A feisty, funny, and charming 25 year-old at a crossroads. But not the kind you might expect.
Dana lives with a severe case of Crohn’s Disease that she battles every single day—it is unrelenting and she has been fighting it nearly all her life.
Spending as much time in the hospital as out, Dana depends on intravenous nutrition, constant vigilance, and a wicked sense of humor to keep her alive. Now she faces the daunting task of deciding how she wants to live the rest of her life—coping with the limitations and rigors of her current routine or taking a leap of faith on a complicated transplant that could give her a chance at the normal life she has never known.
SEMICOLON; THE ADVENTURES OF OSTOMY GIRL follows Dana and her unique family in the harrowing months leading up to the biggest decision she has ever had to make--one that can have life-altering consequences. Through it all, Dana, aka Ostomy Girl, confronts each challenge with dignity, grace, and gut-busting humor. Her story is an awe-inspiring testament to the triumph of tenacity and the human spirit in the face of grave adversity.
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The reason I thought it was important to make this film was because with all of the suffering and difficulties this disease brings, it is important to shed light so that others are aware of what life with Crohn's disease is like...from all perspectives. It wreaks havoc on the patient, physically and psychologically...and on the family and caregivers, as well. Still, we are at choice with how we live life, whatever the circumstances are we are always at choice with how we respond to it, thus helping to create our experience. Dana and I want to make a difference in the lives of others, we want to help raise awareness and let others know that they are not alone...that there is hope...that we are all in this together! Never Give Up!
We hope to help encourage and empower others to make a difference so that this suffering can be eradicated.
Thank you for your love and support...
With Love and Gratitude...
In early November 2013, I had a long overdue lunch with my friend Cari Marshall. In the course of our conversation catching up on the news of our families, I asked Cari how her daughter, Dana Marshall-Bernstein, was doing. Cari looked at me and, with fire, passion, and a bit of sadness in her eyes, said “I wish people could see what Dana goes through every day, in and out of the hospital, never having a moment without having to deal with her disease. I just want to follow her around with a camera and show the world what it’s like to live with IBD, what she goes through day in and day out. We should make a documentary about her! It’s time people know about Dana and about this disease.”
My response to her was, “We can do that.”
Dana has Crohn’s Disease and has been ill since the age of 3. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 4. Those of us who were friends with Cari and her ex-husband, Ed Bernstein, remember those early days before Dana’s diagnosis when the two of them frequently had to leave dinners, parties, and events to rush home to Dana, their sick child. Although Cari and Ed were very private about the details of Dana’s illness, their friends knew it was far from the normal childhood illnesses we were all experiencing with our own young children.
Even after the official diagnosis, Cari and Ed remained guarded about Dana and her condition. The easy assumption for their friends and acquaintances was that Dana was “under control”. To see Dana as she grew from a bright, funny, precocious child to a beautiful, smart and wickedly funny young lady in high school, one could be lulled into thinking that all was well with her. Yes, she had a chronic illness, but she was handling it. And then Dana basically disappeared.
While I have a diverse background in television and film, I had never produced and directed a documentary, let alone one with such personal and sensitive subject matter. But I was so struck by the way Dana and Cari handle this hand they have been dealt, that I became determined to help them share this journey with others. These are two unique and amazing women who are dedicated to unraveling the mysteries and the stigma associated with this “shitty” disease and in so doing, reveal so much about how we as humans can cope with life’s hardships. After much discussion, Dana and Cari decided it was time to tell Dana’s story and I was lucky enough to be invited onto the roller coaster ride that is Dana’s life.
Though I knew Dana since she was born, upon embarking on the adventure of making this film, I found out quickly that I knew nothing. Though I have seen what she and her family have faced since she became ill, I really had no idea what she was going through or what her life was like.
This film started out as a simple exploration of a mother/daughter relationship under extremely tough circumstances, but quickly became more. My original plan was to explore Dana’s and Cari’s life views and how the differences in those views lead to conflicts that would be considered normal in any family, but can have much different consequences in a family where a chronic illness is present. None of us wanted this to be a film solely about Crohn’s. We wanted it to capture Dana’s spirit, to capture the essence of how she gets through life with this ugly disease. A simple portrait of a mother and daughter and how they get through life’s curveballs with passion and dignity. But nothing about Dana’s life is simple.
