Excerpts from Matthew Perry’s new memoir show that even TV stars are vulnerable to poor ostomy care and stigmas UOAA is working to erase.

By James Murray, UOAA President

In a preview of his new memoir Friends star Matthew Perry reveals to People that in 2019 his colon burst from opioid abuse and that he spent two weeks in a coma before waking up unaware that he had emergency ostomy surgery to save his life.

He reveals that ‘It was pretty hellish having one because they break all the time’ which as President of United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) shows me that even a Hollywood star is susceptible to poor quality of care and the ostomy stigmas our organization is fighting to end.

I had lifesaving ostomy surgery as a result of colon cancer and I am among the 725,000 to 1 million people in the United States we estimate are living with an ostomy or continent diversion. Many of us live healthy and active lives thanks to follow-up care by certified ostomy nurses, education, emotional support, and the fact that a properly fitted ostomy pouch should not break, smell or restrict your desired lifestyle.

The book also reveals that Perry’s ostomy was temporary and that his therapist said ‘The next time you think about taking OxyContin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life.’ Perry says this was the catalyst for wanting to break his long pattern of addiction.

While it’s wonderful that Perry has fought to end his addiction, these words sting for those of us who deal with the consequences of ostomy stigmas in our society. We wonder if Perry would have come to see the ostomy differently if given the chance to attend an ostomy support group or talk with another person living with an ostomy during his 9-month recovery. Did he receive information about organizations that support ostomy patients prior to discharge? Research shows that these and other UOAA standards of care can make all the difference in a patient’s outcome.

Despite the fact that ostomy surgery saves or improves lives, there are still people who believe that death is a better choice than having this surgical procedure. People of all ages struggle with body image issues and acceptance in life with an ostomy and perpetrating these stigmas can leave deep scars.

Perry also mentions looking at the scars from his 14 abdominal surgeries as motivation for ending a cycle of addiction. Perry and those interviewing him are rightly celebrating and supporting addiction recovery efforts. We ask that they also give a moment to help raise positive ostomy awareness, and share our resources available to all those in need.

James Murray is President of United Ostomy Associations of America Inc. (UOAA) a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes quality of life for people with ostomies and continent diversions through information, support, advocacy and collaboration. Educational resources, advocacy tools, support groups and more can be found at www.ostomy.org)

Donate today to help the next ostomate in need. 

UOAA Research Results Are Published Showing Patient Rights Are Being Utilized but Gaps in Care Being Provided Exist

By Jeanine Gleba, UOAA Advocacy Manager

Everyone in the United States has the right to receive high quality care. However, the ostomy community continues to be plagued by poor quality care due to lack of trained medical professionals such as certified ostomy care nurses. Many caring for a person with an ostomy do not have the education related to the physical, emotional or quality of life needs of someone living with an ostomy. Thus, those in the ostomy community often feel a lack of compassion and respect regarding their care.  UOAA receives hundreds of calls and email inquiries annually, many of them desperately seeking assistance for proper ostomy care.

It is a primary mission of UOAA advocates to assure that quality ostomy care occurs universally across all health care settings.  

In 2019 UOAA embarked on a research journey to examine best-in-practice care for ostomy patients through the utilization of the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights (PBOR), which are evidence-based for quality ostomy care. We wanted to know if these written standards are the accepted practiced norms for treatment and care for ostomates. 

Together let’s establish a culture that promotes the highest quality care for ostomates.

We collected data from both ostomy surgery patients (412 respondents) and medical clinicians (195 respondents) such as Wound Ostomy Continence nurses. The organization is thrilled to announce the release of our research results that were published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Journal of Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing.

There were three research questions that the study investigated 

  1. Is UOAA’s PBOR being used to care for ostomy patients analyzed from the perspective of patients and clinicians?
  2. Do patients and clinicians perceive that use of the PBOR is beneficial to ostomy patient health outcomes?
  3. Have clinicians witnessed positive patient health outcomes (e.g., decreased readmissions for dehydration, feeling better prepared to care for the ostomy)?

