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Michael Seres – The Man With Olympic Sized Guts

The morning after my first bowel resection over 21 years ago, I was lying in bed still woozy from anesthetic. A troop of white coated doctors entered the room and surrounded my bed. It was my surgical team.

The lead resident was filling me in on how successful the operation was, how much bowel was removed, when he added, “Oh, by the way, while we were in there we removed your appendix too.”

He was much too casual about taking one of my body parts. I panicked momentarily, groping myself between my legs to make sure the surgeons hadn’t got carried away “while they were in there”!

I’ve learned to live with the consequences of those missing lengths for a couple of decades. I know I’ve been lucky. There are people in far worse condition than me. Then 5 days ago I came across Michael Seres online.

Michael didn’t just have a bowel resection. After years of chronic Crohn’s disease his bowel completely collapsed. A resection wasn’t going to do the trick. He needed a whole new bowel and was slated to be one of the very first people in the UK to undergo a bowel transplant.

The transplant took place in October, 2011. It hasn’t been an easy journey. But on Sunday, June 8, 2012, Michael sets a new standard in guts and glory by being an Olympic Torchbearer for the 2012 London Olympics.

You can watch him walk streamed live online here at approximately 9 a.m. EDT. If you miss it, we’ll be featuring it next week on our site.

We’re also going to be featuring Michael’s writings which are honest, enlightening, and visceral. With all that he’s undergone, he continues to understand the inherent connection between his reality and that of his wife and children. Through his constant blogging, and that of his wife Justine and young son Nathan, we will share all the intimate details of this unique story.

Even as one who has lost parts of my gut, I have difficulty relating to losing it all, then getting someone else’s to replace it. Michael Seres is my new hero. Aside from offering himself up as a guinea pig for this procedure, he’s taking us all along for the ride.

Thanks Michael. It’ll be exciting to see your walk on Sunday. Be careful playing with torches.

Here’s a couple of Michael’s blog posts to get you started.

World IBD Day for the week

Its World IBD Day today so since it’s Saturday and every living creature with an appetite is out hunting down new prey, I’m going to celebrate the day for the whole week.

I’m biased, of course. I’ve been living with Crohn’s disease for over 31 years. It’s one of the family of nasty Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, (yes, Bowel diseases) that includes Ulcerative Colitis, but does not include IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (more on that in another post).

Since its such a gross topic (bowel disease, you can only imagine) I’ll skip the details of my experience and go straight to highlighting those individuals who have shared with us some remarkable stories. You’ll see the index below to get you started and every day this week you’ll see some of these stories and individuals highlighted on our home page.

Trust me. It takes a little bit of courage to talk about your toilet habits in public. It can be funny, but these folks aren’t getting paid to entertain a crowd at a comedy club. What they are doing is breaking down the stigma attached to these illnesses, and in so doing, are changing the world one story at a time.

Bravo to these articulate souls. We’ve got award winning author Jon Reiner, mountain climber Rob Hill, prominent advocate Michele Hepburn, Ben from across the pond in the UK, and many others in writing and video. Feel free to add your story to theirs.

 

Congratulations Dear 16 Year Old Me

Canadian produced Melanoma video tops the prestigious Webby Awards

The number one patient story of the year, the video “Dear 16 Year Old Me” has set a new standard of storytelling by winning 2 Webby Awards, the leading international awards honouring excellence on the Internet.

The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund production, “Dear 16 Year Old Me”, won for Best Online Video – Public Service and Activism, and for Best Copywriting. It has been seen almost 7 million times, in 150 countries, and in 5 languages. No other patient story in living memory has come close to this level of global impact.

The video is by melanoma patients who, through reflection, tell their 16 year old self some life lessons that can make an important difference in their lives.

It’s a milestone in the history of healthcare when a patient story, told by real patients, outdraws a Hollywood celebrity doctor. It’s a story that can inform practice, change patient behaviour and improve public health.

This film wasn’t supported with a mass media campaign and major sponsors. It won the hearts of millions with an authentic narrative that engages its viewers with its honesty

“Dear 16 Year Old Me” proves that the stories of real people can change lives. Alongside great Canadian role models – change makers like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen – you’re going to start seeing the name David Cornfield.

David died at 32, a young man with great promise. What he started in life is being fulfilled by his legacy, a film as inspirational and dynamic as he was, with the power to influence the actions of millions of people.

If you haven’t seen this remarkable film, take 5 minutes to see it now and share it with your friends and family. If you have seen it, then watch it again with the knowledge that you’re participating in an historic event.

Zal Press Executive Director

“Valleys”: Successfully Funded on Kickstarter

On with the show!