Within weeks of starting the planning process for the film, which included initial contacts with the Media Team at the Cleveland Clinic, Dana—who had just gotten home after a very lengthy stay in the hospital in Cleveland—ended up back in the hospital in Las Vegas. It quickly became evident that she would have to return to Cleveland to deal with complications associated with her Crohn’s. The turnaround was so short that the camera crew I had located in Cleveland was not available for this initial trip back. We were extremely lucky to have the Cleveland Clinic’s full support on this project and they generously agreed to have their crew follow Dana from her arrival through her admission to the hospital for our film’s maiden voyage. As happens with everyone who meets Dana, the Cleveland Clinic crew fell in love with her and became and remains personally involved in her story and our film.
Over the next 5 months, we followed Dana back and forth from Cleveland to Las Vegas and back again. I teetered in Cari’s shoes, never knowing when the call would come that Dana had to return to Cleveland and we had a day to prepare. We followed her through good days and bad, through surgical visits, through days when we knew she didn’t want the camera in her face one more time. And we got a firsthand view of what it is like to spend half your life in the hospital. Dana’s involvement in the film goes above and beyond the traditional role of the documentary subject. Dana conducted the interviews with her doctors, past and present, and because of this we come away with an understanding of the disease without losing touch with the heart of the film. She did it with no notes. I just let the camera roll.
My hope is that our audience will learn from her how we can all cope with any of life’s challenges with dignity, style, and humor. Dana’s journey changes daily, but her fighting spirit remains intact. There are no easy answers here, no right or wrong decisions, just life-changing choices that one very special young woman must make under the toughest of circumstances. Such is the continuing saga of Ostomy Girl. I am honored that she has allowed me to go along for the wild ride.
Robin Greenspun makes her directorial debut with SEMICOLON; THE ADVENTURES OF OSTOMY GIRL following a varied and diverse career in the arts spanning 40 years. In her 20s she owned a dance studio, worked in television production and owned and ran a small advertising agency. Following this, she owned and ran a bookstore and gallery, worked in the TV and movie business, and raised her children, all the while continuing to be a dedicated community and arts advocate.
Along with her husband Danny, Greenspun owns the internationally acclaimed CineVegas Film Festival. She served as President of the festival until the festival's hiatus in 2010. In addition, Greenspun and her husband were partners in Stone Village Pictures, a production company specializing in adapting literary works into motion pictures, including LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, EMPIRE FALLS, PENELOPE and THE LINCOLN LAWYER.
In addition to her work in entertainment, Ms. Greenspun has a long history as a community and arts advocate. From 1989 – 1997, she served on the Nevada Arts Council and was Chair for three years. In 1995, she was appointed by President Clinton to the Kennedy Center President's Advisory Council on the Arts, where she served as treasurer of the organization until the spring of 2001. In 1999, she received the Governor's Arts Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts. She was the co-founder and Founding President of the Discovery Children's Museum which recently honored her with the "GREAT FRIEND TO KIDS" award. She currently serves on the President's Advisory Council of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Cari is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. She grew up in the family apparel business, Marshall-Rousso, where she worked and witnessed the American dream. Her parents were first generation Americans who were able to create amazing opportunities for their family while raising Cari and her brother Todd with the ideals that making a contribution to and a difference in the world and giving back to their community was a privilege and a necessity.
Cari is a prominent philanthropist and activist on behalf of Crohn's Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She is also an active member of her Las Vegas community, having served on the Jewish Federation Executive Committee and currently serves on the executive board of the Anti-Defamation League of Las Vegas. She and her brother Todd were recently honored with the ADL's Americanism Award for their exceptional leadership as Humanitarians.
Professionally, Cari serves as a life coach with an emphasis on helping people get in touch with their individual spirituality thus, choosing more possibilities to live a joyful, happy life in alignment with their values. She believes that life is about experiences, and how we respond to them and learn from them creates empowering opportunity toward growth and bettering our lives.
Wendell Yuponce is a composer for television, film and commercials.
His credits include "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO), "American Princess" (WeTV), "Daisy Does America" (produced by Courtney Cox and David Arquette/ TBS), "Minor Adjustments" (NBC), "History of the Joke" featuring Lewis Black (History Channel), The Screen Actor's Guild Awards (Musical Director/ NBC), Deepak Chopra's PBS Specials, All American Girl (starring Margaret Cho/ ABC), Barclay's Beat" (starring Jeff Garlin/ FOX), comedy specials starring Richard Jeni, Tom Rhodes and Robert Schimmel, as well as licensed music within "Fun with Dick and Jane" (starring Jim Carey and Tea Leoni), "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" (Syndicated), Dateline (NBC), CNN, TNT, ESPN, The Movie Channel, Showtime, HBO, NBC, ABC, CBS, NFL Films, "Celebrity Close-Up" (E! Network), "Extra" (Syndicated), "Saturday Night Live" (NBC), "The Lyricist Lounge" (MTV), "True Hollywood Stories" (E! Network), "Celebrity Profiles" (E! Network), "Access Hollywood" (syndicated), "America's Most wanted" (Syndicated), "Mysteries and Scandals" (E! Network), "Martha Stewart Living" (Syndicated), "Wild On" (E! Network) and many others.
