Living with Crohn's & A Broadway Dream

Written by: Aiesha Reese

Born and raised in Flint, MI, I made the decision to move to the Big Apple to pursue my career and opportunities on Broadway in 2014. Shortly upon moving to NYC, I faced several health complications with Crohn’s Disease, which slowed down my performing arts career. To prevent my intestines from nearly exploding due to inflammation, I had an emergency surgery, called a temporary colostomy, which included wearing a pouch over the abdomen where waste entered. Behind closed doors, I battled with adjusting to my new body and lifestyle with the colostomy bag. The process of gaining my strength, confidence in my voice, the hygiene and smell of cleaning the colostomy bag, and being physically attractive took time. I made a decision to keep this part of my life a secret. Eventually, I was able to move forward with my life, career, and relationships.

At the peak of 2017, my life seemed to be back on track with amazing physical results from gym workouts, callbacks for Broadway auditions, and the list goes on. I felt confident that I was becoming a “normal person” again. However, to my dismay, I went into a coma for two months and woke up without an intestine and in desperate need of an intestinal transplant in order to survive. Not only was this a traumatic circumstance, but I had absolutely no knowledge of an “intestinal transplant” nor did I know that it existed. I was then transferred to Mt. Sinai in hopes of receiving a transplant to give me my life back.

In the span of three years of being in the care of Mt. Sinai Transplantation Department, I endured: several surgeries, including the placing and removal of my 1st transplant, did not eat for nearly two years, and received TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition - home treatment given via a central line for 14-16 hours every day). This Healing journey at Mt. Sinai was a PROCESS both mentally and physically. While on TPN, I only had 5-6 hours to do anything in the day. I felt like Cinderella!. Once the clock struck 6pm, I had to leave immediately to start treatment all over again. Everyday I looked in the mirror, I saw a central line port that caused me to be very insecure, especially because certain shirts I would wear would expose the dressing of the central line. “What would people say or think, if they saw my central line? Would they treat me differently or like a disabled person?,” I would question. Not eating was very awkward at social events, especially holidays, watching others enjoy the sensation of eating food. Before receiving my 1st transplant I went home with two huge drains that came out of the side of my abdomen. The drains were so large that one I had to strap one to my leg, while the other I had to carry inside of a bag. The stares and the looks were a bit overwhelming, and to be honest, I felt embarrassed about my situation. However, even in the midst of dealing with insecurities I chose to hold on to faith, not accepting the present circumstances. I knew this was all temporary and would soon be a memory.

What I’ve grown to learn about life is that in our trials, amazing treasures are birthed! After the loss of my 1st transplant, I was blessed with the vision to create Miracles Work, which began as a documentary vlog that exposed my day-today life.

My life would no longer be a secret.