Carmel Valley woman bears message of hope for ostomy patients
After undergoing her own ostomy surgery, Carmel Valley resident Dawnette Meredith created Awesome Ollie the Ostomy Bear, to provide comfort and positivity to young ostomy patients. She made her first deliveries of Ollies to Rady Children’s Hospital ostomy nurses last year and is looking to get bears into the arms of more kids this year.
“It was so joyful, to take something that isn’t ideal and make something positive out of it; to make somebody happy,” Meredith said.
There are many reasons why people undergo ostomy surgeries, creating an opening in the body for the discharge of waste. Meredith’s reason was the digestive illness she had since birth, battling colonic-inertia for a long 49 years, nine months and 15 days.
“I was left with no other choice but to have the surgery done. I did and I feel so much better,” said Meredith, who had the surgery in December 2015 and now lives with an ostomy bag. “I’ve been on a mission to tell people it’s not that bad. I can still swim, run, hike, surf, do hot yoga. It’s really been motivating for me to be an advocate for what this is and that you can live a full life.”
She started a video blog where she helps answer lifestyle questions for those living with ostomy bags and how they shouldn’t be afraid to get back to doing what they love.
After her ostomy surgery, Meredith went online and found a stuffed bunny with an ostomy bag, made in Scotland. She ordered one for herself and was so happy when the cute and admittedly expensive bunny with a pouch arrived.
“My bunny was a bright spot in my recovery. It was a daily reminder to smile and laugh at an otherwise less than ideal situation,” Meredith said. “It somehow made it easier to talk about my illness and recent surgery.”
The bunny gave her the idea for Awesome Ollie, to help kids going through the same thing she did. She started in her own backyard where Rady Children’s Hospital performs roughly 120 ostomy surgeries per year. She got in touch with the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society to help make the connection with Rady and “worked like a crazy woman” to find a way to produce the bears.
Meredith buys the bears locally and cuts and sews the ostomy pieces themselves — the pouch and a red stoma button. The bears are then sent to a commercial sewer in order to meet safety standards.
She and her husband sponsored the first eight bears, which were delivered to Rady nurses in October 2016.
“They were so excited,” said Meredith, who isn’t able to distribute the bears herself due to privacy laws but loves to hear the stories about the recipients. “It’s great for the nurses because it’s a learning tool to use with the kids, it helps them talk to kids about what’s going on in their bodies.”
Meredith approached her ostomy support group asking for sponsorships and they sponsored 35 bears, which she was able to get to Rady before the holidays. She has since had requests for bears from the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, as well as a hospital in New Jersey.
Meredith’s goal — and she acknowledges it’s a big one — is to get Awesome Ollie bears in every children’s hospital in the country.
“It’s just something that made me happy and I want to pass that along,” Meredith said.
An Awesome Ollie sponsorship is $20 a bear. Anyone interested in sponsoring bears at a local hospital or to purchase a bear can contact Terrabusy@yahoo.com or call (858) 336-4418. Follow Ollie on Facebook at facebook.com/AwesomeOstomy.
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