Wendell has also created memorable music for commercials including Warner Brothers "Superman The Animated Series", Volvo, Def Jam Records, Warner Brothers "Batman The Animated Series", Wrangler Jeans, Aladdin on Ice, Snow White on Ice, Barnum and Bailey/ Ringling Brothers Circus, and The Disney Channel.
Commercial artist Jason Martin specializes in concept art and development for multiple industries, ranging from film and television to video game concept design, as well as children's book illustration.
Craig Bergonzoni has been working in TV and Film production in Las Vegas for over 14 years. For the past 4 years he has been a part of the team at a Las Vegas production company, SMP Vegas. Craig has worked on many commercials, web videos, and long form projects such as Play Dead co-written and produced by Teller of Penn & Teller. Craig enjoys working in all aspects of the filmmaking process. Along with editing and producing, he has written and directed his own short films. Craig feels extremely lucky to have been in the right place at the right time in order to join the Semicolon team.
With over thirty years experience in mobile production, Director of Photography Jared Manders has done cinematography for a wide range of television shows and specials including the Food Network's THE SECRET LIFE OF…, HBO'S REAL SPORTS, including award winning segments BIG COAL and HORSE SLAUGHTER, ESPN SPORTS CENTURY, Dateline NBC, ROCK CENTER NBC, ABC 20/20, CBS 48 HOURS, The History Channel's MODERN MARVELS, NFL FILMS, and RESCUE 911, and the award winning BILL RUSSELL: MY LIFE MY WAY. His location work has included Turkey, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Africa, Australia, Japan, China, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Jared is the President of Mandacam Video Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio.
Edward M. Bernstein, Esq., is one of Nevada’s premier personal injury attorneys.
In addition to his practice, for over 25 years Bernstein has hosted a weekly television show simply entitled THE ED BERNSTEIN SHOW.
He is very active in the Las Vegas community and serves as a board member and as a spokesperson for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
Feza Remzi, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Colorectal Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery. His specialty interests include surgical treatment for mucosal ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, diverticulitis, pelvic pouch procedures for mucosal ulcerative colitis and familial adenomatous polyposis, sphincter-saving operations, surgery for carcinoma of the colon and rectum re-operative abdominopelvic surgery.
Dr. Remzi has been recognized with several awards and honors, including being included in Cleveland Magazine’s “Best Doctors” since 2007. He has been the Ed and Joey Story Endowed Chair Holder in Colorectal Surgery since 2007. In 2010, he was honored at the Annual National Surgical Congress in Turkey. The organization awarded him with their Honorary fellowship/membership as the first recipient of this award from this society.
Kareem Abu-Elmagd, MD, PhD,has joined the Department of General Surgery in the Digestive Disease Institute as Director of the Intestinal Transplant Program. During the next few months, Dr. Abu-Elmagd will take on leadership of the Transplant Center from John Fung, MD, Chairman of the Digestive Disease Institute, who has directed the center until now. Dr. Abu-Elmagd has led the Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplant Center at the University of Pittsburgh (UPMC) since its establishment in 1999 and has earned an international reputation for clinical and technical contributions to the field of transplantation. He has authored more than 300 original publications and 40 book chapters. He is an active member of 13 prominent professional and scientific societies.