Promising findings showed that, for the clinicians familiar with the PBOR, more than half reported that the PBOR was being utilized to inform ostomy care1. Additionally, a majority of both patients and clinicians indicated that consistent use of the PBOR may be beneficial for ostomy patient health outcomes such as prevention of Emergency Department visits1. However, analysis identified a significant gap in specific standards of care being provided by clinicians versus the care patients reported they received1. For example, 22.5% of the patient population reported engaging in a discussion on the emotional impact of the ostomy surgery versus 65.6% of the clinician respondents reported it was provided1.  Another notable difference was the number of patients (55.1%) who reported receiving educational materials specific to ostomy care versus 82.5% of clinicians reported providing educational materials.

The study concluded that there are discrepancies between PBOR standards of care being provided by clinicians versus the care patients reported they received. Further awareness and wider utilization of the PBOR are needed to provide best care to patients living with an ostomy1.

Advocacy work is ongoing and quality health care is a team effort. Together let’s establish a culture that promotes the highest quality care for ostomates. When quality of care is not provided, people should speak up. The more people that demand these rights and the more medical professionals who perform these standards of care, the more improvements will be realized in patient care and outcomes.

 

1.Gleba, Jeanine; Miller, Leslie Riggle; Peck, B. Mitchell; Burgess-Stocks, Joanna. United Ostomy Associations of America's Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights: An Examination of Best-in-Practice Care for Ostomy Patients. Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing: September/October 2022 - Volume 49 - Issue 5 - p 462-468
doi: 10.1097/WON.0000000000000909

 

By Robin Glover

Ostomy surgery is a life-changing event. As ostomates, we go through things other people will never have to experience. Everybody’s story is different, but we have all shared in many similar aspects of our journeys. We are a unique community of strong and courageous people of all ages and backgrounds.

To celebrate that, United Ostomy Associations of America is hosting the UOAA 2022 Virtual Ostomy Symposium on Saturday, August 13, 2022 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time (7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pacific) including breaks.

This symposium will feature a mix of ostomates, j-pouchers, and medical professionals delivering a fun, engaging, and informative day of learning, laughing, and community-building.

Questions you were too afraid to ask will be answered. Questions you didn’t even know you had will be answered.

In all, 22 speakers will be bringing their expertise on a variety of ostomy-related subjects. (And don’t worry, each session will be recorded so if you can’t make it live that day or can’t see all of the ones you want, you’ll be able to watch them later.)

You can find the full list of speakers and the agenda here.

What to Expect

The virtual lobby will be open at 10:30 AM EDT before the speaker sessions begin to chat, troubleshoot any tech issues and explore the agenda. Ticket holders get an email with a unique link to the event. Attendees are encouraged to enter “lounges” organized by ostomy or continent diversion type (and one for caregivers) to chat or meet with others like you. These will be open for the entirety of the event for those who want to pop in and out during breaks.

Sponsor Booths will also be open throughout the event to give ticket holders the opportunity to talk with representatives of ostomy product manufacturers and suppliers ­– and learn about the latest product advancements. Thanks to all our symposium sponsors including Platinum Sponsor Convatec for helping to make this event possible.

The most important participant for this year’s UOAA Virtual Ostomy Symposium is you.

After opening remarks from UOAA leadership, the symposium will kick off on the Main Stage with Louie Green, a standup comic and recent ostomate. He’s going to share his poignant ostomy journey with a bit of welcoming wit.

Next on the Main Stage at 12:40 AM EDT, Joy Hooper’s Ostomy BUZZables presentation will present the newest innovations and ostomy products available on the market. If there’s something new in the ostomy world, you’ll hear about it here.

Educational Sessions 

Throughout the day, Educational Sessions will run concurrently between the Main Stage where you’ll get to hear from wonderful WOC nurses, experienced ostomates, amazing doctors and dedicated advocates.

