Friday, August 2, 2013

Ostomy is Not a Tragedy: Cincinnati

We should thank the Cincinnati Police.  They have brought tremendous awareness to the stigmas and misperceptions of people with ostomies.  We now have the public listening, and the opportunity to make something good come of this.

>>> Read my letter to the Cincinnati Police Chief, and his Letter of Apology HERE
>>> Download the Awestomy poster 'Having an Ostomy is a beautiful thing'  HERE
>>> View the Donna Mear video   HERE 
The Cincinnati Police Department created a commendable initiative to reduce the number of shooting victims among juveniles involved with drugs, guns, crime, and gangs. But their implementation is appallingly disrespectful and insensitive to the ostomy community. Their approach is to shock these young criminals with pictures of gunshot survivors and gruesome ostomies.

Lt. Joe Richardson says
"You're not killed, but you're walking around with a colostomy bag and that's just not the way to get a girl's attention by limping down Warsaw Avenue with a colostomy bag.”    

Read the full story

Maybe these juveniles will be shocked, horrified, and disgusted with the gruesome colostomies, and avoid guns or even quit their life of crime in gangs. Not likely.

While this is a commendable initiative, it shows the stigmas, misconceptions, negative public perceptions, and general lack of real knowledge about ostomies. To many of us, and even to those shooting-survivors, an ostomy is life-saving, and certainly not the horrific life-destroying humiliation suggested by the Cincinnati Police Department. 
Rather than shocking these juveniles with the horrors of a colostomy, perhaps these kids should be exposed to positive role models.
   Like ...
  • Rob H     Climbed the Seven Summits
  • Heidi S    Rock Climber
  • Paul R     Mountain Climber and Hockey Player
  • Liz P        Author and Philanthropist
  • Cary G    Anesthesiologist and Cyclist
  • Charis K  Fitness Enthusiast
And yes, they all are ostomates.  I could make a list of hundreds of these positive role models, all of whom exude amazingly positive attitudes with life ... an attitude which these juveniles may be missing in their lives. 
No Joe, I am not disgusting, and I'm not limping.
And I'm happy to be alive with my colostomy.


But let's make something positive from this situation.



 CNN's Doug Yakich, an ostomate, wrote

Inadvertent Discrimination

Have you ever been discriminated against, not for the color of your skin or your nationality, not for your sexual orientation or even the type of clothes you choose to wear, but for a medical condition which was not a result of a poor choice but the result of a disease or even cancer?  Every day people living with ostomies are faced with discrimination because they essentially poop or pee in a bag.  Walking down the street, assuming the individual is discreet, no one would reasonably know someone has an ostomy unless they personally know the individual or was informed by the individual that he/she is an ostomy patient.

Now before I dabble too long into my story, I want to recognize that many people may not view this as discrimination or even see anything wrong by the actions you are about to read about.  I respect those differences in views, but understand that if you are not an ostomy patient or know anyone with one, you are not subject to the discrimination; therefore you may not recognize it as clearly as those of us who do have an ostomy.

Recently, a report was given by a reporter named Jay Warren, who works for ABC affiliate WCPO ABC 9 in Cincinnati, Ohio about a program the Cincinnati Police department has created to educate teens about gangs and gun use.  The article
explained a new policy/program in place to use the image of someone with an ostomy as a reason to not join a gang or use a gun.  Suggesting that in some way you don’t want to end up dead or living with an ostomy.  Just the mere thought of this approach has greatly upset many who are part of the ostomy community.  When the article mentioned, “You're not killed, but you're walking around with a colostomy bag and that's just not the way to get a girl's attention by limping down Warsaw Avenue with a colostomy bag,” it is suggesting that either people with ostomies limp or are somehow unattractive walking down the street is offensive and appalling. It is actions like this that continually feed into the negative connotations about having an ostomy that misrepresents what an ostomy means to people who have one.
It is confusing to this writer, why the Cincinnati Police Department would use a colostomy as a way to scare kids, as opposed to a lost leg, hand or arm as a result of a gunshot.  We have Veterans returning from their tour of duty protecting their great country, who have been injured and as a result have an ostomy bag.  Are they now unattractive?  No, and neither are any of the over 700,000 people who live with some type of ostomy just here in the United States.
Ostomy patients are everywhere.  They are lawyers and accountants, teachers and librarians, factory workers and mechanics, construction workers and business owners.  They are fireman and policemen, doctors and nurses, government leaders and even actors.  We come in all shapes and sizes, all races and nationalities, women and men, elderly and children and everything in between.  But each of our journeys to this condition are different.  For some it is a very difficult situation and to this day they feel ashamed or disfigured.  While others stand up and are willing to show their bag to anyone who passes by.  Despite these differences, we all have one common denominator. We have an ostomy.  And we are living to tell about it.
When articles like this appear and an ostomy is used in way that feeds the negative connotations associated with having one, it is yet another hill for us to climb and overcome.  We are continually trying to build a bridge to acceptance and educate the general public in an effort to raise awareness.  This mistake by the Cincinnati Police Department was not intended to hurt anyone, however, their actions, and ultimately this report, have shown how they inadvertently discriminated over 700,000 people in the United States. 
The reason for this article is not to just shed a poor light on the Police Department, instead it is yet another opportunity we have to educate people about Ostomies.  I wrote in May how a national conversation has to begin, I think this is the perfect place to start and I hope that, with a little pressure by those of us in our tight knit community, the Cincinnati Police Department will issue a full apology and that the local ABC affiliate will take this opportunity to create an Ostomy Awareness Campaign in the local area.
This all could have been avoided if a greater awareness was built in America concerning ostomies.  Ironically the United Ostomy Associations of America 4th National Conference is being held in Jacksonville, Florida, August 7-10, 2013.  This story will no doubt be the talk of the conference, the Cincinnati Police Department has an opportunity to apologize and right a wrong so that this can be an important part of us building a bridge to acceptance!

>>> Read my letter to the Cincinnati Police Chief, and his Letter of Apology HERE
>>> Download the Awestomy poster 'Having an Ostomy is a beautiful thing'  HERE
>>> View the Donna Mear video   HERE 


1 comment:

  1. I may be a lone voice, but I actually think the police chief's point of view isn't such a big deal. If the medical consequences of gun crime make somebody think twice, then that's a good thing. It may be wishful thinking to believe that it might change minds, but then that applies to a lot of similar initiatives. For many life is tougher, and sometimes uglier, with an ostomy than without. Why not try and prevent more people from having them?