Jean-Paul Achkar, MD, is a Staff Physician in the Department of Gastroenterology of the Digestive Disease Center, located on the main campus of Cleveland Clinic. From 2002 to 2007, he served as Director of the Cleveland Clinic Gastroenterology Fellowship Program. He is certified in gastroenterology by the National Board of Examiners, and his specialty interests include Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Dr. Achkar has also received the Physician of the Year Award from the Gastroenterology Department of Cleveland Clinic, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America Premier Physician Award, two Senior Fellow Teaching Awards, and the American College of Gastroenterology Governors Award for Best Scientific Paper. He is a member of the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Gastroenterological Association, and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
Howard Baron has been a practicing Pediatric GI specialist for over 21 years. Dr. Baron serves on the faculty of the University of Nevada School of Medicine as an associate professor, and also holds an adjunct clinical faculty position at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has been honored with several teaching awards, and is author or co-author of over 30 published original articles and book chapters, and has participated in several clinical trials as a principle investigator. Dr. Baron is on the board of trustees of ImproveCareNow, an international learning health system of Pediatric GI specialists caring for children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This network has been awarded over $20 million in federal grants from agencies such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), and has built the largest database of Pediatric IBD patients in the world. He is a board member for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Southern Nevada Chapter, and is also a past-president and current trustee of the Clark County Medical Society, chairman of Medpac for Clark County, and co-chairman of the Government Affairs Commission for the Nevada State Medical Association. He was recently honored by Las Vegas HEALS, with the Inspired Excellence in Healthcare Award.
Dr. Ezra Steiger is a consultant in General Surgery and Gastroenterology in the Digestive Disease Institute of the Cleveland Clinic and a Professor of Surgery in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. He is actively involved in managing patients needing nutrition support in the hospital and at home and in evaluating and managing patients with short gut syndrome. He is also currently involved in continuing research in parenteral nutrition and intestinal failure.
Dr. Steiger joined the General Surgery Staff at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 1975. He started the Cleveland Clinic’s Nutrition Support Team, its Home Parenteral Nutrition Program and its Intestinal Rehabilitation Program. He also started the Cleveland Clinic’s Home Infusion Therapy business and was its first medical director and on its governing board. He has served as Vice Chairman of the Department of General Surgery and head of the Section of Surgical Nutrition.
"If you think chronic illness is nothing to laugh at, let us introduce you to a young woman named Dana. Diagnosed at age four with Crohn's disease, her 25 years have been a ceaseless round of surgeries, medication, intravenous feeding, and close encounters with death. She tells you this with a grin. Dana is a miraculous example of the power of humor. With her equally remarkable mother, she has forged a life filled with love, courage, and bluntly off-the-wall humor, in spite of her disease. As we travel with Dana and her mother between their Las Vegas home and their “second home” at our own Cleveland Clinic, we share Dana's daily struggles and her innermost thoughts on life and family, told as only Dana can. SEMICOLON; THE ADVENTURES OF OSTOMY GIRL is not a story of disease and decay. This is a story of defiance and determination. Prepare to lose your heart as well as your inhibitions about not laughing at “certain things.” Dana will teach you the meaning of courage, along with the value of a really good poop joke!"
"Semicolon: The Adventures of Ostomy Girl needs to be seen by anyone dealing with pain or illness, or who loves someone who is. It celebrates life and love as it unflinchingly confronts sickness and suffering."
Named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, who first described the disease in 1932 along with col-leagues Dr. Leon Ginzburg and Dr. Gordon D. Oppenheimer, Crohn’s disease belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.
Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus.
Approximately 1.6 million Americans currently have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. As many as 70,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed in the United States each year. Men and Women are equally likely to be affected, and while the disease can occur at any age, Crohn’s is more prevalent among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.
The causes of Crohn’s Disease are not well understood. Diet and stress may aggravate Crohn’s Disease, but they do not cause the disease on their own. Recent research suggests hereditary, genetics, and/or environmental factors contribute to the development of Crohn’s Disease.
The GI tract normally contains harmless bacteria, many of which aid in digestion. The immune system usually attacks and kills foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. Under normal circumstances, the harmless bacteria in the intestines are protected from such an attack. In people with IBD, these bacteria are mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system mounts a response. Cells travel out of the blood to the intestines and produce inflammation (a normal immune system response). However, the inflammation does not subside, leading to chronic inflammation, ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and eventually causing patient symptoms.
Crohn’s tends to run in families, so if you or a close relative have the disease, your family members have a significantly increased chance of developing Crohn’s. Studies have shown that 5% to 20% of affected individuals have a first – degree relative (parents, child, or sibling) with one of the diseases. The risk is greater with Crohn’s disease than ulcerative colitis. The risk is also substantially higher when both parents have IBD. The disease is most common among people of eastern European backgrounds, including Jews of European descent. In recent years, an increasing number of cases have been reported among African American populations.
The environment in which you live also appears to play a role. Crohn’s is more common in developed countries rather than un-developed countries, in urban rather than rural areas, and in northern rather than southern climates.
CREDIT: CROHN’S AND COLITIS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA WEBSITE
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