Presentations will cover everything from sex and intimacy and traveling the world with an ostomy to nutrition and staying hydrated and dealing with hernias. Other session topics will focus on peristomal skin issues, aging in place with an ostomy, affiliated support groups, and secrets of the big four stoma types.

There will also be a special workshop for young adults. Inspiring ostomates Molly Atwater-Pulisic and Collin Jarvis will be co-hosting the conversation about physical activity, relationships, and mental health for ostomates ages 18-35.

Attendees will be able to submit questions for the speakers during the presentations and the speakers presentation materials will be available to access at you leisure.

After these educational sessions be sure not to miss Dr. Janice Beitz back on the Main Stage at 3:55 PM EDT for a presentation titled If You See a Toilet in Your Dreams, do NOT use it! Emotional Support, Quality of Life and Humor. It will look at the power of humor in dealing with emotional challenges while dispelling some myths and misconceptions about ostomies.

The event will come to a close with a special presentation from Magen Cherry, a j-poucher and winner of the 2007 Miss Texas USA competition. She uses her platform to share encouragement and bring hope to fellow ostomates and j-pouchers coming to terms with their new reality. Fun fact: Magen had a colonoscopy three days after being crowned Miss Texas USA!

Connecting with a Caring Community

Of course, there are going to be plenty of great speakers but the most important participant for this year’s UOAA Virtual Symposium is you. By taking part in this event, you’ll be able to connect with a thriving ostomy community (or j-pouchers or any other type of continent diversion) and help us grow even stronger.

As we all know, living with an ostomy or other continent diversion isn’t always easy. It can be isolating. Sometimes even close friends and family don’t want to hear anything about it. There’s fear of the future and worry about existing relationships.

Many new ostomates want to hide it forever and hope no one ever finds out. But, through organizations like UOAA, they’ll find out they’re not alone and that life with an ostomy shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of, but rather that ostomies are life-savers and that you can join others in a celebration of being alive.

This year’s event is going to be awesome. Questions you were too afraid to ask will be answered. Questions you didn’t even know you had will be answered. You’ll get to connect with wonderful people while gaining inspiration and knowledge that could impact the rest of your life – and the lives of others.

As you can see this is not your typical webinar or Zoom call and the $35 ticket (plus $3.88 processing fee) and sponsor support of UOAA (a 501(c)(3) charity) help to offset the costs of hosting this special event.

All of this is leading to UOAA’s in-person National Conference in Houston in August of 2023. The connections you build during this year’s virtual event can open the door to even deeper friendships when we all get to meet each other face-to-face next year in Houston!

The UOAA 2022 Virtual Ostomy Symposium on Saturday, August 13th is going to be a great time and a great experience. And we need you there to make it even better.

To get all the information, learn more about the speakers, or find out how to get tickets, head to the event website.

Hollister is proud to support World Ostomy 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.

Tune in to a Virtual Panel Discussion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hollister has joined up with their sister brand based in Europe, Dansac, to bring you a virtual panel conversation with ostomates from around the world about their experiences and how they engage with the ostomy community. Tune in for a great conversation! Sign up for a reminder, and to submit a question for the Q&A.

Order Your Stoma Sticker

Stoma stickers are a great way to raise awareness, start a conversation, or show support. Order your free Stoma Stickers in time for World Ostomy Day, shipped anywhere in the US.

Share a photo or video of your Stoma Sticker on social media using #StomaSticker to be part of the conversation. Or show off your Stoma sticker while running the virtual Run for Resilience Ostomy 5K and share how you celebrated #WOD2021.

Share your #OstomateVoices and personalize your next Instagram or Facebook Stories with Hollister digital stickers. Search for them in the GIF library when creating an Instagram or Facebook Story and you’ll find a whole new collection.

Start Listening to #MyOstomy Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join Eve, Chris, Kelly, Ed, Gill, and Alice as they describe their challenges and breakthroughs with illness, symptom management, mental well-being, pregnancy, workplace conversations, and more in this limited run series. Each conversation helps to shine a light on the lived experience of illness, the positive impact stoma surgery can have, and the power of every person living with a stoma. Learn more

For more resources and interactive ways to get involved, visit Hollister.com/worldostomyday.

