In Honor of Seven Bridges

As a patient who grappled with an ostomy, I grieved the suicide of a 10-year-old whose family said he was bullied for having one.

Comments: 18

  1. Thank you for this. A close family member with colorectal cancer has recently gotten an ostomy bag to as part of an operation to hopefully cure cancer. It's very challenging in the beginning psychologically and physically, but a chance at life is worth it. Shame and feeling impotent at the loss of a former body is also part of the process. It never occurred to me that this could happen to a young child, or further that such child would be bullied and feel such shame that suicide seemed a good option. Such a tragedy. Thank you for sharing, making us all think, and hopefully have more compassion for those dealing with illnesses and ostomies. We live in our bodies, but we are more than our bodies.

  2. This is an important article. My husband had an ileostomy due to ulcerative colitis a year after we were married at age 25. He is now almost 65, and has dealt remarkably well with the bag, yet I know that from day one, it changed how he felt about himself. I can't imagine children bullying another about this. How sad and horrible can people behave towards one another?

  3. At 65 years of age, few things are able to shock me anymore. I'm deeply, deeply saddened at this dreadful event. The children who bullied this little boy will (hopefully) be haunted all their lives, and justifiably so. My dear Seven, may you rest now in peace.

  4. children are cruel in unfiltered ways. they seem to have unique abilities to inflict maximum damage. im absolutely shocked and horrified by this young child's suicide.

  5. Seven Bridge's story is heartbreaking. Thank you for a thoughtful essay.

  6. My former boyfriend and dear friend of 30 years had an ostomy from the time we met. When he first showed it to me and explained what it’s for etc, he was really straight up and clear about it. I fell in love with his honesty and his courage. He went on to run ostomy camps for kids in Canada. I’m sorry Seven never had the opportunity to be inspired by role models like my friend.

  7. What an unnecessary tragedy. My heart goes out to his family. What is remarkable is that every bully has something in their lives that they are ashamed of, and externalize the feelings about their own deficit or shameful situation onto someone weaker than themselves. The bullies never get called on it. Schools do not do enough to create a caring environment where bullying is not tolerated, outed and dealt with. Seven must have felt very alone in that school.

  8. You highlight the issues of such a significant body change very well. Thank you. I recall the list of worries I had when I had a urostomy following my chemo for node positive bladder cancer almost 20 years ago. My bladder was removed and an internal reservoir created, and i now urinate through a stoma via catheter. There was a leaky learning curve for a while. I was an adult, not a child surrounded by cruel peers.

  9. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for sharing this story. So many people don’t understand what an ostomate goes through in life. It can be hell, with leakage, smell, constant adjustments, the stares in a health club locker room, and then, there’s sex, which can complicate one’s life even more. The worst thing is the rejection from other people that is the most difficult to deal with. Dealing with an ostomy can be difficult enough at 30, never mind someone at 10. Support from friends and loved ones is paramount if one is to physically and mentally adjust to it. It will never be easy, but one can deal with it.

  10. We hear over and over how much bullying happens in schools, and how on average it concerns just a few unfortunate children, like here. Why is it so hard to get schools to accept looking out for these isolated, and picked upon children? At the moment schools just seem to set out one or two "Whatever, just so long as nobody bleeds.." 'Monitors' during these breaks where these poor kids are getting so picked on that they ultimately, god help us, take their own lives. Why can't schools set up these monitors to support the few pickup upon kids, to get others off their backs, while they go about making sure nobody else is "bleeding or complaining"? My god, adults are around these picked-up children all day long and we act like nobody could have helped them when they needed it....

  11. I’ve had an ileostomy since I was 29 years’ old; that was more than 40 years ago. My doctors immediately brought in volunteers from the United Ostomy Association, who were able to make it very clear to me that they lived absolutely normal lives and that I would too. My surgery was necessitated by Crohn’s disease, and I was in so much pain that I didn’t care what they did so long as the pain went away. I have as promised lived an absolutely normal life in the years since my surgery. I would encourage anyone either living with an ostomy or needing one to make sure their surgeon connects them with the AOA and with an ostomy nurse. Try different pouches and related products until you find what works best for you. Most manufacturers are very generous with samples and have support networks for ostomates. I’ve primarily been using Coloplast products for a number of years, and can strongly recommend the Coloplast Care support program. Kids obviously need even more support, and Seven’s case is appalling; my heart goes out to his family. Child and teen ostomates might be heartened to learn about Rolf Benirshke, who played in the NFL with an ostomy.

  12. Thank you, Susan. You are the Eighth Bridge, helping this beautiful child's life convey meanings for the rest of us.

  13. When I was about six years old, a doctor who examined my bladder tore a hole in it, and between that and damage to my kidneys from another doctor's unwise medication, I was in hospitals quite a lot during my school years. Finally the only permanent solution was an ileostomy, just before I started my first year of college. I've told only three friends about it in the past 55 years. The story of Seven is truly a heartbreaker, and I also am sickened by the bullying of kids who aren't "part of the group." Maybe there should be a sensitivity course or some kind of role-playing activities to awaken the troublesome kids to the damage they do to others.

  14. My deepest condolences to the parents of young Seven Bridges and all who loved him. I am so sorry for the pain he had to endure in his life. May you get to peace and healing.

  15. Seven was so cute, and I bet he had much to offer his classmates. Is any followup done with his classmates to determine if they feel loss, guilt - or anything?

  16. I feel terrible about the bullying this child endured! I am a woman approaching 60, and started a biologic last year for ulcerative colitis, a disease I have been dealing with since my early 20’s. I was told if the biologics do not work for me, I am facing a permanent colostomy and I am fearful of this and the stigma. I was bullied in school because I was poor, fatherless, and awkward. The sweet face of this child and the pain he endured at the hands of his peers, and the loneliness he felt as a result is heartbreaking. The way children are raised today by snowplow parents, there will be no consequences for their actions. The parents will say “not my child” and shield them from the punishment they deserve, and further allowing them to continue their bullying behavior so they can all grow up exhibiting the same actions of our current president.

  17. Thank you, Susan Gubar, for bringing this to our attention. I'm sure I would not have known about what happened to this poor little boy if I had not seen your article. As others have questioned here and elsewhere, why is this permitted in our schools? I have read of teachers who create "no bullying zones" in their classrooms. Why should this be necessary? There is a lot of mocking concerning the notion of safe spaces, but I believe that schools should be safe spaces for all children and those children who are bullies should be dealt with kindly, but firmly, and should be made to understand that that type of behavior will not be tolerated in our schools. My condolences to the family and friends of little Seven Bridges.

  18. My mother, Beulah Gubar, also had ovarian/colon cancer that led to an ileostomy. I believe that it was the most difficult portion of dealing with this form of cancer. Not only is there the embarrassment of being out in public, but even those in the healthcare field do not want to deal with those with ostomates. It became increasingly difficult to help her due to her concurrent diagnosis of dementia.