Since extra security precautions are still being taken at airports and other transit hubs worldwide, a little pre-planning and understanding of both security rules and your right to privacy can help you avoid problems in transit and enjoy your travels.

• TSA officers should NOT ask you to show your pouch—you may be asked to rub over your pouch outside your clothing so they can test your hand to rule out explosive residue.

• In particular, remember that all airport screenings must be conducted with courtesy, dignity and respect. You may request screening in a private area at all U.S. airports and most international destinations. If you encountered treatment outside of TSA protocol you can file a complaint, (please copy UOAA’s volunteer TSA Liaison gfsalamy@comcast.net)

A few additional tips to keep you on the go:

Carry a statement from your healthcare professional stating your need for ostomy supplies AS WELL AS a Travel Communications Card (which can be found here.)

UOAA's TSA Notification Card

TSA rules state that you can be screened without having to empty or expose your ostomy; however, you may need to conduct a self pat-down of the ostomy as a test.

NOTE: You may always have a travel companion with you during a private screening.

If you are traveling to a foreign country, bring this information written in the appropriate language. Google Translate may be helpful with translations. If you find you need additional supplies while traveling, a local pharmacy is a great starting point. The local pharmacist should be able to provide you with the necessary supplies and/or refer you to a local clinic/hospital for support.

Pre-cut all cut-to-fit barriers at homeAlthough current United States Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) rules allow curved point scissors with blades less than 4″ in length in your carry-on luggage, keeping your ostomy scissors in your checked luggage may avoid delay and extra screening

Consider purchasing travel insurance that guarantees getting you to a hospital, if necessary.

When it comes to supplies, OVERPACK! Better safe than sorry. Pack at least three days’ worth of ostomy supplies in your carry-on luggage, just in case your checked luggage is misplaced or there are delays and/or non-availability at your destination.

Drink, drink, drink. Nothing slows down a vacation more than dehydration.

If traveling by car, take advantage of rest areas. Stop and empty your pouch regularly; you never know how far it will be until the next one!

Pack ostomy-friendly snacks.

Keep a set of clean clothes handy whether in your carry-on luggage or in the trunk of your car.

Carry a few plastic bags and wet wipes for quick clean-up.

The idea of taking long trips with an ostomy can seem daunting. But with a little extra preparation, you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

 

Editor’s note: This blog is from one of our digital sponsors, Convatec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Twelve years ago, Sarah had ileostomy surgery after living for years with ulcerative colitis. Ostomy surgery has allowed Sarah to get back to eating foods she loves, and she says “it has been the best thing for me.”

Sarah now eats many of the same things she did before her ileostomy and enjoys them more than ever. Here are some tips that Sarah has learned over the years for eating, digestion and activity.

  1. Drink up. Hydration will always be an issue, so drink lots of water. I like to toss in a slice of lemon for a little extra flavor.
  2. And chew some more. If it looks the same coming out as it did going in, you need to chew those foods better.
  3. Start slow and build up. If you’re right out of surgery, you might be more sensitive to foods than you will be six months down the road. Use trial and error to see how foods work for you and be sure to track the results. If you’ve had ileostomy surgery, add high-fiber foods back into your diet gradually to make sure you can digest them well. These include raw fruits and veggies (especially with skins), nuts, seeds and popcorn.
  4. Input always makes output. With an ileostomy, your stoma is going pretty much all the time, so it’s important to track and manage your input and output. For example, if I was going on a job interview, I would not eat a big meal right before, because my stoma may create output and my pouch would fill up – and you don’t want that during an interview!
  5. Do what you love! I go on bike rides, I go boogie boarding. It may take a little time and tracking to know what works best for your body, but you can do all those things and keep your stoma safe.

Sarah, with the help of the My Ostomy Journey App, now has the ability to track everything digitally. She can also use the app to contact someone for additional support, or if she has any questions.

Sarah says, “The My Ostomy Journey app makes it easy for us to keep track of whether we’ve had enough water or what foods we eat. I wish I’d had this resource right after surgery, especially when I was first figuring out what does and doesn’t work for my body!”

