Yesterday (October 3, 2009) was World Ostomy Day and a college student in Canada launched a unique awareness campaign. The Uncover Ostomy campaign takes a provocative look at ostomies,1 and tries to dispel the social stigma that many individuals attach to living with an ostomy.
Jessica Grossman is a 20 year old University of Western Ontario media studies student, an actor and a model. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 9 and underwent ileostomy surgery at age 13 to have her diseased colon removed. In grade 12, Jessica final project in one class was to create a media awareness campaign on a topic of her choosing. She chose to do an ostomy awareness campaign, which was published in “a few magazines” and helped her win a scholarship to attend the University of Western Ontario for Media Studies. To spread the message further, Jessica approached the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS) organization in Canada and they partnered with her to implement a broad online campaign.
The Uncover Ostomy campaign strives to “shape a positive conversation about the ostomy in social media spaces.” Black and white photographs show Jessica with her clearly visible ostomy appliance — not only is she not embarrassed, she actually comes across as comfortable and confident. The message is clear — if Jessica can convey a sense of confidence and sexiness despite her ostomy, then perhaps having an ostomy really isn’t such a stigma.
The Uncover Ostomy page on Facebook already has over 600 fans and plenty of discussion is taking place. The campaign also can be found in other social media spaces, including Twitter and YouTube. Here’s Jessica on YouTube talking about her own experience with Crohn’s, having an ostomy and starting the Uncover Ostomy effort.
Jessica is a courageous young woman and I suspect that Uncover Ostomy will make a very positive impact. I wish her success.
- Ostomies are a category of diversionary surgeries. There are three major types: a colostomy is made from the large intestine (colon); an ileostomy is made from the small intestine (ileum); and a urostomy is a diversion of the urinary tract. The most common reasons for ostomy surgery include inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), cancer, birth defects and trauma. [↩]