By Ellyn Mantell

Welcome to my fantasy.

We all have our fantasies, so come along with me as I describe one of mine…new ostomates (those with ileostomy, colostomy or urostomy, all having had stoma surgery) would begin their adjustment to their new life with all of their questions answered, they would have knowledge and be welcomed into an Ostomy Support Group, they would have a connection with a Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse (WOCN) and they would recognize what a gift, what a lifesaver an ostomy is.

My concern is that this is not the usual for ostomates, either new or even those who have them for many years. In New Jersey, particularly where I live, there are many resources available, and yet, even in our sophisticated arena, many ostomates leave the hospital uninformed and underserved. Prior to Covid-19, I visited patients in the hospital or in rehab facilities to answer their questions. I brought journals and pens so they could write their emotions, concerns, and observations, and refer back to their notes as they made progress. I am so anxious to return to that important undertaking as soon as it is safe to do so.

When I had my surgery in March of 2014, my surgeon told me I would be in the hospital for 5-7 days. However, I felt so well, so quickly, that I was able to leave 4 days later. That was pushing the envelope, but I was so used to recovering from abdominal surgeries, having had 22 before that, my ability to go into recovery mode was well-entrenched. The majority of patients need so much more time, and now, even 4 days is more than they are offered.

Back to my fantasy, and my pipe dream of a great transition for new ostomates:

How can questions be answered, and knowledge gained as needed? 

The majority of ostomies, even those performed in an emergent situation, require marking the abdomen for placement of the stoma (opening.) That is typically done by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse (WOCN) and that is the person who comes to the patient’s room post-op to begin to prepare the ostomate for life at home. In an ideal world, the WOC nurse has written information to share, which once home, will make more sense, and provides contact information for any questions. Additionally, the ostomate is put in touch with the United Ostomy Associations of America to become part of a bigger group of kindred people.

How do we find Ostomy Support Groups in our area?

I am involved in three Support Groups, becoming president of one already formed when I had my ileostomy, and then worked with WOC nurses at two other hospitals in the area to form new ones. Until Covid hit, these were growing so nicely. But we are meeting virtually now, and staying as close as possible, knowing that the day will come when we are back together. It is wonderful to see “my people” who share my concerns, experiences and fears and accomplishments. We help each other in countless ways. People reach out to me through the WOC nurses in the area, United Ostomy Associations of America, The Phoenix Magazine, the American Cancer Society, three hospitals, and through word of mouth. Because I am so open and revealing about my ileostomy and Lily, my stoma, I believe my name pops into the minds of people when they know someone in need.

Ostomies are Lifesavers! “Read all about it!”

An ostomy provides the gift of health for many, many medical situations, including cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, motility issues and devastating organ injury. We live in good times for our supplies and the ability to try new and innovative appliances and accessories. The Phoenix Magazine is a great resource for all, and assists in wading through the confusion many feel. Motivational stories and practical guidance round out the offerings.

A final word about those we call our Angels…the Wound and Ostomy Nurses.

Establish a relationship with one, and if there is an Ostomy Clinic or Ostomy Center in your area, use it! These nurses are your connection to properly-fitting appliances, the correct supplies and accessories, questions and personal support, as well as the ability to refer to a Support Group. More and more are entering the private sector and providing services such as home visits, particularly to those who cannot travel to a clinic or office, and your surgeon may even have one in the office to help navigate the transition to life as an ostomate. We call our WOC nurses our Angels, and that is exactly what they are, ladies and gentlemen with big wings to support us!

 

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy

By Ellyn Mantell

It continues…the pandemic is rearing its ugly head and seems to be gaining strength once again, despite never universally weakening. Whereas we assumed by this time in the fall, we would be back to some sense of normalcy, we are, instead, buying jackets, shawls, gloves, and hats so we can eat outdoors and continue to safely socialize. Travel requires an army intelligence level approach including Ultra Violet wands, visors over masks, dozens of wipes, and gallons of hand sanitizer. Seeing family feels like a tease, since hugging and kissing are off-limits, with no change in sight. I could go on, but you know all of this, and more.

The one good thing that keeps me upbeat is the wonderful feeling of connecting with our support groups via Zoom. Ostomates still have concerns and needs, surgeries continue to happen, and new members need a safe place to begin their journey to their new normal. Even those of us who are comfortable and knowledgeable still need the same safe place to discuss concerns that continue to develop. And the ability to see familiar faces goes miles in feeling comfort.

I know from others who are doing virtual support group meetings that they, too, are feeling so much more secure in the roads they are traveling. Whether it is AA, or NA for addiction, or Alzheimer’s support for spouses or caregivers, cancer survivors, etc., people need to be able to talk and gain strength. Perhaps the ability to remain anonymous may be even more positive than in-person meetings.

Zoom and virtual meetings have been a lifesaver, and had we not been in this demanding situation, we may never have discovered that. I can still remember being asked to participate in a Zoom meeting a few years ago, and running as quickly as possible away from the involvement. It seemed so overwhelming and daunting. But necessity is truly the mother of invention, and I am eternally grateful that Zoom has made itself available for the masses.

Please consider reaching out to an ostomy support group via a computer or smartphone, if you are in need of…support. There is, undoubtedly, a group to help with almost every issue you may have. I believe I speak for those who facilitate when I say we care about you, want to help you, are likely to share your concerns and feelings, and most of all, are committed to you. I know that each ostomate who walks into my life represents an opportunity to help them look at their new life in a positive way, and with that in mind, our value is rather invaluable!