 

Editor’s note: This blog is from one of our digital sponsors, Convatec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Hollister is proud to support Ostomy Awareness Day! In partnership with United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA), Hollister Incorporated is proud to stand with the entire ostomy community in celebration. Here are some ways you can learn something new, show your support, or connect with others in the global ostomy community.

Show Off Your Stoma Sticker

Stoma Stickers are a great way to raise awareness, start a conversation, or show support. Request your free stoma sticker today! For more opportunities to connect online, check out the Hollister Incorporated digital stickers pack on Instagram to enhance your Instagram posts and stories. Share a picture with yours on social media, using the hashtags #StomaSticker, #OAD2022, and #OstomateVoices.

Thriving After Ostomy Surgery

To help people who haven’t yet had ostomy surgery better understand what life really looks like on the other side, we’ve teamed up with Alive & Kicking to answer five key questions about life with an ostomy. Share this website with others still adjusting to their stoma. Or, share how you thrive by telling us what other questions or experiences you would add!

Kids Ask: What is a Stoma?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People often wonder what to say to others, especially to children or grandchildren, when they first learn about an ostomy. While what kids ask can sometimes be surprising, their sincerity can brighten your day. We brought kids and ostomates together to learn about stomas for the first time. Hear what they had to say.

For more resources and interactive ways to get involved, visit the Hollister Ostomy Awareness Day page.

 

(Editor’s note: Hollister Incorporated is the Exclusive Diamond Sponsor of this year’s Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. Their support helps make these UOAA ostomy awareness events possible)

My journey to a Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) diagnosis followed years of motility issues, intestinal complications and numerous surgeries, including a jejunostomy, which is an ostomy that creates an opening in the part of the small intestine called the jejunum. As a trained architect, I believe there’s no problem too big to solve, and applying that mindset has helped me to navigate the challenges of SBS and life with an ostomy. This is my story.

When I was diagnosed with a motility disorder at the age of 15, I never thought that it would have such an effect in my life. I was able to function with physical activity and limited diet until I had my colon removed in 2015 due to colonic volvulus. In my case, this meant that my colon twisted around itself, causing tissue death from lack of blood flow. The procedure worsened my underlying motility disorder of the small intestine. As a result of my underlying condition of chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction (CIPO), my intestines wouldn’t function. I lost the ability to absorb nutrients through my small intestine. I was in desperate need of answers.

Ultimately, I was evaluated for an intestinal transplant. At the time, my small intestine was severely compromised due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In order to improve my odds of surviving the transplant, I underwent surgery to remove the majority of my small intestine in 2018, leaving me with only four inches of small intestine that didn’t function properly. The surgery, and the resulting serious and chronic malabsorption disorder that accompanied it, resulted in my diagnosis of short bowel syndrome, SBS.

To learn more about SBS, visit https://sbs-whattoknow.com/. To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out https://www.facebook.com/TakedaSBS/.

 

While not everyone will experience an SBS diagnosis the same way, for me, the removal of my colon and most of my small intestine eliminated the ongoing pain and discomfort I experienced when I was living with a motility disorder and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome. Just prior to the surgery to remove my small intestine, I weighed 87 pounds and couldn’t walk half a mile without becoming exhausted. I now weigh 122 pounds and was able to walk nine miles the other day. Keep in mind that this is just my experience and everyone’s journey will be different. In consultation with my medical team, I have decided to put my intestinal transplant on hold.

In my case, living with SBS also means that if I don’t eat the right things, it can affect my electrolytes and fluid balance. Without my colon, I don’t absorb fluids. So, I have found that if I drink water, I can actually lose fluids. A key part of managing my condition has been learning to listen to my own body and trying to understand what’s happening inside. For example, I have learned to recognize the signs of dehydration and have made it a priority to understand my lab values. As I have gained a better understanding of my condition, I also think it’s been important for me to find the right providers for what I’m going through at each stage of the process.

 

Navigating how to live with a jejunostomy was a challenging aspect in my SBS management, especially when I experienced leaking. I remember once going to a rare bookstore and my ostomy bag opened. In those moments, with liquid pouring down my legs, I had never felt more embarrassed. However, my grandma taught me that you have a choice in uncomfortable situations – you can either cry or laugh. I try to choose the latter. Not everyone will experience leaks with an ostomy, but if it happens to you, I’d encourage you to give yourself grace. Adapting to life with an ostomy can be a gradual process. For example, when I first had my jejunostomy, it took me an hour to change my bag and now it only takes me 15 minutes.

