‘Gutsy’ Short Documentary Sheds The Stigma About Crohn’s

‘Gutsy’ Short Documentary Sheds The Stigma About Crohn’s

“Honestly,” says Ryan Nesbitt, “Crohn’s is, like, the most inconsistent thing.” This sentiment comes at about the six-minute mark in Nesbitt’s short documentary, Gutsy. The short focuses on Nesbitt and Jessica Grossman’s experiences with Crohn’s disease, from their diagnoses in childhood to the present day. For those who live with Crohn’s disease, this sentiment will be very familiar. For the rest of the unaffected population, however, the details Nesbitt and Grossman share may come as a shock.

It’s estimated that approximately 270,000 Canadians are living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), roughly 135,000 of whom specifically suffer from Crohn’s. Generally speaking, Crohn’s and colitis can be diagnosed at any age, but the symptoms typically present in adolescence and early adulthood. Some of these symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, internal bleeding, and frequent dire trips to the bathroom.

So what is Crohn’s? It’s a disease that can affect any part of your digestive system, making it impossible to eat certain foods. These foods may change over time, and without warning. It can be an extremely debilitating disease, sometimes making it profoundly difficult to lead a normal life. A lack of understanding amongst the general public means those who live with this condition often have a difficult time describing it to others.

“When I tell people I have Crohn’s,” Nebsitt says, “they usually have no idea what I’m saying, or they repeat it a good two or three times.” This was part of Nesbitt’s goal with Gutsy, and also part of why he wanted to get involved with Grossman in particular. Diagnosed at nine-years-old after starting to show symptoms at eight, Grossman had to have ostomy surgery at 13.

The United Ostomy Association of America refers to ostomy surgery as a life-saving procedure “that allows bodily waste to pass through a surgically created stoma on the abdomen into a prosthetic known as a ‘pouch’ or ‘ostomy bag’ on the outside of the body[…]” Ostomy surgery can be a necessity for a variety of reasons. In Grossman’s case, her Crohn’s became so severe that she had to have a large part of her intestines removed. Enough that it necessitated the ostomy surgery. She spent nearly two years from the ages of 11 to 13 bedridden in the hospital, losing much of her childhood. This procedure saved her life.

The general public doesn’t know a great deal about Crohn’s disease, which is part of why Nesbitt and co-producer, Rebeca Ortiz, wanted to make this short film; to educate and help shed the stigma. Grossman has been working towards this for nearly a decade through her organization, Uncover Ostomy. Their mission has been to “break the stigma surrounding the ostomy, to spread positive awareness of the life-saving surgery, and to encourage body positivity for those with ostomies.” People who live with Crohn’s are often embarrassed to talk about their condition, especially if they have an ostomy bag. Together, Grossman and Nesbitt hope to change the way we think about Crohn’s, colitis, and ostomies by educating the public and shedding the stigma.

 

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