 

Editor’s note: This article is from Hollister Incorporated, Diamond Sponsor of the 2021 Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. This event raises ostomy awareness and helps fund the services and programs of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

A research study about the benefits of perioperative self-management support for ostomates

 

Ostomates are not only dealing with intestinal concerns but are also at risk for a multitude of complications. Data shows that 38% of ostomy patients find themselves back in the emergency room or being admitted within the first 90 days post operatively [1]. This is one of the highest rates of readmission when compared to other types of surgery. The most common cause for re-admission is dehydration, at approximately 40% of post ileostomy readmissions [2]. We also know that 84% of ostomy patients develop skin issues. The causes of these can be chemical, mechanical, or microbial, and possibly avoidable. Ostomates also have significantly increased healthcare costs, especially when affected by peristomal skin complications, and leakage [2]. It is known that 25% of ostomates develop renal failure within two years. The complications these patients encounter require 7x more outpatient visits than the average patient. And 29.1% of ostomates experience readmission which costs approximately $16,000 per patient [1]. These statistics show that specialized care for these patients is imperative to improving patient outcomes in this patient population.

A recent study published by the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons shows how one company, 11 Health and Technologies, is utilizing a novel care approach to improve the quality of life and outcomes in this type of patient. The company developed alfred: SmartCare, a unique care model designed to meet the specialized need of ostomates. The program consists of a SmartBag and SmartWafer, mobile application, patient coaches (who were/are also ostomates, trained to support this type of patient) and the nursing team. The patient wears the SmartBag and SmartWafer, which submits data to the mobile application and clinical dashboard. The data is visible to the patient, their coach, the nursing team and the patient’s clinicians to be used to identify trends and abnormalities in the values. The patient can see how much output they have expressed and what the temperature is of their peristomal skin. These data points can help to curtail oncoming hydration issues or infections. When abnormalities are identified, the coach can work with the patient to provide education and can escalate issues to the nursing team for medical guidance.

In the study, the outcomes of 66 new ostomates from 19 different states were monitored for the first 30 post-operative days. The study showed that close monitoring of ostomy output volume as well as perioperative self-management support can significantly reduce the rate of hospital readmissions in the first 30 days after ostomy surgery.

Patients and healthcare providers should be open to the use of innovative programs that use remote monitoring along with telehealth, as they can be beneficial in improving the outcomes of patients in the immediate post-operative period.

To read the full study, visit the Diseases of the Colon & Rectum online at: https://journals.lww.com/dcrjournal/Citation/2020/12000/Improved_30_Day_Surgical_Outcomes_in_Ostomates.17.aspx

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, 11 Health and Technologies. 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.

[1] Tyler, J. A., Fox, J.P., Dharmarajan, S., Silviera, M. L., Hunt, S. R., Wise, P. E., Mutch, M. G. (2014). Acute health care resource utilization for ileostomy patients is higher than expected. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum57(12), 1412-1420.

[2] Justiniano, C. F., Temple, L. K., Swanger, A. A., Xu, Z., Speranza, J. R., Cellini, C., Salloum, R. M., & Fleming, F. J. (2018). Readmissions With Dehydration After Ileostomy Creation: Rethinking Risk Factors. Diseases of the colon and rectum61(11), 1297–1305. https://doi.org/10.1097/DCR.0000000000001137

[3] Taneja, C., Netsch, D., Rolstad, B. S., Inglese, G., Eaves, D., Oster, G (2019). Risk and economic burden of peristomal skin complaints following ostomy surgery. Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing, 46(2), 143-149.

[4] Fearn, Robert I. M.D., M.R.C.P.1,2; Gorgun, Emre M.D.3; Sapci, Ipek M.D.3; Mehta, Saahil N. M.D.2; Dinh, Binh B.S.2; Yowell, Quinn V. M.S.2; Eisenstein, Samuel M.D.4 (2020). Improved 30-Day Surgical Outcomes in Ostomates Using a Remote Monitoring and Care Management Program: An Observational Study. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum: December 2020 – Volume 63 – Issue 12 – p e581-e586.