Despite the challenges, I never gave up on looking for answers and solutions. My training as an architect has led me to believe there is nothing that can’t be solved. After consulting with multiple ostomy teams and connecting with people who share similar experiences, I started to embrace the changes that came with my SBS diagnosis and jejunostomy.

I have been lucky enough to receive tremendous support throughout my SBS journey. My family is my biggest source of support. My husband has been there for me despite knowing about my chronic condition. My dad is the one who figured out how to empty the additional drainage bag overnight by flipping it upside down. My mother and grandma have created customized recipes to help with my oral food intake. But, for me, it’s been a continual process to educate the people around me about my condition. I have learned to be patient and vocal about my specific needs.

For anyone living with a rare and chronic illness, I encourage you to reach out and seek community support. A few members of the SBS community have inspired me and helped me to better understand my condition and encouraged me to break down barriers in my own SBS journey by sharing their own experiences. I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences.

When I was first diagnosed with SBS, I did not think it would be possible to continue doing the things I love. Along the way, the architect in me has looked for opportunities to “design my future” with SBS by embracing challenges, educating myself and the people around me, and connecting with others in the community. I am proud of the progress I’ve made – I have a job that I love and I live in a city that I love. SBS is only a small piece of who I am, and it does not define who I am. I hope you can embrace YOUR journey with SBS, too.

This article was created by Takeda.

 

Editor’s Note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Takeda. Sponsor support along with donations from our readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Actress, model, businesswoman, and cancer survivor LeeAnne Hayden shares diet and fitness tips that can help you live your best life with an ostomy.

Learn simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health and wellness.

Living a healthy lifestyle. We all know we should be doing it, but sometimes it’s not so easy – especially after having ostomy surgery. When it comes to eating and exercise, we’re worried about the possibility of blockages and hernias. I get a lot of questions about those issues.

I have had my colostomy for over six years now, and after doing a lot of testing of what my body can and can’t tolerate, I feel great. Regardless of any concerns you may be experiencing, it is so important to live a healthy lifestyle. When we feed our bodies the right foods and move our bodies with exercise, over time we will see, and more importantly FEEL, the positive results.

6 Tips for Healthy Eating With an Ostomy

So, what do we do? Our Moms always said, “Eat those vegetables and have an apple!” However, most of us must watch our fruit and vegetable intake so that we avoid intestinal blockages. Here are six tips that can help you eat well and safely:

  1. Cook your fruits and vegetables. When foods are cooked, they are easier for the body to break down. Try sautéing, baking, or even air frying your favorite fruits and vegetables. I am constantly sautéing spinach, red peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and then tossing in some lean protein and jasmine rice or sweet potatoes to complete the meal.
  2. Blend your fruits and vegetables. After every workout I have a protein smoothie. I combine one cup of unsweetened almond milk with one scoop of vanilla whey protein, a handful of spinach, a half of a banana, and one tablespoon of peanut butter.
  3. Chop your salads. The smaller the pieces, the easier they are to digest. I’ve been loving the bags of pre-chopped salad that are in grocery stores now.
  4. Take a digestive enzyme after a meal. These supplements can help your system break down vegetables and fruits even more.
  5. Chew slowly. Our lives are so busy that when we sit down to eat, we often don’t take our time. Slow down at the table and chew your food more. This will help you digest it better.
  6. Keep a food log. Writing down what you ate and how it made you feel will help you make better choices.

Be sure to check with a dietitian about what foods you can safely eat. For example, mushrooms can cause intestinal blockages for some people living with an ileostomy.

3 Tips for Exercising Your Core After Ostomy Surgery

When you have an ostomy, working on your core is important. It can be scary prospect, however, since the fear of getting a hernia is a real thing. So, always check with your doctor before starting any fitness program.

Core exercise is great for improving pelvic floor strength, posture, and balance. It also can help prevent ostomy bag leaks because the flange will fit better on your peristomal skin.

