One local boy’s refusal to let his medical diagnoses define him helped earn him the honor of being named a Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Honored Hero.


Doctors diagnosed Sean McMahon of Excelsior Springs with Crohn’s and Colitis, along with Celiac disease at the young age of two. His mother Debbie-Dawn McMahon said she remembered it as a tough time for the family.

Doctors finally admitted young Sean to Children’s Mercy after failing to find the cause of his illness. Debbie-Dawn, along with husband Al watched their son endure various blood work and other testings for ailments including parasites. The testing finally ended with an endoscopy and colonoscopy that revealed inflammation all through the toddler’s digestive system.

Having endured the conditions have proven to be difficult for the now 10-year-old fifth grader. However, Sean said he will not let them stop him from living the life he chooses. 

“Crohn’s doesn’t stop me from doing the things I like,” he said. “I play soccer and basketball on teams, and tennis with friends.”

Debbie-Dawn said her son played soccer and basketball with the Excelsior Springs Parks and Recreation leagues until this year when he switched to competitive soccer. Sean said he loves to do many of the things other boys his age does, like playing video games and watching television. He watches anything Marvel or D.C. Comic related. He said he especially likes the Star Wars series and watches all the movies and plays all the video games.

Living with Crohn’s and Colitis does have its challenges. Sean came home from the hospital with five medications he must take every day. Debbie-Dawn said doctors have since weaned him off two, but Sean must still take an autoimmune suppressant, an anti-inflammatory and another medication for his liver, which came after another diagnosis about six months after the first.

The McMahons count their blessings though. Debbie-Dawn said Sean remains very healthy. Some must endure infusions, transfusions and other more invasive treatments. Sean has not.

Sean must endure having his blood drawn every four months, which originally scared him quite a bit. He said his sister, now 13-year-old Shannon, would stay on hand to help him through them.

“My sister would sit … over in the next five rows of chairs because I would always scream,” he said.

Sean said Shannon thought something went wrong after he became used to the draws and stopped screaming.

Debbie-Dawn said Sean’s diagnoses impacted the whole family. Because of his Celiac, the family must be careful of where they go out to eat. Many restaurants have increased their selection of gluten-free options, allowing the family to safely eat there. Sean said some pizza places now have gluten-free crusts.

Sean sometimes must eat other snacks while his classmates have cupcakes. Debbie-Dawn said because he can now read, he can watch out for the ingredients that cause him to become ill.

The McMahons take part in walks and other fund raisers for autoimmune diseases. 

“If we can make breakthroughs in any area of those autoimmune diseases it will probably help inform other areas. It is our hope that we find a cure,” Debbie-Dawn said.

Sean’s Soldiers, who help raise money for autoimmune disease research will take part in the Kansas City Take Steps walk at 3 p.m., June 9 at Franklin Park in Prairie Village, Kansas. More information can be found at

A fund raiser will also be held from 5-7:30 p.m., June 1 at the Elks Lodge, located at 421 S. Titus. This fund raiser will serve spaghetti (including a gluten-free option) and salad for $7. They hope to raise money for the Take Steps: Crohn’s and Colitis Foundations who hopes to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.

As he helps raise money to find a cure, Sean simply looks toward the future. He loves to study math in school. He thinks about what he wants to be when he grows up. He said it’ll probably be sports related, like a professional soccer player or referee.

Debbie-Dawn asked him if he would like to play professional soccer in Kansas City. Sean said he didn’t know right now, but anything could happen.

Sean does plan to use his new Honored Hero status to help him continue his work. He said he wants to help others, recently diagnosed, understand it will get better.

“To other kids who are diagnosed, I would say don’t let Crohn’s get in your way,” he said.

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