Faith, Hope and Love: Teen Encourages Others With a Practical Gift and a Feel-good Message
Faced with a life-altering medical condition, a Steubenville teenager is coping with her situation and helping other youth in similar circumstances.
Madison Tuttle, 13-year-old daughter of Kristin and Ryan Tuttle of Steubenville, was admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital in late October after developing an intestinal blockage. She then was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which had caused the problem.
To eliminate the blockage, surgeons removed 32 centimeters of her intestines. “The Crohn’s was so bad, it (the incision area) was not strong enough to hold a stitch,” and a colostomy was performed, her mother said. Madison developed sepsis and spent three weeks in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
When Madison learned she had to use ostomy bags temporarily, she asked for a fabric cover for the drainable pouch. Her mother found that the only covers available were made of plain, dark blue or black material — not suitable for teens or children.
Kristin Tuttle put out a call for help, and a friend, Faith Hall, responded. “Faith found a pattern and she whipped up a bunch for Madison right away,” Mrs. Tuttle said.
Hall’s creations are made from bright, patterned fabrics, rather than the drab material used for commercially produced ostomy bag covers.
Showing an array of the colorful covers, Madison’s mom related, “You can purchase them, but they are not as cute as this. They’re not geared to young kids or teenagers … And they’re fairly expensive, at about $20 for one cover.”
Understandably, Madison felt emotional when she learned of her condition. “She felt pretty alone. None of her friends had this,” her mother said.
The teen perked up after receiving the cheerful covers sewn by Hall. Quickly, Madison came up with an idea to help children and teens who have ostomy bags. “She wanted to let them know they’re not alone either,” her mom said.
“Madison said, ‘Let’s make some for the kids,'” recalled Hall, who agreed immediately to expand the effort to other young people. Their goal is to make patients “feel good about themselves,” Hall said.
They contacted officials at Akron Children’s Hospital a few months ago and offered to provide colorful covers, at no charge, for children and infants with ostomies. After hospital officials agreed to accept the donation, Hall sent 30 covers — 15 in patterns suitable for boys and 15 in designs that appeal to girls — to the medical facility.
Word of the project spread to colleagues of Hall, who is a pharmacy technician for Acuity Specialty Hospital in Weirton. “Faith is making them and co-workers have started donating material and it’s really taking off,” Kristin Tuttle said.
“It would not be possible without the help of the Acuity family,” Hall said. Acuity has helped with postage for sending covers to other hospitals, she added.
Judy Weaver, Acuity’s vice president of clinical services and market CEO for three hospitals, commented, “Faith has been unlike any other. She’s one of our employees who always rise to the occasion. Several people continue to give of themselves.”
Acuity employees are giving gently-used uniforms and scrub sets to Hall to transform into washable covers. Other co-workers are purchasing colorful fabric for the cause.
“We can make nine covers out of one scrub top,” Hall said.
Hall, who is self-taught, now is teaching Madison and her 10-year-old sister, Kayle, to sew. She also has two other seamstresses lined up to help with the project.
Initially, it took Hall about 90 minutes to make a cover. Now, she said, “I’ve got it down to 45 minutes.”
Kristin Tuttle said they have several patterns, which they cut out and prepare for sewing in assembly-line fashion. A card — featuring a photograph of Madison and a message telling her story — is placed in each completed cover that is sent to another patient.
Her message of explanation and encouragement states: “Hi, my name is Madison. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2017. I was very sick and very scared. I had to have a colostomy. I was very nervous about this. My mom and her friend came up with the ostomy bag covers and this helped me feel so much better about this experience. I hope this will help you get through this too!”
Weaver also had kind words for Madison, telling the teen, “You are a blessing. You are a blessing to other kids … Never be ashamed. Hold your head high. You will do great things. God will bless you in your life.”
The Acuity vice president said, “We’re really pleased and happy to support Faith in her efforts and to make her dreams come true.”
Hall and the Tuttles plan to contact authorities at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and hospitals for children in Cleveland and Columbus to offer ostomy bag covers for their young patients. “If we have them to give, we will send them,” Kristin Tuttle said.
The volunteers think their effort has been time well spent. “It has actually been an amazing journey from the get-go,” Hall remarked.
Reflecting on her daughter’s medical experience, Kristin Tuttle said, “Seeing how she (Madison) wants to help others and having friends like Faith make it easier.”
Hall commented, “I never wanted the attention to be on me. I’m willing to sew and willing to teach. It’s all about Madison and the kids.”
Madison and her sister are home-schooled through a cyber school. They have a brother, Mason, 5.
In her free time, Madison said, “I like to play with my pets and read books and play video games.” Their household includes a golden retriever puppy and a tuxedo cat.
She anticipates that her colostomy will be reversed later this year. Looking ahead to her next endeavor, she said, “I want to sew a quilt.”
The teen has a good teacher in Hall, who also makes and sells specialty quilts. Currently, she is in the process of making seven memory quilts.