Here are three gentle core movements that you can do to help strengthen your core:

  1.  Standing single knee lift. Stand with your feet hips-length apart, and your hands on your waist or down by your side. Tense your abdominal muscles and lift one knee. Do as many as you can or three sets of 10 to 20 on one side before moving to the other side.
  2.  Holding a plank position. Planks put less strain on your spine and hip flexors than abdominal crunches or sit-ups. A beginner version can be done against a piece of furniture (e.g., a chair or a low table). Place your forearms on the furniture, keep your back flat, don’t sag into your forearms, keep your core tight, and hold that position for 15 to 30 seconds. The further away your legs are from the furniture the more activated the core will become. Advanced options are done on the floor. Put your hands directly under your shoulders, grind your toes into the floor, and tighten your gluteal and core muscles. Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a place on the floor about a foot beyond your hands. Hold this position from 20 seconds to two minutes.
  3.  Stomach crunches. Lie on your back with your knees bent to a 90-degree angle and your feet on the floor. Make sure your back is flat. Squeeze in your abdominal muscles and bring your head to your knees. Your glutes will try to play too, but don’t let them. Focus solely on your abs, hold for three to five seconds, and then release. Do three sets of 10 to 20.

I hope these wellness tips have been helpful to you! Share with us on social media your favorite fruit and vegetable recipes, and what you think of these moves!


To learn more about LeeAnne Hayden, listen to The Beautiful Bag podcast, visit leeannhayden.com, or follow @leeannehayden on InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

People who provided testimonials received compensation from Hollister Incorporated. The testimonials, statements, and opinions presented are applicable to the people depicted. These testimonials are representative of their experience, but the exact results and experience will be unique and individual to each person.

 

Editor’s note: This article is from Hollister Incorporated, a digital sponsor in support of the free online resources of ostomy.org and UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Are you a new ostomate? Or a soon-to-be ostomate? No matter how far you are in your ostomy journey, adapting to your new situation is an inevitable part of the process. Talking to others who have already been in your shoes can help you in adjusting to this time of your life. That’s why we asked Josh Nelson, the first active-duty U.S. Airforce Pilot living with an ileostomy, to share his story and his experience with his ostomy journey to give insights on how getting an ostomy can be just the beginning of an exciting new chapter.

Before surgery

What was your life like before your ostomy surgery?

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in November of 2017. Throughout the next year after my diagnosis, I tried maximum medical therapies starting with oral medications, then biologics, and then transitioned to combination therapies with biologics. Unfortunately, my body just did not respond to the medications, and the disease just took over my life. If you want to talk about quality of life with ulcerative colitis before I had the surgery – I didn’t have one. I was 145lbs. I was having 18 to 20 bowel movements a day. I wouldn’t leave my house. I knew where every bathroom, rest stop, and gas station were from my house to where I work. Any time I did leave the house, the only thing on my mind was, “Where’s the bathroom?” in case I had that sudden urgency to go. My wife and daughters left me alone. They wouldn’t even ask if I would go with them anywhere because they just knew I did not want to go anywhere. I had no quality of life. I was a prisoner in my own home, and that’s no way to live your life.

How did you feel when you learned you would be having ostomy surgery? What questions of fears did you have?

I made the decision to have an ostomy surgery in November of 2018, and I had about three days’ notice before the surgery was going to take place. The staff at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where I was inpatient for 30 days prior to surgery, did a great job of introducing what life with a stoma will be like. My questions were, “What is a stoma?” “What are the appliances that I’m going to have?” “How do I care for this thing, and how do I recover?” and  “How do I slowly adapt to having an ileostomy and then getting my life back?” The WOC nurses were great, because they would just simply start to explain, “Oh, here’s what a wafer or barrier looks like,” “Here’s what a pouch looks like,” “Here’s what some of the accessories are.” They also explained, whether it’s ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy, people do go on to live fully functional lives.

I definitely had some goals, but I had no fears when it came to having the surgery. I mean, okay, fine – I had maybe a couple fears of having surgery, but the stoma itself I was not afraid of. The reason for that is because I was kind of at my lowest of lows, and I thought to myself, “How could this be any worse than what I’m dealing with right now?” I remember my surgeon and the medical staff told me that once the surgery was done, I would no longer have the pain, and each day moving forward I could start to focus on getting my life back.

