Before streaming services were a thing, I watched a lot of commercials. Frequently I’d see commercials of much older men and women living active, healthy, and happy lifestyles discussing how happy they were with their ostomy and incontinence supply company and inviting you to give their brand a try so that you, too, could live your best ostomy life.
I thought these were the strangest commercials for a few reasons:
1- How could there possibly be enough people who needed these supplies to have frequent commercials about them? I had never heard of a single person needing these things and had certainly never seen these products in real life.
2- I never, ever wanted to get old because only elderly people were presented in the advertising and, therefore, these must be supplies for the senior crowd. Getting old seemed distinctly unappealing.
3- I was convinced that the advertising was a flat-out lie. No way on earth could someone need incontinence supplies and also want to go walk on the beach at sunset with their spouse. These were items necessary for very sick people in hospitals and for individuals who were homebound due to illness and disability. Certainly they weren’t meant for seemingly healthy, active, and happy individuals.
All of my preconceived notions about healthcare, disposable medical supplies, and bodies in general have been continually dismantled since Ethan was born.
Ethan is the most joyful and fearless three-year-old I have ever met. The youngest of four siblings, he is as rough and tumble as he is kind and thoughtful. He loves Broadway musicals and Lightning McQueen equally, and he lives that best ostomy life that I thought was both a lie and reserved for the elderly.
Born six weeks prematurely with a sacrococcygeal teratoma that destroyed his pelvic organs and left him with diversions for both his urine and stool, Ethan was the exact opposite of the men and women in the commercials.
It took me a great deal of time to become comfortable caring for those diversions. My first time changing a colostomy bag ended with me almost fainting and the NICU nurse having to rush to get me a chair before I hit the floor. It was not a glamorous process. Those early days were especially traumatic and overwhelming, but as I settled into this new life of being mother to a medically complex child, I became acutely aware of a distinct lack of representation in advertisement of children like Ethan.
I never could have comprehended how many children in this country alone live and thrive with bowel and bladder diversions. Commercials that could have informed, instead, led me to the false assumption that these ailments and issues were contained to a specific demographic.
When GroVia reached out to ask if my husband and I would be comfortable with Ethan modeling products that we already use and love, we were ecstatic and immediately jumped at the idea. Having Ethan model a diaper was so much more than just a fun experience for us. It was an opportunity to invite conversation about how the need for these diversions don’t stick to a certain demographic. There are thousands of children with diversions just like Ethan, and those children deserve to see bodies like theirs represented in the very products that have saved their lives.
We are overjoyed to be able to share Ethan’s journey with GroVia fans and customers. Much like the men and women in those old commercials, Ethan is active and happy.... living his best ostomy life!
Christine is a 30-something mother of four and a bonus niece living a different kind of dream next to the Rocky Mountains. She is a strong advocate for access to resources in the world of pediatric healthcare and behavioral services. Her family of seven can often be found singing along in the car to a Broadway soundtrack and creating fan theories for their favorite Marvel movies. Christine has been cloth diapering with GroVia for over ten years! Follow her on Instagram: cdabondi84