Our congratulations to Mike Lang (Director) and Amy Aubin (Star) of the soon to launch web documentary “Valleys”.  In the final days of crowd-funding, this dynamic duo managed to raise an impressive $18,000 via Kickstarter.

As the Director of Photography for the Toronto portion of this series I am pleased to know that “Valleys” will be developed as Mike originally intended. It was evident when the trailer was launched last week that Amy’s story was powerful and necessary to share.

We look forward to updating you on “Valleys” as news becomes available.

Here’s a snippet from Amy’s blog – sharing her excitement:

Wow – so Valleys the movie will be happening; in 30 days we managed to raise our goal of $17,000.00 thanks to a lot of people with big hearts!  Mikey said he had never raised this much and well neither had I; this past weekend we had our doubts as we had been stuck at the $5,000.00 mark but today we made it to $17,000.00 so thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has helped in any and every way.  No effort or donation is too small and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.  Now- we await update#2 where Mikey may come back to Toronto for some filming before we head down to the Grand Canyon to raft 188km’s a journey that seems to in some ways parallel my own [...] more here.

Two “Patients” Could Use Your Vote

It’s this time each year that I notice an increased excitement, a buzz, in most of the people I work with. Some would account this behaviour to the onset of Spring, but I say it’s for a different season altogether.  The Webby Award season.

Each year the Webby Awards honour the best of the web.  Now in their 16th year, their ever expanding categories include interactive, mobile and apps. If TED talks are the new innovative “ideas worth spreading” then the Webbys are the ideas that have worked.  The creative eyes of the world tune into this award ceremony each year and just about every agency wants their work showcased here.

Our congratulations then to the individuals, agencies and foundations that saw TWO (2) patient stories listed on this year’s nominee ballot.

Under the online film & video category of Public Service and Activism both Dear 16-year-old Me by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and Living With Alzheimer’s by Relate Digital for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, (featured below respectively) are listed.

 

While next year’s ballot will most likely include KONY 2012 (lessons to learn when your campaign goes viral), this year, it’s all about the patient.  We’re asking you, our community to help make these videos even more memorable by casting your vote.

You can watch this year’s awards online with the rest of the world.  Hosted by one of my favourite comedians, Patton Oswalt on May 21st, it promises to be a good show.

“Valleys”: A DP’s Perspective

Last week I was whisked away to Georgetown, Ontario. A young and talented Director from Alberta had hired me as his Director of Photography and all encompassing “camera guy”, for his newly envisioned web series.

Mike Lang, is the Director, and “Valleys” is his new project.

Diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 25, Mike rapidly launched Survive & Thrive Expeditions, an organization that seeks to  connect young adult cancer patients with peers. Whether it’s a whitewater trip down a river or a serene sailing trip along the inlets of Canada’s west coast – Survive & Thrive (STE) has provided much needed solitude and support to courageous patients.

 

 

And if this wasn’t enough, Mike had cameras rolling the entire time. During these past few years Mike has cut together footage of his expeditions and the intimate interviews captured between survivors.

With this he has already created  two uniquely inspirational and mind expanding films, “Wrong Way to Hope” and “Ebb & Flow“.  Mike’s films have been used as educational materials by health institutes to provide a common link between practitioners and patients.

Determined isn’t quite enough to describe Mike as he now tackles creating his third film project in only a few short years.

With the next STE trip set for this summer (a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon), Mike has his lens aimed at Amy Aubin, a young mother  scheduled to participate in this year’s trip. “Valleys” would be a web series documentary that would share Amy’s story from start to end.

As I stepped foot off the Georgetown GO bus from Toronto, it became evidently clear why Amy’s story had to be told. Amy is a two time cancer survivor – ovarian and cervical.  She’s also a loving mother to the family’s “miracle baby”, Avery.

Mike and I spent two days filming Amy and her family, making regular stops at Tim Horton’s to stay fueled.  Avery provided walk around tours of the house, her toys and pets, while Amy told her story for us and the cameras.  On the last day Mike and I were invited to a family dinner, where both sides of Avery’s family were represented – Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, friends.

Those last few hours were precious.  We took advantage of our time at dinner and managed to interview almost everyone including Amy’s husband John and their respective parents.

To say this time was intimate would be a massive understatement.  I found myself trying to find focus between bouts of tearing from the incredibly candid and honest narratives each family member provided.  This was the hardest assignment I have filmed to date – it was also the most memorable and rewarding.

Though my time filming “Valleys” has ended, the camera is still recording.  Fingers-crossed, “Valleys” will reach its goal of raising $17,000 by April 14 so that Amy’s journey can continue to be documented full circle, from Georgetown, to the Grand Canyon. Until she arrives safely home, back into the loving and supportive arms of John, Avery, Mom, Dad, Siblings, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, dog and cat.