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of 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. Every ostomate has a voice worth hearing and we aim to embody ostomy confidence of our worldwide community with #OstomateVoices.

Spread Positivity and Share Your Voice

We’re connecting and empowering our worldwide ostomy community to share their own unique experiences—their challenges, their achievements and the joys of their daily lives. Share your words of encouragement that have helped you along your ostomy journey. Your story might help someone who might be struggling. Using your words, we’ll create a unique social card that you can share with your friends, family, and community. Share your voice here!

Join Us for a Virtual Cooking Class

Join us for a virtual cooking class on October 3rd with private chefs Ryan Van Voorhis, a fellow ostomate, and Seth Bradley of Nude Dude Food™, one of Chicago’s most sought after private dining and catering services. Register today to connect with others in the community and cook a delicious meal. Register today!

For more resources on nutrition with an ostomy, check out UOAA’s Food Chart or download the “Eating with an Ostomy” Nutrition Guide.

Show Off Your Stoma Sticker

Stoma stickers are a great way to raise awareness, start a conversation, or show support. Order your free Stoma Stickers in time for Ostomy Awareness Day, shipped anywhere in the US.

Share a photo or video of your Stoma Sticker on social media using #StomaSticker to be part of the conversation. Or show off your Stoma sticker while running in your virtual Run for Resilience Ostomy 5K and share how you celebrated #OstomyDay2020.

Share your #OstomateVoices and personalize your next Instagram or Facebook Stories with the Hollister “Ostomate Voices” digital stickers. It’s easy – search “Ostomate Voices” in the GIF library when creating a Story and you’ll find the whole collection, including a UOAA lifesaver and Stoma Sticker!

For more resources and interactive ways to get involved, visit Hollister.com/ostomyawareness.

Editor’s Note: this blog post was provided by Hollister Inc. the exclusive Diamond Sponsor of UOAA’s annual Run for Resilience Ostomy 5K events that benefit UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The Annual Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k is Coming to You!

 

It’s a good year to celebrate your life. To get outside in the fresh air and get moving again if you can. To speak out and make noise that “Ostomies Are Life-Savers” and not something to be stigmatized or feared.

To keep everyone safe and adhere to any local COVID-19 guidelines all Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k events are being held virtually this year. That just means you can run, walk or roll wherever you want (even inside on a treadmill) and still be a part of Ostomy Awareness Day activities on Saturday, October 3, 2020.

We’ll be celebrating an ostomy community that has shown resilience long before “resilience” became the buzz word of the year. With your registration for the Worldwide Virtual Ostomy 5k, we’ll mail you a race bib, unique 10th Anniversary Ostomy Awareness Day Race T-Shirt and special stickers and sponsor giveaways. If you want to show your state pride and live in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Idaho, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oregon/Washington please consider supporting your local “Virtual 5k event.” You may have the additional opportunity to pick-up a race bag along with the t-shirt and giveaways at a safe location organized by the local race directors. (MI Run participants T-Shirts, race bags and materials will be mailed.)

You don’t have to be a runner or walker to support these charity events. This event has traditionally been a critical fundraiser for UOAA and the advocacy, resources, and educational materials provided for anyone in need of ostomy or continent diversion surgery. The canceling of in-person events will be a fundraising challenge we’ll need help to overcome. 

Please consider donating or starting a fundraiser like Catherine Salisbury Catherine shared her inspiring story on the fundraising page she created on the Virtual Run Sign-Up website.  

I was diagnosed with a hereditary colon cancer disease, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), in 2015. This diagnosis both saved and drastically changed my life. In 2016 I had a total proctocolectomy surgery with a temporary ostomy for three and a half months.  In 2019, desmoid tumors were constricting the blood flow to my j-pouch so I had to have it removed and had a permanent end-loop ileostomy created.  It has been an incredibly difficult journey, but I am beyond blessed with an amazing support system. My family and friends have kept me going through this whole crazy journey. I am beyond grateful for them.

