A Crohn’s journey with Shawn the Stoma

Brad Watson-Davelaar as a cartoon holding a baby and juggling

Meet Brad Watson-Davelaar of Edmonton and his best buddy Shawn the Stoma – his pet name for his stoma, the hole on the right side of his abdomen where his intestines exit. He is also a dad, husband, and advocate for ostomy awareness – the surgery that created his stoma. 

Brad says: “There was a time in my life when I thought being a father and starting a family just wasn’t in the cards for me.” Fortunately, his ostomy surgery made that life aspiration possible. 

Brad was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2000 while in high school. He wrestled to get answers after months of being unable to get home without having an accident, which led to bullying from his school mates. He felt his disease was a burden. As a result, he spent years hiding it.  

Brad struggled with Crohn’s related symptoms for almost two decades. He made multiple attempts to advocate for himself to get the treatment he needed and underwent surgeries for which he was not emotionally or mentally prepared. One of those was in 2010, when he had part of his bowel removed. Before surgery, the possibility that he could end up with an ostomy was real. A therapist explained how it would work and showed him the supplies. He struggled mightily with the thought of it and the image it created in his mind.  

Although he did not have the ostomy then, unfortunately, things did not go well afterwards. Within three months, he was back in hospital because his kidneys failed. He thought he could die. 

Brad met his future wife, Sydney, in 2017, in the middle of his health problems. He quickly realized how much he wanted to be a dad. 

Then, just as the world shut down in 2020, everything Brad had been through to sustain his health was no longer working. Once again, his Crohn’s was acting up and he was afraid of a repeat of his 2010 experience. He chose to follow the advice that the best course of action would be to remove his colon and rectum and have a stoma. This time, he was all for it. He knew it was the right choice. 

The surgery ended up taking place in August 2022. As a result, he would have his new friend, Shawn the Stoma. Following surgery, he saw that the thing he had feared the most would end up saving his life. 

Following his 2022 surgery, Brad became an advocate for ostomy awareness. He had been advocating for people with Crohn’s and colitis in various ways for years, so this was a natural evolution. To start, as an accomplished photographer, he documented the phases of receiving his ostomy, healing, and the one-year post-surgery mark. Another focus since 2013 has been The Crohn’s Awareness Project, where Brad uses webcomics to discuss the serious situations that surround Crohn’s and colitis. Ostomies and stomas have been an additional part of his content since his surgery.  

Brad Watson-Davelaar and family

At the end of the day, he wants his life to be the most impactful awareness project – becoming a dad in 2023, raising a daughter, and showing the world that it is possible to have an ostomy and lead a fulfilled life.  

“Becoming an ostomy dad is one of the toughest but most gratifying things I’ve ever been through. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Shawn the Stoma giving me my life back.” 

Written by Tavin Smith, RN

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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