Imagine you’re 16 years old. You start feeling unwell and are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Although your illness is initially controlled by just taking some medication, a few months after your diagnosis you become drastically ill and are suddenly in and out of hospital – all during a global pandemic. As your health slowly deteriorates, you are told the best option is to have an Ileostomy surgery and adjust your young life to having a stoma bag. Sounds intense right?
Well… that’s exactly what happened to Oliver Kaye this year, and he recently told us about his experience and how he’s turning his story into a source of inspiration for others.
This is Ollie Kaye’s story of gratitude for the team at St Marks Hospital – and our story of gratitude to Ollie, for his inspirational determination during his tough health journey.
When asked what we’re grateful for, many of us will answer ‘my health’: it’s one of the key pillars on which so many things in life are built and we can easily take it for granted. If we discover our health is not doing well it can be disheartening, debilitating and even terrifying.
16-year-old Ollie knows this feeling all too well. When it was decided with his doctors that the best path forward for him was a stoma surgery, he looked around for others like him to see what he could expect. ‘Not many people my age, and gender even, are open about this condition,” he told us.
His initial reaction to his diagnosis was to keep it to himself. ‘I didn’t tell my mates at school what was truly going on, I just made excuses to them, however, as I got worse, I turned to social media which helped me to accept that surgery would make me better again.’ The surgery was great success. ‘It gave me my life back and now three months on I’m feeling healthy and normal again.’
We asked Ollie what he was most grateful for throughout his journey so far and he answered without hesitation – ‘I am most grateful for my gastro team and surgeon at St Marks Hospital who gave me back life and managed to give me the best treatment even through the peak of a global pandemic when the hospital was overwhelmed’.
Now, he’s adjusting to life with a stoma bag and raising awareness through his Instagram account @thekidwithabag. Ollie explains that @thekidwithabag is a place where he can ‘give young people like myself that extra comfort from a patients perspective not just from the doctors. I wanted to share my story on social media because, as I was approaching surgery, I turned to Instagram and discovered a whole community of ostomates who are happy and living life.’
He wanted others, especially young men like him, to see ‘someone who’s overcome the illness and give people the inspiration to see that they can live a happy life despite the stoma bag or IBD or any health challenge people are fighting.’
Ollie’s surgery was life-saving and now via his Instagram posts, he shows how his quality of life is mostly back to how it was pre-diagnosis and sharing images of him playing football with friends. ‘My life with the bag is now coming back to normal, I’m playing sport again, even been paint balling and quad-biking (I had to wear a support belt and stoma protective guard). I can eat pretty much anything, put on weight again, sleep again and I’m just happy to be a teenager again.’
From the outside, Ollie’s life looks like any other teenager’s, however, his platform is also an important space for him to raise awareness for what is usually an invisible illness – ‘most people won’t even know I have a bag as it’s underneath my clothes’. Although Ollie lives a very relatable life, living with a stoma bag is a big adjustment. Ollie tells us his daily routine has seen some changes: ‘I empty the same bag 3-4 times a day and change the whole bag every other day normally, which is a 5-minute routine.’ He is adjusting to these changes well and refuses to let them phase him.
‘If I could inspire and give people that extra comfort, that would be amazing. Social media is a great way to raise awareness to the world about this invisible condition which has a lot of stigma surrounding it.’
Imagine if we all used social media in such a positive way to share our stories and inspire each other? It was a pleasure to talk with such an inspirational young man about his health journey and we wholeheartedly recommend giving Ollie a follow on @thekidwithabag. Tell him we sent you!
Have you overcome a big battle this year? Is there someone who helped you out? Say thank you the best way we know how, by posting a message on sharegratitude.com