Grandson's celiac disease motivates woman to write book

Oct 7 2011 - 7:02am

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ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner 
Patricia Cottrell poses Tuesday for a portrait in her Kaysville home with her daughter, Cami Cannon, and grandson Gabe, via Skype. Cottrell was inspired to write the book “Cecil Celiac is Sleeping in Gabe’s Gut” after her grandson, 5, was diagnosed with celiac disease and had trouble understanding why he has to be careful to avoid foods and drinks containing gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which gluten can damage the small intestine.
ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner 
Patricia Cottrell poses Tuesday for a portrait in her Kaysville home with her daughter, Cami Cannon, and grandson Gabe, via Skype. Cottrell was inspired to write the book “Cecil Celiac is Sleeping in Gabe’s Gut” after her grandson, 5, was diagnosed with celiac disease and had trouble understanding why he has to be careful to avoid foods and drinks containing gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which gluten can damage the small intestine.

KAYSVILLE -- When her 3-year-old grandson was diagnosed with celiac disease two years ago, Patricia Cottrell responded by entering the publishing world.

The Kaysville resident chose to write a children's book to help her grandson, now 5, and others with the condition understand what they have to deal with every day.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which ingestion of any gluten-containing food or beverage creates a toxic reaction that damages the small intestine.

For Cottrell, the moment she wanted to do something came after her daughter, Cami Cannon, called in tears and shared a story about taking away some Teddy Grahams from her son at school.

Gabe, Cottrell's grandson, had just received the treat from his preschool teacher; however, because Teddy Grahams contain gluten, Gabe could not eat them.

Gabe was crying uncontrollably, Cottrell said, because he didn't understand why he couldn't eat the Teddy Grahams, despite his parents' repeated attempts to explain his illness.

"At that moment, it hit me how hard this was going to be to monitor," Cottrell said. "My daughter was afraid Gabe was going to think she was a mean mommy for taking food away from him."

Cottrell realized little information was available for families with small children diagnosed with celiac disease. That inspired her to write a book for her grandson to help him understand what he was going through.

Within a few hours, Cottrell had written "Cecil Celiac is Sleeping in Gabe's Gut."

In the book, the main character, Gabe, learns that Cecil Celiac is sleeping in his gut and that it's Gabe's job to be on the lookout for sneaky Glover Gluten, who likes to hide in foods and wake up Cecil Celiac, making Gabe's gut sick.

Cottrell's initial book consisted of simple clip art and pictures of their family printed off a home printer. The book was in Gabe's hands the same week of the teary telephone call.

Cottrell said her daughter told her the book really helped Gabe because it described the illness in terms he could understand.

"It was like a light bulb went off for him and gave us a reference point, and we were finally able to say, 'I get that. I can deal with that,' " Cannon said.

The crying and begging for food stopped, Cannon said, because Gabe knew he could play hide and seek with gluten.

"Finally, he could put a face to gluten, and he is very aware of what is going on because there is this bug inside him that he can't wake up," Cannon said.

During a recent checkup, Cannon said, Gabe's pediatrician was surprised to hear things were going so much better since the arrival of Cottrell's book.

The pediatrician asked to see the book, and after reading through it, he wanted to know how to get more copies for other patients dealing with the disease, Cannon said.

When Cottrell heard the news, she had no idea how to navigate the book-publishing world.

"At first I thought, 'Right. That's ridiculous. I don't know anything about publishing a book.' However, when you open your heart and your mind, you can do anything for your kids," Cottrell said.

A friend helped guide Cottrell through the process. Two years later, the book is being professionally published.

Cottrell spent $2,000 to order 100 copies of the book. She plans to bring a few to her grandson's pediatrician, who is out of state.

Beyond that, Cottrell has no expectations.

"We're not trying to make money, just trying to get the word out," she said.

"We saw a miracle with our children. If we can help even just one other child, it will be worth it."

For more information or to purchase a copy of the book, visit www.cecilceliac.com.

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