What advice do you have for people who are considering ostomy surgery?

My advice to anybody who is considering having the surgery is to keep an open mind. It will take some work. You will need to adapt to what you have. That means taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally because it is a step-by-step process. It is a big transition, but I’ve done everything I could to make sure my quality of life has improved. I do not regret my decision one bit. I have my life back and that’s what I think is most important.

Coming home

What was your experience like right after your ostomy surgery?

I had about five days in the hospital after surgery, and during that time I was focused on recovery, protecting my abdomen, and getting my strength back. The nurses did a great job of explaining step by step what it takes to change out the pouch and care for my stoma. Before I left the hospital, I needed to make sure that my pain was under control, starting to move around, and understood how to change my appliance by myself.

What were your goals after your surgery?

I focused on transitioning to home life again, figuring out how to slowly heal my body, and how to start eating foods again.

My goals were:

  1. Getting healthy food into my body so that my body can recover.
  2. Finding out what schedule I should be on for changing out my appliance.
  3. Observing my stoma area regularly to keep my skin healthy, prevent skin breakdown, and make sure that my stoma was healing properly.

What would you tell someone else returning home from their surgery?

  • Don’t be afraid of touching the stoma because your stoma doesn’t have any nerve endings you can feel.
  • It’s extremely important to have a solid understanding of how to change your pouch and ask for products before you leave the hospital.
  • Your WOC nurse will probably explain that what works best for you in the hospital may change after you go home and are healing up. Initially, it might be multiple times a week that you’re changing your whole appliance out because your abdominal area might’ve been swollen from the surgery, and as it starts to reside some of those wafers might fit differently.
  • Everybody’s different. Everybody responds to products differently. Those first couple of weeks to a month is just trial and error to find out which products work best for you. After you figure out your change routine, your quality of life can start to improve. You no longer need to worry about having multiple leaks or having multiple issues with your appliance, and you can start to focus on making other goals for your life with an ostomy.
  • Just take it day by day. Don’t think of the end state right away because it’s going to take time to get there. Create small goals on a day-to-day basis and then think long term and how to get there. It’s definitely a marathon; it is not a sprint. You’re going to learn something new every single day until you get comfortable living your life and understanding how to handle your ostomy.

Managing life with an ostomy

How has your life changed now that you have an ostomy?

I’ve had my ileostomy for over three years, and I can honestly say I haven’t looked back or had any regrets whatsoever to surgically remove my colon. I try to tell people my worst day as an ileostomate far exceeds my best day ever living under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I am no longer bound by any type of medication. I have no special diet, nor do I have any restrictions, and my quality of life is through the roof. I could not be happier, and I do not regret the decision one bit whatsoever. But how did I get there?

First off, I accepted the fact early on that I was going to have an ileostomy for the rest of my life because it was a decision I made for a better quality of life. After accepting it, I could focus on moving forward versus dwelling on the “how’s” and “why’s” with ulcerative colitis.

Secondly, after trying multiple different products, I came across a Coloplast product that worked really well for me. Once I found the product that worked well for me, that gave me the confidence to continue moving forward with my life and not have to worry about having leakage or skin issues. I have a couple routines, I’ll change my pouch no more than twice a week, but no less than once a week. I observe how the wear and tear of my wafer and appliance is working.

On top of that, I wanted to do everything that I could to make sure that I am living the best life that I can. I made some personal decisions, such as eating better and taking care of myself. I exercise quite a bit, and I try to eat fairly well. I try to focus on eating healthy foods so I can get the nutrition that my body needs.

What are some other tips you want to share about managing life with an ostomy?

It’s important to understand that this affects everybody differently, and it’s up to you to determine what works best for you to adapt, overcome, and live your life with any type of ostomy. I reached out to local support groups, and I think that’s extremely beneficial because you get connected with like-minded individuals. No matter whether they have a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy, you can touch base with them and share your fears and concerns. A lot of these people have lived decades with their ostomy, and they’re proof to you that you probably can too. Finding that help and resource is extremely beneficial in helping you understand how to navigate life now that you have an ostomy and what’s out there for you.

