Garrett Taira is a comedian, dancer, filmmaker, social media rockstar, and all-around positive representation of the impact that the arts can have on someone with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS). However, to understand this journey, we need to rewind the clocks by thirty years.
Garrett was born with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, which means that there was no motility in his intestines. At an early age, he had to get both a gastrostomy tube and central line, and also begin receiving his nutrients via total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
“Throughout elementary school, I was in and out of the hospital a lot,” he said. “I had all of these tubes coming out of me, so adults would need to go into my classes and basically say, ‘Hey, we need to be extra careful with this kid.’ I was definitely bullied because I was different.”
If you fast forward to Garrett’s senior year of high school, however, it’s clear that Garrett’s social experiences changed drastically because he was crowned homecoming king by his peers.
But his health challenges were far from over.
“Senior year, I had a total bowel resection because there were perforations in my intestines,” Garrett said. “That was a major, major surgery and it gave me short gut. The surgery pushed me to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and led me to pursue dance.”
Finding His Groove
Shortly after surgery, Garrett started training in contemporary, hip hop, and break dancing. Through dancing with professional companies and teaching dance classes, he was able to reconnect with his body after his bowel resection.
“At first, I was so sad because I thought my dreams of dancing were being ripped from me. Luckily, the surgery helped my extended stomach come in, which gave me more rotation and less pain,” he said. “Even with the ileostomy, dance helped me feel more confident in who I am and was very therapeutic for me.
After the COVID-19 pandemic closed dance studios, Garrett shifted his focus to other passions: film and comedy. He aspires to create high-quality short films, to spend more time on-screen than behind the camera, and to eventually act in a Marvel movie.
Comedically, he’s inspired by men who bridge the gap between comedy and acting, like Ryan Reynolds, Adam Sandler, and Andy Samberg. Garrett credits his humor to the influence that time in the hospital had on him as a child.
“Humor has always been a big part of me. Growing up, my mom did a really good job of never letting me sulk too long, of reminding me that there are better times ahead and things to look forward to,” he said. “Humor’s been a good coping mechanism and a good distraction from the doom and gloom of hospitals.”
A Hopeful Future
Garrett’s current goals, however, are on hold because he is on the list for a bowel transplant.
“I have to put everything on the back burner because I could get called at any time,” he said. “The doctors say this could change my life forever. The goal is to get rid of my central line, G-Tube, and ostomy, and to get me on food for the first time. That’s a dream to me because I’ve never been able to eat.”
As he progresses through the transplant process, Garrett is creating a video series and posting it to his Instagram. He wants to document his own experiences, educate people about his reality, and provide representation to other SBS patients.
“I want to create more films, and I want to be known for my creativity, but I also want to be known for my resilience,” he said. “I think it’s so important to post about these things. I wouldn’t have felt so much uncertainty growing up if I could have seen someone else with a chronic illness doing stuff that I wanted to do.”
After a successful transplant, Garrett’s looking forward to traveling, swimming, and eating foods like sushi and dim sum, which his Chinese-Japanese family grew up on. In the meantime, he’s focused on creating happy memories with his family and friends.
“If you can’t do things you know you’ll love, then you have to find another thing that you love to do,” he said. “I’m reminding myself of the things I’ve gone through and come out of, imagining myself getting through the transplant and coming out on top.”