Greenbrier High School sophomore Shelby Dorsey may seem like a picky eater, but it’s not her fault. Shelby, along with her immediate family, was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago.
Celiac disease is a common (and even more commonly misdiagnosed) disease that affects the small intestine’s ability to digest gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Imagine not eating anything with those extremely common ingredients.
The biggest roadblock to dealing with celiac is cross contamination.
“A lot of people don’t understand that where food is stored, what oil it was cooked in, the location of its packaging and the cleanliness of cooking utensils matter when it comes to Celiac disease,” Shelby said. “Going out to eat usually means a nice chat with the waiter about ways and means of cooking our food. Some restaurants are very good about wiping down the grill, changing out oils, and even adapting their menus, but other restaurants have actually asked us to eat somewhere else. That’s just embarrassing.”
When talking with Shelby, you’ll find that she really doesn’t let her disease affect her. She prides herself on wit and sarcasm, which have helped her deal with other medical issues. Shelby was also diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in the fourth grade. It hindered her ability to walk, but changing her diet decreased the severity of the symptoms dramatically, and now Shelby stays involved in her community and school.
She trained her dog, Jack, to become a therapy dog. She visits nursing homes and hospitals with him.
She also stage managed Greenbrier’s production of Rumors and was in the cast (as a deformed slave) for The Tempest this past fall.
Today, Shelby Dorsey leads a strong and successful — although gluten-free — life.
Michael Ryan is a sophomore at Greenbrier High School