I hope to raise money to help other ostomates who do not have the same incredible support team I have. -Catherine Salisbury

You may be surprised by how supportive others will be if you share your story and create a fundraiser. Catherine increased her fundraising goal to $1,000 after the response from her supportive friends and family helped her reach her original goal.

We also have incentive gifts featuring the “Ostomies Are Life-Savers” logo for those who reach goals of $250 and $400 and anyone who donates or raises $30 or more will receive a special bandana for themselves or their pet.

Starting a Group/Team is also a great way to connect with friends and family wherever they live so they can show support for your journey.  Groups of WOC nurses can claim bragging rights for regional participation (the team WOC This Way in Indiana is leading) and co-workers may have fun in challenging other departments. New this year we are excited that supporters of WOCN Society’s Fund the Future program are coming together for the We All Walk Together Team.

UOAA Affiliated Support Groups such as the one in DuPage County, Illinois looks forward to gathering members for a virtual event every year and are forging ahead with a team and fundraiser even as they anticipate COVID restrictions will not enable them to all meet up together at their usual park location. The year’s Exclusive Diamond Sponsor of the Ostomy 5k, Hollister Incorporated, is also planning another employee-wide event and we expect to hear about other sponsor events soon.

Ostomy Support Group of DuPage County at their Virtual Ostomy 5k in 2018, the group will be back this year with social distancing guidelines in mind.

For some extra motivation consider starting a couch to 5k training group with some friends to get ready and feel great in October. 

Wherever you choose to run or walk be sure to let others know about it to truly raise ostomy awareness. Take pictures of yourself doing your virtual race and email them to us or share/tag them with our public Facebook page. Hashtag your photos or stories #RunforResilience and we may repost on Twitter or Instagram.

We are very grateful for our national sponsors who help offset the costs of the events and believe in this mission. They have stepped up during this difficult year and remain committed to this event and the cause of ostomy awareness. 

Rally your friends, co-workers, and family to the cause of ostomy awareness. People are still choosing death over life with an ostomy and it’s up to you to help show the world what people living with an ostomy are really capable of.  

 

Register for a virtual event near you or for the worldwide Virtual 5k. Sign-up before 9/11/20 and save up to $5. The special price of $17.50 includes a special 10th anniversary of Ostomy Awareness Day technical t-shirt (Michigan is $22.50 shipping included). Worldwide Virtual Event Registration is recommended for those not near one of our local virtual events t-shirt packet pick-up locations.

Click Here to Register

Click Here to Donate or Start a Fundraiser

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications and Outreach Manager

In-person peer support has always been at the heart of UOAA. Though people worldwide now routinely connect online with others living with an ostomy, the in-person experience of UOAA’s over 300 Affiliated Support Groups continues to endure and grow year after year.

The arrival of COVID-19 is challenging groups to maintain continuity after often decades of holding a routine meeting schedule. Ostomates new and old continue to need support during this time and video conferencing technology is making this happen. Zoom meetings have emerged as the platform of choice as our world strives for human connection during this period of isolation.

The South Texas Ostomy Support Group has been ahead of the curve and before this current crisis was already live-streaming with Zoom meetings as an option to in-person attendance. “Now that we are not able to meet up, we are still using the same meeting ID (link) but now that’s our only form of meeting,” says group president Christine Miller.

Christine recognizes that some may struggle to adapt to the new technology. “I made sure it was in the newsletter so those who needed help could call me and I could walk them through how to use Zoom prior to the meeting started. I had several calls the day of. It was exciting that we had so many people participate (10 people logged on). It was much less than a normal meeting but it was still heart-warming that they were still participating. We even had a newbie come! It was fun having her because she mentioned some of her problems and I immediately texted our Coloplast rep who jumped on for 15 minutes and became a very last-minute speaker for us.”