 

I hope this helped you to understand what it was like to be diagnosed with the disease, have a permanent ileostomy, and how I live my life moving forward. Thank you! -Josh

 

 

*Josh has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person’s situation is unique, so your experience may not be the same. Talk to your healthcare professional about which product might be right for you.

At Coloplast, we strive to provide innovative solutions to support people with intimate healthcare needs and make their lives easier. Now, we’ve got an app for that!

If you’re looking for additional support during your ostomy journey, download MyOstomyLife by Coloplast® Care. The app is designed to help you be successful and build confidence in managing your ostomy by providing you with personalized tools and resources for your daily life with an ostomy.

With MyOstomyLife, you can create a digital stoma journal to track your pouching changes over time and easily download to share with your nurse, if requested. The app also provides you with educational resources offering reliable product and lifestyle advice, tips customized to your ostomy type, and inspirational videos from other ostomates like Josh.

You can also easily contact one of our Coloplast Care® Ostomy Advisors for product and lifestyle support within the app. We’re here to help!

Download MyOstomyLife for free on your smartphone or tablet today to get started!

Have any questions about the app? Visit Coloplast® Care at www.ostomy.coloplastcare.us or call

1-877-858-2656.

Information provided in the app and from Coloplast® Care is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice and should not be interpreted to contain treatment recommendations. You should rely on the healthcare professional who knows your individual history for personal medical advice and diagnosis.

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 

There’s no bond more important than the one with your own body. ConvaTec helps you create a healthy bond with yourself, your stoma. And then, with the world around you.

We want to show the world that people living with Ostomies have deep, beautiful nurturing relationships with everyone and everything around them.

This is Kya’s story: Coming out of the hospital postpartum and post-surgery, I honestly never thought I could never go swimming again. I never thought that I could get back to my normal life, I never thought I’d be my normal self. Turns out, I’m a better version of myself. I’m stronger and with Healthy Bonds, I am doing so much better. This is my life now. I used to think once I got an Ostomy that date nights would be stressful and less romantic, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Happy anniversary, baby.

 

Editor’s note: This blog/video is from one of our digital sponsors, ConvaTec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

By Makeda Armorer-Wade

Who knew that having an ostomy would be such an enlightening journey?

I was terrified. But my ostomy was just the beginning of this new experience for me and my entire family. When I received my first ostomy, it was an emergency surgery. There was no time to prepare, learn or even have a voice. It was life or death, and since I spent the previous three decades fighting for my life, I chose the ileostomy. Up until that point, I knew nothing much about an ostomy, other than I didn’t want one. When I considered that point, I realized it was because of the cavalier attitude of a medical professional, who told me,“what’s the big deal, a lot of people live with ostomies.”

I quickly learned that I had to live that Possibility Lifestyle. I learned that I was in charge of my mindset and could change it at any time with a little motivation. I don’t want to give the impression that it was easy, because it wasn’t. But I would need to learn because I was being discharged. When I got home, I decided to take myself to ostomy school. I did as much research as I could, in order to be able to function and live some quality of a life.

It was very difficult and took about 90 days to get accustomed to my new best friend. By the time I was beginning to accept my ostomy, I was given the date for my takedown. I still had a month to go and I had already lost 100 lbs. I was already counting down. I believe that my biggest challenge with my first ostomy, was the fact that Crohn’s Disease had ravaged my body. So, it wasn’t just the ostomy, but I was so weak and depleted, and unable to absorb any nutrients. At one point, I had a TPN line to feed me.

When the day came for me to go to the hospital, I celebrated and gave away all of my ostomy products to patients that I thought could use them. Simply said, I was done and over it. My recovery didn’t happen as quickly as I wanted, which required me to be patient and work my P.L.A.N.© I needed to Prepare and figure out what my diet would be to help me put some weight on. I was down to 98 pounds. I had to Let go of the shame that I was feeling, realizing that all of this was out of my control. I had to ask for help, because I just didn’t have the strength to do it myself. And I vowed to Never give up, because I desperately needed to live The Possibilities Lifestyle.

