundraising events. We’re going to try to really make it a focal point in our community.”

All of the students asked to be part of the focus group praise the educator they work so hard to support. In fact, James-Coles was previously their principal while many attended elementary schools in the area.

“Ms. Coles has given me so many opportunities to have a voice and help the change taking place in the neighborhood,” said Xavier Desrosiers, grade 12 student. “I am very grateful for the position I have been given.”

Other members of the community will gather this Sunday morning to strut and walk to crush a liver disease in honor of Shawanna James-Coles. The first annual event will take place at 8:00 a.m. at the Miles Park Pavilion in Lafayette Hill, PA. Participants are encouraged to wear green, the color of liver disease awareness.

To learn more, visit the American Liver Foundation website.

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