The Morris County New Jersey Ostomy Association, which has been in existence for over 40 years, is another group adapting to the times. UOAA Treasurer and the ASG’s board member George Salamy says that, after a trial to test for bugs, he and newsletter editor and webmaster Walter Cummins sent a broadcast email telling everyone they wanted to do a Zoom call.

“On April 15th around 23 people signed on with no issues. It was a mixture of older members and a few younger members, some with spouses, and our group’s WOC nurse,” George reports. “The original purpose of the call was to see how everyone was doing and if they needed anything. Everyone seemed to be okay. We talked about if there were any issues in obtaining products. I indicated UOAA works with the manufacturers and determined there were no manufacturing issues.” George adds, “People talked about shopping, which grocery stores were stocked, and some sanitary things we should all be doing (closing the toilet seat before flushing to eliminate germs). All in all, it went well. One member, who now lives in Florida, signed on and contributed much to the call. We decided to do this in May and will continue if needed. It’s a great way of keeping the members engaged.” After the meeting, members commented and made suggestions about future topics such as; the depression aspects of this “lock-down,” yoga, sound therapy for relaxing, and suggestions on where to shop and which stores had supplies.

Bob Baumel of the Ostomy Association of North Central Oklahoma sees potential in the virtual meetings because the organization’s meetings rotate between locations. “It will be interesting to see how Zoom works for our group. We may actually get better attendance using Zoom than we’ve been getting with physical meetings, considering that members who don’t feel well enough to travel to meetings, or who live far from our meeting locations of Stillwater and Ponca City, may nevertheless join meetings which are conducted electronically. Maybe we’ll like Zoom so much that we decide to continue holding some meetings with Zoom, even after the Coronavirus pandemic is over,” Bob says.

Liz Hiles of the Greater Cincinnati Ostomy Association has already hosted several Zoom calls for her group and hopes participation will increase. “I like the option on a number of levels and hadn’t previously considered it. I need to learn more about how to conduct and make it more productive. I like it for the younger folks who may be on the go or traveling. Though that could also apply to older populations too. I also like it for those that may be homebound or in a facility for whatever reason. Hospital, rehab, nursing etc.” Liz also organized a Zoom call for a group of young adults who all connected at last year’s UOAA National Conference and have tried to stay in touch on Facebook ever since.

Remember even if you have never attended a UOAA support and information group in the past you can always reach out and call a local leader nearby you for support. If they are not holding virtual meetings and you are familiar with the technology, perhaps ask if they need a volunteer like you to help them set it up for the group. Use whatever technology you and your group are comfortable with.

You can also use a landline to call into the group to chat, if you don’t have a smartphone or a camera on your computer. Zoom offers a free version if your group does not want to invest in a professional account. Members will just need to log back in when the meeting time hits its 40-minute limit. In recent weeks Zoom has responded to privacy concerns and it is suggested to use the password option for added security. Also, the Federal Trade Commission recently shared guidelines on staying safe while video conferencing.

This is a time for all of us to reach out and make sure our community is safe and supported. Although we are apart for safety, we can still remain connected and together.

The ostomy community is understandably very concerned about how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting their daily lives, health, support networks, and access to ostomy supplies.

In this time of great uncertainty, UOAA recommends all individuals consult with their own primary care physicians with questions concerning their risk factor or if they exhibit any symptoms. Please follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for actual up to date information. We recognize that many people living with an ostomy or continent diversion are older people and those with chronic disease and are therefore at higher risk of developing serious illness. Please also see CDC guidelines for people at risk

UOAA is also hearing from many Affiliated Support Groups who have prudently decided to cancel their upcoming meetings. Members should expect that their meetings will be canceled for the foreseeable future. Affiliated Support Groups are each independently run and members should contact their local leaders if they have any questions about their meetings. Community guidelines are also available from the CDC to assist leaders in deciding steps they should take to address public health concerns.  

