A few weeks ago, Great Comebacks® had the most amazing experience at this year’s WOCN conference in New Orleans. To all the nurses, caregivers and patient advocates who were there for our National Awards event, I want to extend a huge thank you for joining us and for supporting our shared mission of helping ostomy patients.
We were honored and grateful to be able to hear directly from so many of you that the stories we have shared over the years have been so helpful as you work with new ostomates. It underscores what we have heard for 26 years now about the incredible power of ”patients helping patients,” and especially so when combined with the amazing care provided by committed nurses and physicians.
This year, we again heard wonderfully uplifting stories of courage, perseverance, joy and passion from our Great Comebacks® recipients. Chuck Wielgus, our National Award recipient and the Executive Director of USA Swimming, expressed a special thanks to the caregivers who worked with him for their influential role in his emotional and physical recovery after ostomy surgery. Since his surgery, Chuck has been passionate and dedicated in his effort to help others while working with Olympic hopefuls and swimmers all across the nation.
We also honored Heidi Cross, who is truly an example of the best of the best in WOC nursing. Heidi received the WOC Nurse Award for her support of Linda Pasto, our East Region recipient, as well as her many years of extraordinary care to patients and their families. We learned about her outstanding work as a volunteer at a support group that she helped to establish and at a free clinic for stoma patients. I say that Heidi is the ”best of the best” because she is one of many WOC nurses who show extraordinary levels of understanding and compassion for patients in helping to address their fears and regain their lives after ostomy surgery.
With that said…I have a favor to ask. We need to keep finding and sharing more stories like those of this year’s Great Comebacks® recipients, Chuck, Linda and Heidi, and to do that, we need your help. We need to continue to show new patients that their life can be everything they dreamed it to be even after ostomy surgery. There is literally nothing they can’t do… and if they don’t believe that…they can go to www.greatcomebacks.com and have it proven to them by the stories of our previous awardees.
To someone going through ostomy surgery, there is simply nothing that can compare to knowing that you aren’t alone and that someone like yourself has been there, gotten through it and is now doing great. If you have been there, you know how true this is. And, because these diseases and surgery can and do affect people of all different ages and backgrounds, it is vital that our community reflect this diversity. We need you to share your story.
What Great Comebacks® is really all about is much more than awards or recognition. It’s about a community of people who care. It’s about having the courage to ”stand up and be counted” in order to build awareness about what life with an ostomy is really like – to challenge the misperceptions that keep these diseases and this surgery hidden or misunderstood, and keep others from living in fear or shame. It’s about paying it forward or as Chuck put it, ”This is a commitment to share and a commitment to reach out to others.”
If you’ve been there, I hope that you will share your story with us this year. Or please take the time to tell us about a friend or family member who has faced the challenges of ostomy surgery and is now living life to the fullest. You could be anyone, a golfer who was able to continue to play, a flight attendant or pilot, a teacher or businessperson, an athlete or an author. Really, what is most important is your heart and your mind and your desire to be an encouragement to others.
Please take the time to submit a story by July 15, 2011 and know that through Great Comebacks® we will continue to do everything we can to help educate, support, encourage and bring hope to everyone who is facing ostomy surgery.
On behalf of the Advisory Committee, we want to thank you again for your support over these past 26 years and look forward to hearing from you and reading your stories this summer. For more information about the Great Comebacks® Awards program or how to submit a story, please visit http://greatcomebacks.com/us/programs/index.shtml
Thanks and have a great summer,