I knew that the possibilities for my life were endless, if I could just hold on. I just had to believe.

It took me about 12 weeks to be strong enough to go back to work. I had to believe, that just maybe my doctors and nurses were right. Everyone couldn’t be wrong. The messaging was consistent. “God must have something special for you to do”. Every time I met a new medical provider who reviewed my record, they would say, “Wow you have some story. You must have something important to do, with all that you have been through.” The Residents would ask permission to interview me.

I truly believe that when you receive an assignment from God, you will have the necessary experiences and pressure to become masterful. Just like the pressure needed to produce a diamond. I have learned so much with each surgery and recovery.

Fast forward six years. And here we go again. Crohn’s disease was causing significant problems with my health. After a conversation and encouragement from my gynecologist, I called my surgeon and made an appointment. After numerous tests, we made the decision to move forward with another Ostomy. This time a colostomy. (A colostomy is a surgical opening in the large intestine that is brought through the abdominal wall). This surgery was different, in that I initiated the conversation. I was armed with information and I had some semblance of control. This all matters in your perception of your ostomy.

Climbing the valley after this surgery started like the others, on a walker and a liquid diet. And the determination needed to propel myself forward was there as well. I was looking up knowing I had made the right decision. I began sharing and supporting other ostomates in monthly meetings at the hospital.

The more I encouraged others the better I felt about my own situation.

I began working with a life coach who encouraged me to be kind to myself and set goals that continued to positively impact my recovery and healing. This was the best thing that I could do. I knew from my conversations with ostomates that they needed an adjustment period and continuous support. With everything I shared, she continued to reinforce that my story was no longer mine. She said “do you think you went through all that you did, just to suffer?” My answer was no. I already knew what I had to do. It was all in the Value of the Valley. If you want to know how that turned out, stay tuned.

Your Ostomy is Just the Beginning Part 1

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, ConvaTec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

What is more important: fit, flexibility, stretch capability, or adhesion?

If you cannot decide, or there are two or more that are just as important, you are not wrong. Why not have all in one for your barrier selection? You can have fit, flexibility, stretch capability, and adhesion in one pouching system!

Fit

When selecting a barrier, many considerations can come into play. When considering fit, proper application and sizing is important to help reduce leakage and create a seal around the stoma. Utilizing a stoma measuring guide or template with each pouch change is beneficial to help obtain the proper fit. Stoma size can change after surgery, so measuring is key.  Deciding between a precut or a cut-to-fit barrier is also important to consider, as it depends on which option provides the best fit to your body.

Flexibility

A flexible barrier will move, bend, and stretch with your body allowing you to be comfortable as you go about your daily activities. Flexibility with stability helps achieve a seal around the stoma along with the proper fit. In day-to-day movements like, getting in and out of your car, vacuuming, getting a spice off the top shelf, or even a sport you enjoy playing, flexibility is important to move with your body.

Stretch capability

Can you have flexibility without stretch capability and vice versa? What if these two worked hand in hand to create the best seal and optimal comfort to help you with your daily activities? Think back to reaching to get a spice off the top shelf in the kitchen. You need to have flexibility in the barrier to obtain the stretch, but then when back in a normal standing position the ability for the barrier to go back to the original shape after completing the stretch—how is that obtained? Teamwork!

Adhesion

Lastly the ability for the barrier to have adhesion to the skin. This can be a challenge outside of the barrier itself. For example, what if there is a small area of irritation, moisture, or the landscape is not perfectly flat (which is very common)? The adhesion is important to provide the tact to the skin so that the barrier has all the capabilities: fit, flexibility and stretch! Good adhesive security is obtained by gentle warmth using the body heat of your hands, and a nice gentle pressure with application from the inside (near the stoma) all the way to the edges of the barrier. This helps activate the adhesive into those small nooks and crannies that our skin has even if we can’t see them with the naked eye.

