Born in China, Alex Coe was left incontinent due to an imperforate anus that doctors tried to repair with a pull-through procedure. The procedure left Alex with complications that would not be resolved until the age of 10. By then he had been adopted and moved to Ohio. A colorectal team at Schneider’s Children’s Hospital of Long Island was able to repair the complications caused by his previous procedure. He was later provided with information about the use of enemas as well as diet and medication to gain continence. Now 22, Alex is grateful every day for the resources and support he has been given both from his mother and from all of the members of his care team.
“I am thankful that my mom always pushed me to do sports and activities because I’ve learned not to let my condition ever set me back. I think sometimes people are afraid to be active, but you can do anything with the right attitude,” said Alex.
A bowel management program and his pull-through surgery made a dramatic positive difference in his health and inspired Alex to study to become a pediatric colorectal surgeon. He is a senior at Ohio State University where he is dedicated to serving as a role model to children and teens with colorectal complications. He volunteers as a counselor at the Youth Rally summer camp each year, sharing his insights and experiences to educate and inspire young people.
With the support of his mother, Alex recently started a charity (www.crkidschina.com) to provide sponsorships for complex colorectal procedures and ostomy appliance donations in China. He is working with the doctors who performed his 2000 pull-through surgery at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to coordinate distribution of pediatric medical supplies to many areas of the country.
“It can be difficult to access pediatric ostomy supplies in China. We are working to have ostomy appliances donated and shipped so that more babies can have appliances that fit. My charity is also attempting to make electrical muscle stimulation more prominent so that doctors can more easily identify the sphincter mechanism when performing an anoplasty,” said Alex.
Last year, Alex founded an organization at Ohio State for students who are adopted or are close to someone who is adopted. The organization offers social activities such as movie nights or ice skating trips, but also provides opportunities for students to discuss issues related to adoption. Alex hopes to combine his work with adoption and his effort to expand access to medical devices to help Chinese children with colorectal conditions.
Alex also enjoys intramural ice hockey, lacrosse, rock climbing and serving as a local teen mentor. He is proud to welcome his new brother Mark to his family. Mark was also adopted from China in 2006 after facing a severe impaction in his colon.
“As a patient, you are a primary resource for others to gain knowledge and support. I feel a tremendous responsibility to connect with people who are going through colorectal complications. Growing up, I was more of a ‘lone ranger’ and felt like I had to deal with my health challenges on my own. Now, I wish I was more open so that I could have advocated for colorectal issues,” said Alex.