This is Why...
This photo was taken the moment a little girl received her very own Awesome Ollie ostomy bear. Ollie and his book bring hope, comfort and encouragement to children and their families.
The bears and books are presented to the child by their Ostomy Nurse or Child Life Specialist. All privacy standards are upheld
Child Life Specialists and Pediatric WOCN's use the bears and books for education, comfort and counseling.
How Ollie Was Born
What you see on the news may lead you to believe the world is an unfriendly and uncaring place, but the map on my wall tells a much different story.
In December of 2015, I was home recovering from ostomy surgery. A lifelong, painful battle with severe colonic inertia and countless unsuccessful medications and treatments had left me no other options. Surrounded by a supportive and loving family, I still felt alone and isolated. I rested in bed and scoured the internet for encouragement and connection to people “like me.” Two discoveries that day sparked an unexpected passion and purpose for myself and many others.
First, on my screen, from halfway across the world, was a very special bunny – a bunny with an ostomy. I don’t care for stuffed animals, but I had to have him. A small fortune later, the bunny arrived on my doorstep. When I opened the package, the flood of emotion surprised me. I can only explain it as comfort and joy with a few giggles mixed in. It was in that moment that I understood why I was compelled to buy him. He was the first “ostomate” I’d ever met.
I couldn’t wait to show the bunny to my family and close friends. It began to soften my uneasy feelings about having an ostomy by providing a vehicle of conversation. I’m a grown woman, but a stuffed animal opened the door for me to positively cope with the reality of living with an ostomy for the rest of my life.
The second important discovery was finding a United Ostomy Associations of America Affiliated Support Group near my home. I’d never been to a support group of any kind, and frankly, I was feeling okay as a new ostomate – I didn’t need “support.” Boy was I WRONG! I walked in the room and saw normal, everyday people chatting and enjoying life.
Without speaking even a word, every person in the room that day encouraged my soul. In the months following, I deeply valued their support as I learned to navigate and thrive as an ostomate. They became my friends.
It was October of 2016 when these two events merged and sparked a movement. I discovered the children’s hospital near my home performs around 120 ostomy surgeries per year. If a grown woman was encouraged by a stuffed animal with an ostomy, how much more would a child? Soon I designed a teddy bear with a stoma and removable ostomy pouch and approached my UOAA support group with the idea of sponsoring ostomy teddy bears for all 120 pediatric ostomy patients at the local children’s hospital. The response was overwhelming and the Awesome Ollie Teddy Bear Project was launched!
Thanks to members’ ongoing monthly support, and a gift from Shield Healthcare, the Ostomy Support Group of San Diego County continues to gift hundreds of ostomy Teddy Bears to children at Rady Children’s hospital. The bears are given to the pediatric ostomy nurses and the child life specialists at the hospital who present the bears to their patients for comfort and education.
A short year later, other UOAA support groups, WOCN Society affiliates, The Phoenix magazine and other individuals have expanded the project in order to gift Awesome Ollie Teddy Bears to children with ostomies in their communities. 11 Health Technologies gave away 200 Ollie Bears to adult attendees at the UOAA National Conference in Irvine, CA, causing quite a stir! Byram Healthcare also provided over 500 bears to children across America. News of Ollie’s advocacy spread and people from all over the United States sent me their stories about receiving an Ollie bear.
A mom with an ostomy contacted me through social media and requested a bear for her four-yearold daughter, who was very curious and interested in her Mom’s ostomy. Another child, just two months old, received an Ollie Bear while he recovered in the hospital after his ostomy surgery. His mother found Ollie while scouring the internet looking for hope and encouragement.
Then a long-lost friend from high school who lives 2,000 miles away purchased a bear prior to undergoing her own ostomy surgery. Even the cancer center near my home called and asked for an Ollie bear for one of their adult patients. Age is irrelevant to the need for comfort, connection and encouragement.
So what does a map have to do with any of this? A giant wall map hangs in my home. It’s a visual reminder of the places Awesome Ollies have been sent and a testament to all his caring compassionate sponsors. It’s covered with stickers from coast to coast and Canada. It’s an expression of the power of a handful of positive everyday people who took action to help someone else. The media suggests that our country is increasingly unfriendly and uncaring. To me, my map is proof otherwise.
Thanks to the help and advice of pediatric WOCN’s and child life specialists, my daughter and I wrote a children’s book about Ollie and his Awesome Ostomy, intended to inspire and empower children with ostomies. It is scheduled to be released Spring/Summer 2018.
To organize Awesome Ollie Teddy Bears for your community hospital or to inquire about the children’s book, visit AwesomeOstomy.com or email Terrabusy@ yahoo.com. Follow all the new places Ollie is sent on the AwesomeOstomy Facebook page.
Special thanks to the Ostomy Support Group of San Diego County, whose vision and generosity sparked an international movement of hope and compassion.