Blacktown Hospital delivering life-saving treatments for “hidden illness”

B44 Staff Specialist and Head of IBD service Associate Professor Viraj Kariyawasam, Senior Dietitian Brooke Maguire, Crohn’s Disease, and ulcerative colitis patient Aarin Connor, IBD Clinical Nurse Specialists Narae Kim & Yang Song and Gastroenterologist Dr Brandon Baraty.

Western Sydney local, Aarin Connor, credits the team at Blacktown Hospital’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Service for saving his life.

The married father of two was unexpectedly losing weight and experiencing excruciating pain after eating and drinking. Aarin sought medical help and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

“I’d be dead if I didn’t receive help from Blacktown Hospital’s IBD Service,” said Aarin who manages his condition with medications and has regular infusions at the hospital.

The IBD service was established at Blacktown Hospital in 2013 to provide care for more than 4,000 western Sydney patients living with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

These chronic diseases commonly affect people between the ages of 15 and 35 years of age and require complex long-term care.

Like Aarin, Tanya Cosgrave was also experiencing significant weight loss, but hers was following a severe gastro bug while holidaying in Queensland with her family in 2008.

After weeks of experiencing ongoing effects of the gastro bug, Tanya visited her GP who conducted further tests and diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease.

Over the next three years, Tanya’s disease progressed and the mother of two was required to have surgery to remove her small intestine and continue to take a variety of medications, including corticosteroids and immunosuppressives.

In 2021, Tanya first visited Blacktown Hospital’s IBD Service for further specialised care and to undergo regular transfusions and has received continued treatment ever since. 

“The infusion treatments used to take hours, but now the treatment only takes 45 minutes which is fantastic, said Tanya.

“Although I still have rough days, my lifestyle has improved significantly.”

Blacktown Hospital Crohn’s disease patient Tanya Cosgrave and IBD Clinical Nurse Specialist Shashi Pratap.

May is IBD awareness month, and Blacktown Hospital’s Head of IBD Service and gastroenterologist, Associate Professor Viraj Kariyawasam, said the incidence and prevalence of IBD is increasing, with more patients being diagnosed every year.

“IBD is a hidden illness with limited awareness among patients and primary care physicians, leading to delayed diagnosis, sometimes up to 10 years,” said Prof Kariyawasam.

Since the disease affects any age, there is a wide range of impact to patients and families; their social life, family planning, cancer risk and having to take a lot of time of work and school.

“However, through a multidisciplinary approach to care, patients can be kept in remission and live their lives as any of us do.”

Tanya applauds the IBD service for the level of care she has received and said the team “are just wonderful”.

“If I miss an appointment, they are on the phone asking me to reschedule so I never miss an infusion or check-up,” said Tanya.

“I would hate to think what my life would be like without the medication I am on and their help.”

For further information about Blacktown Hospital’s IBD clinic, please email