A unique fashion show took place at Seattle Children’s Hospital this weekend during the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Conference, presented by the Northwest Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and Seattle Children’s. To help end stigmas around ostomies, eight children and teenagers with inflammatory bowel disease, ages 8 to 20, walked the runway styled head-to-toe in the latest spring fashions by Nordstrom. Four of the children in the fashion show had ostomies, two did not have ostomies, and two of the models have IBD, but do not have an ostomy.
The only question was: did the audience know which models had ostomies and which didn’t?
The answer was a resounding “No.”
“You can’t tell if someone has IBD, just like you can’t tell when someone has an ostomy,” said Teresa Wachs, a registered nurse at Seattle Children’s and the fashion show’s coordinator.
Ostomies (colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy) are a surgically created opening which allows waste to pass to a bag located on the outside of a person’s abdomen. They can present a challenge for children and teenagers who need them, both physically and emotionally. When Elizabeth McIntosh, 19, first learned she would need an ostomy bag, she was nervous and had a lot of questions for her doctors at Seattle Children’s IBD Center.
Will the bag leak? Will it smell? Will I have to buy new clothes? These are all common questions. But the good news is an ostomy doesn’t have to alter a child or teenagers life.
“It took a lot of adjusting, but I eventually got used to the bag. I couldn’t look at it at first,” said McIntosh.
But after surgery and months of living with the ostomy, she was back to the things she loved – singing in musicals, acting in plays and swimming.
Her message to others with IBD, “Never lose hope.”
And as she confidently walked the runway at the conference, she showed others why she’s lived by that message. She thought her life would be a constant battle with debilitating abdominal pain and flare ups that would put her in the hospital. Today, she’s a role model for kids with ostomies, raising awareness that Crohn’s and ostomies don’t have to slow you down. Dressed in a very trendy floral dress, no one could tell she had an ostomy.
Meet some of the other IBD models
Cannon Kennard, 8, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when he was 3 years old. His parents knew something was wrong even before he could verbalize it himself – diaper after diaper was bloody. The family knew they needed to see a specialist, so they came to Seattle Children’s IBD Center.
After trying different medications, dietary changes and infusions, the family decided surgery was the best option for Cannon. In 2011, Cannon had his first surgery to remove his colon. By the end of March, 2013 he’d underwent three more surgeries.
Today, Cannon is a healthy and happy. He no longer has an ostomy and hasn’t had any side effects from the surgeries. You can find him on the football field during his free time, his latest obsession aside from his new career in modeling.
When asked to participate in the fashion show, Jacob Alvarez, 14, was also happy to participate.
“I wanted to help spread awareness for ulcerative colitis,” said Alvarez. “I wanted people to see that I’m just like any other average, normal kid.”
While living in Germany, four years ago, Alvarez was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Since receiving treatment at Seattle Children’s IBD Center, he’s managed his symptoms using medications, dietary changes and various herbal options. Alvarez doesn’t yet know if he’ll need surgery. He’s taking treatment one day at a time.