UOAA reached out to the major ostomy manufacturers to see if the outbreak is currently impacting their production or supply chain. As of March 4, 2020 none of the manufacturers reported any issues in their operations as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Read our previous blog post for statements from individual manufacturers on this topic. Check with your distributor to see if there are any shipping delays due to increased demand of all goods at this time. 

If you develop a fever, cough and have difficulty breathing always contact your healthcare provider. They will determine if you are a candidate for a COVID-19 test. Medicare and private insurance should cover a test to see if you have coronavirus if requested from a physician. Additionally, Medicare is offering telemedicine options so people can stay home as much as possible during this crisis. Contact your private insurer to discover any additional benefits they may be offering at this time. For frequently asked questions and facts about this virus follow updates from the CDC on the latest COVID-19 guidelines.

UOAA will update this blog post with any information that may affect our community. 

By Jeanine Gleba, UOAA Advocacy Manager

The Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) is an advocacy organization composed of the major national voluntary and professional societies concerned with digestive diseases. DDNC’s mission is to work cooperatively to improve access to and the quality of digestive disease health care to promote the best possible medical outcome and quality of life for current and future patients.  UOAA has been a member of this coalition for many years.

Each year the DDNC hosts a Spring Public Policy Forum. This year they celebrated their 30th anniversary! This special event was a two-day advocacy conference held  March 1-2, 2020 that brought together patient advocates, health care providers, and organizational members of coalition. Passionate and dedicated advocates traveled from 28 states all across the country and Washington DC. Over two days, attendees heard from multiple panels of leaders in the digestive disease community, attended a reception celebrating the coalition as well as its champions, and advocated for medical research and patient care on Capitol Hill. 

UOAA had five ostomates representing UOAA and the ostomy community. We are grateful that Lacee Harper, Rena Münster,  Michael Quear, Mollie Tinnin and Lynn Wolfson joined UOAA President, Susan Burns, and myself in Washington, DC. They spoke up about improving treatment for digestive diseases, shared their ostomy story and advocated for legislation such as the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act and the Safe Step Act. While mingling with attendees, we also had the pleasure of meeting a new ostomate advocate, Nancy Pedersen, and a mother of a young daughter with an ostomy, Jessi Richards, who was attending as a representative for the Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalisis Syndrome (MMIHS) Foundation. We hope both of them will advocate with UOAA in the future.

UOAA Advocates at DDNCThe greatest take-away message from honorees and guest panelists was the impact we make on the Hill.  For example, it is truly because of patient advocates sharing their stories that we have seen increases in medical research funding. To give you a glimpse into my day on the Hill, I was on Team 6 with a surgeon from Nebraska and an IBD patient advocate from Connecticut.  I found we were met with very positive responses by legislator staffers in the Senate and House. In many cases, the offices we visited were already co-sponsors of the different legislation pieces and this occurred on both sides of the aisle.  They certainly all “got” the Safe Step Act and need for proper gluten labeling. When I followed up with my Congressional office (NJ Rep. Josh Gottheimer), they informed me that they have now signed on to the Medical Nutrition Equity Act (H.R.2501). Our visit and advocacy message resulted in a positive outcome!

New this year we advocated about non-medical switching as it relates to ostomy supplies.  It can take patients and their medical team quite a while to find the right “fit” ostomy pouching application system. However, we are finding for example that insurers in some cases are restricting consumers to specific brands, some suppliers switch outpatient preferred choice of products for non-medical reasons such as cost and patients are restricted to using a different brand such as a generic, which do not always have the same quality or reliability. Ostomy supplies are prosthetic devices and a person’s complete pouching system is customized for their unique stoma fit and individual needs. It is not okay for others to just switch that out!  We urged Congress to limit out-of-pocket costs and curb current and future payer tactics proactively.

UOAA will continue these advocacy efforts throughout the year. If you have experienced your supplies being switched out for non-medical reasons and it resulted in restricted access to your preferred products or an increase in your out-of-pocket costs or it negatively impacted your health or quality of life, submit your story HERE.