Jessica Orbach, accompanied by her five-year-old daughter, Lea, recounted the misery of coping with Crohn’s disease as about 900 people at the Waldorf-Astoria listened intently, many with tears in their eyes.
“The guilt I felt having passed this disease onto my child was overwhelming,” she said Wednesday at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America Greater New York Chapter’s annual Women of Distinction luncheon. “I was completely helpless as her mother.”
She said her daughter endured a “medical roller-coaster” with side effects from steroids ranging from seizures to anemia. “Lea had lost all control of her body.” She was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when she was one year old.
Fortunately, after reconstruction of her intestines, Lea “functions like the rest of us.” And for her courage, Lea received the foundation’s Rising Star Award.
Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis are known collectively as inflammatory bowel disease.
During the event, Bergdorf Goodman staged a fashion show featuring evening collections of Dior, J.Mendel, Marchesa, Monique Lhuillier, Naeem Khan, Oscar de la Renta, Randi Rahm and Valentino.
Those honored as Women of Distinction were Lesley Stahl, a correspondent on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and Nancy Lynn, director of corporate relations for the American Museum of Natural History.
Event emcee Cynthia McFadden, a co-anchor ABC’s “Primetime” and “Nightline,” said, “I’m delighted to be involved again this year with the luncheon. As a person with Crohn’s disease, I find new inspiration every year in the courage of so many young women coping with a myriad of bowel diseases, diseases that are, frankly, hard for many people to discuss publicly. Each year, this luncheon gives us an opportunity to raise money and awareness.”
Also present were the luncheon chairwomen Ellen Crown, Elyse Newhouse, Michelle Swarzman and Michele Sweetwood.
During the last 14 years, the luncheon has raised more than $8.3 million, including $1.5 million last week.