Usually December is about all things Christmas at ifour: creating clients’ Christmas cards, squeezing projects in under the wire before the big day, and generally going at full tilt (never mind making the final tweaks to our own Christmas quiz). This year we decided to include something different, by supporting the Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week, 1st - 7th December.
Why Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week?
As some people may be aware, we have two team members with Crohn’s disease. A lifelong chronic inflammatory condition, Crohn’s affects the whole digestive system and can have body-wide implications. Both our senior strategist, Léonie, and in-house illustrator, Steve, will happily talk about their conditions and challenges. But none of the rest of us had much of an idea of what having Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis is like on a daily basis.
So we decided to set about changing that, while also raising money at the same time, for the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK. Armed with the immersive app “In My Shoes”, which was developed in association with Crohn’s and Colitis UK, five willing ifour volunteers prepared themselves for a day in the life of those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Spending a 24 hour period each under the guidance of the app offered a real insight for our willing volunteers, Alice, Claire, Damon, Chris and Graeme.
The challenge starts
Alice was first up on Monday and reflected, “It’s really making me think about the things I take for granted. The app just gave me the choice of using an accessible toilet or keep looking for a non-accessible toilet. I chose the latter and suffered the consequences. I was acutely aware that I would be conscious of people seeing me walk into an accessible toilet. I think we tend to expect disabilities to be visible, and would be quick to judge where we couldn’t see one, myself included.”
Due to existing studio commitments on Tuesday, Claire’s 24 hour stint started on Wednesday. She said, “I really did not know what to expect when taking part in the Crohn’s challenge, and certainly hadn’t appreciated the impact it would have on my work and social life. I hadn’t understood the overall effect that this can have on mood, pain and energy levels. Throughout the day there were alerts on taking medication, being mindful of the food you eat and how you can feel unwell due to severe dehydration. I would certainly recommend that people try the app as it provides valuable insight and awareness to a silent and often embarrassing condition that many people have to go through every day.”
A steep learning curve
Damon followed up on Thursday. “The main thing I learned was that I generally feel like I’m in charge of my body. But for 24 hours, it totally felt like my body was in charge of me. It’s frightening to think of living that day-to-day.”
Friday saw both Chris and Graeme complete their 24 hours in tandem.
Chris said, “I was shocked at the effect it has on your daily routine, making the day-to-day anything but routine. The app gave me my first of many 3 minute toilet warning whilst driving to work on a busy A road. With no obvious toilet available I was informed that I had soiled myself and would have to change clothes. When I got into work, the app gave me the choice of taking my medication or having to skip breakfast, as I would have been in a bad way, I chose medication – and went hungry. This is how the rest of the day went. Respect for my colleagues who cope with their own challenges day-to-day and still have a smile on their faces.”
Graeme reflected, “I wanted to take part, not only to get a glimpse into my colleague’s lives, but also to support those taking part. This has been a brilliant example of the team pulling together to achieve something special. The app revealed lots of information about the condition I wasn’t aware of. But the real eye-opener was seeing the consequences of decisions throughout the day. As the day went on, I had to stop and think about what the possible impact of any decisions I made might be, such as skipping medication. While I’m familiar with this concept through a certain degree of experience, this made me really stop and think about it conscientiously.”
Cheering them on throughout the week were our own real-life ‘Crohnies’.
Steve said: “Having lived with this debilitating illness for nearly 25 years, the fact that our team have taken this to their hearts and have willingly ‘stepped into our shoes’, to get a small glimpse into the daily struggles that we face has been amazing! – What a bunch…Love the bloomin’ lot of ’em!”
Léonie added, “In my experience of Crohn’s, a lot of the time you just want to feel as ‘normal’ as you can and get on with your life without fuss. But the unpredictable nature of flare-ups, complications and even the side effects of meds I take to stay well means that isn’t always possible. That the guys and girls took up this challenge to try and understand this AND managed to do a fantastic job at fundraising at the same time means a lot to me.”
Smashing our target
As well as the insights gathered by the team, we are thrilled that we managed to hit our fundraising target of £250 for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. The money will not only go towards supporting those with IBD, but also help with their education efforts to raise awareness and understanding with family, friends, employers and the wider general public on the impact having a hidden disability such as IBD.
If you would like to donate, there is still time!
Or why not try the app for yourself? https://www.ittakesguts.org.uk/share/in-my-shoes-app
To find out more about Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, visit https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/