Essentially, there are many questions that may come up when deciding on the best barrier fit for you. Let’s go back to the original question that was posed: What is more important: fit, flexibility, stretch capability, or adhesion? The answer can be any of the above, and it all depends on your own lifestyle and personal needs. Things to keep in mind when you are considering your barrier options are, “Does this barrier have a good fit to my body?”, “Does the barrier allow me to stretch without compromising the seal?”, and lastly, “Does this barrier give me the security to enjoy my activities?”. There are options available for many body types and challenges. Reach out to your WOC nurse so they can help you answer the questions that are important to you!

 

Mackenzie Bauhs, CWOCN, is currently an employee and Ostomy Clinical Consultant for Coloplast. She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Carroll University in Wisconsin. She has worked with ostomy patients in the post-operative period at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin as well as outpatient ostomy care at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

The materials and resources presented are intended to be an educational resource and presented for general information purposes only. They are not intended to constitute medical or business advice or in any way replace the independent medical judgment of a trained and licensed physician with respect to any patient needs or circumstances. The information presented or discussed may not be representative of all patient outcomes. Each person’s situation is unique, and risks, outcomes, experiences, and results may vary. Please see complete product instructions for use, including all product indications, contraindications, precautions, warnings, and adverse events.

 

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 

 

me+ Community member, Sarah Biggart, shares how she experienced feelings of Medical PTSD throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic with her ostomy. Sarah’s blog was written in November of 2020, but remains relevant as we continue to navigate through the Pandemic.

Last Thanksgiving, following a beautiful dinner and a house filled with family and friends, I had to take my Dad straight to the emergency room. After a decline in health, my dad passed in January. The last months of his life had been a slog through the fog; however, saying goodbye was peaceful and everything about his passing brought me peace. It was time. Just as I was emerging from this fog, a new storm was approaching. A virus, spreading globally and forcing bustling cities into lock down: COVID-19.

As a person with a complicated medical history, I was definitely paying attention, and started taking precautions very early to mitigate risk. As anyone who lives with a compromised immune system and chronic illness knows, when we get sick, it can have a way of snowballing.

I was always aware of Medical PTSD, and recognized it in myself. The trauma of long health battles, surgeries and hospitalizations made my fears of the virus very real. I felt more affected by that fear than ever. It can be triggering for me to even smell rubbing alcohol; so smelling the strong hand sanitizers creates a visceral reaction.

When I saw people receiving nasal swabs, it took me instantaneously to having NG Tubes inserted. I could feel it, and I averted my eyes. When I saw images of people laying intubated, I automatically could feel the sensation in my throat. I remember all of those sensations so vividly. They are a part of my trauma.

It’s honestly hard to lay down exactly what this past year has been like emotionally for me. On one hand I am filled with gratitude that I am able to stay safe at home. I work from home, my child participates in remote learning, and although my husband does still go outside the home to work, we have stayed safe and happy in our cozy home. We’ve tried to keep our family traditions and make new memories.

Unfortunately, this year has also been a very bleak reminder of how my health and quality of life hang in a very delicate balance. If I were to get the virus, I have major concerns about my ability to survive. Seeing my community’s complete disregard for the health and safety of those around them has also been disheartening.

I often think about my ostomy supplies. When it became hard to get essentials this Spring, the thought of not having access to the pouches and wafers that I need was especially daunting. What would my life be like if I was unable to pouch my stoma?

Doctors figured out how to create ostomies long before companies like ConvaTec were around to innovate. Hearing stories of ostomates before me who had life-saving ostomy surgery, but could not manage them in a sanitary way, weighs heavy. What would my life be like without my supplies? I think of the pioneering ostomates, using rags and mason jars, and other archaic methods. They were true survivors!

So here we are in November. Instead of a full Thanksgiving table, it will be just the three of us this year. While our country is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, my family will continue to stay safe, stay home and mask up. I wish nothing but peace, health and happiness for all of us.

The Pandemic Tree

Early on, to make things fun we pulled out our Christmas Tree, topped it with a roll of toilet paper and strung up some lights. We crafted ornaments and added them to commemorate milestones and events. It was silly and fun, and for us, all bets were off during quarantine. Our family mantra became healthy, happy and sane, we did what we could to get ourselves there. The Quarantree became a Halloween Tree, and now has transformed into a Fall tree. It continues to make our home feel cozy and festive and truly brings us joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, ConvaTec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.