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy

You are not alone, A Community of Support is Here to Help

By Ellyn Mantell

Upon returning from a day of errands, my hands full of packages and bags of food, the phone rings, and it is a familiar call. It is from a woman who is fighting tears (this I recognize from the many calls I receive) and immediately, bags and packages left on the floor, I go into SUPPORT mode. I imagine this lady has used every bit of determination and perhaps energy she has to call a total stranger to discuss the most intimate details of her health and anatomy. She needs my full and undivided attention, because if I am remiss in that area, she may never reach out for help again. Before we even move past the pleasantries of conversation (hello, how are you?) I know she has been through so much. She will tell me the details, and each survivor is unique, but I already know she is scared, suffering and feeling terribly alone.

This lady tells me she is extremely disappointed because she just discovered that her colostomy, which resulted from the loss of some of her colon, will not be reversed, as she had hoped. It is too dangerous, and her ulcerative colitis is rearing its ugly head. Instead of the reversal, she needs her colon and rectum removed, and will, therefore, have an ileostomy. It has taken her a year, she tells me, to accept what she thought was a temporary colostomy, and now she will need a permanent ileostomy. Not only is her head spinning, but she is feeling like she has lost total control of her life.

These are feelings we all have, and my heart is right there with her as she laments the loss of yet another part of her body. Looking ahead to at least another major surgery, we discuss the fact that she is in mourning and grieving, and then her tears began to flow. I tell her to please cry, sob, let out her feelings, whatever they may be, I am up to the task of listening and comforting. After all, I have had 23 major abdominal surgeries…I have had my share of tears and need for comfort.

We end the phone call with each of us making a promise: she will attend our next Ostomy Support Group at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey, and I will be there to listen to her fears and concerns as long as she is in need of sharing them. I told her I wear a flower at each of the Support Group meetings I lead, because I have had so many sent to me over the years and that it is a great way of identifying myself to new members. Flowers always bring a smile to others. She will find me the day of the meeting, because I will be waiting in the foyer to bring her in, make her feel comfortable, introduce her to many like herself, and show her how special she is for reaching out and asking for SUPPORT!

Reach Out to a UOAA Affiliated Support Group near you and learn more about the emotional impact of ostomy surgery.

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy

 

Urostomy and Continent Diversion Patients Find Support and Education from Peers at UOAA.

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, this year more than 80,000 people are expected to be diagnosed and approximately 17,000 will die as a result of this disease.

Bladder cancer survivors are a major part of the ostomy community represented by United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) through support groups, educational resources, and national advocacy.

For those with this cancer who require their bladder to be removed, a urostomy or continent diversion may be necessary. A urostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdominal wall through which urine passes. A urostomy may be performed when the bladder is either not functioning or has to be removed. There are several different types of surgeries, but the most common are ileal conduit and colonic conduit.

Be Prepared

Our new ostomy patient guide is available to all who need it and it is a great overview of what to expect. Our urostomy guide has even more in-depth information. If you have a medical question contact your doctor or nurse, in you have a quality of life question- UOAA likely has the answers.

If you or someone you know is in need lifesaving ostomy surgery remember-you are not alone. 725,000- 1 million people in the U.S. of all ages and backgrounds live with an ostomy. Connecting with UOAA resources is critical. Especially seek out one of our almost 300 UOAA Affiliated Ostomy Support Groups in the U.S. before, or shortly after, your surgery. Peer support and preparation can put you on the path to success in what will be a challenging time both emotionally, sexually and physically. Ask if the hospital has an ostomy nurse and insist on having your stoma placement marked before surgery. These and other self-advocacy tools are paramount and outlined in our Ostomy Patient Bill of Rights.

Other surgical options after bladder removal may not require an external pouching system such a continent pouch, or orthotopic neobladder. Continent diversion surgery needs lifestyle consultation and thought before being seriously considered since these surgeries are extensive and have possible complications including incontinence.

Read more in-depth here about continent urinary diversions such as an Indiana Pouch. This uses the creation of an intestinal reservoir with a catheterizable channel that is brought from the reservoir to the skin with the creation of a stoma. The Indiana pouch has become the predominant urinary diversion for patients who desire continence.

Another diversion is the Neobladder. The creation of a reservoir (neobladder) that is surgically connected to the urethra. It is created for those who do not want a stoma and wish to void per the urethra.

Before surgery, it is also best to learn some facts about living with an ostomy. After the healing period outlined by your surgeon you can swim, bathe, be intimate, travel, and embrace a new normal life. For more information read our Tips for a Succesful Recovery After Ostomy Surgery and use it as a roadmap for success.

Urostomy Tips

For help getting a good night’s sleep with a urostomy, night drainage systems are available to collect and store urine so can sleep without having to empty your bag multiple times during the night.

Unlike some people with gastrointestinal ostomies there are usually there are no dietary restrictions and foods can be enjoyed as before. It is suggested that 8-10 glasses of fluid per day be consumed to help decrease the chance of kidney infection. We also have information on how to retain an acid PH balance of your urine.

Sexual function is influenced by the reasons for which the urostomy is performed. The urostomy itself should not interfere with normal sexual activity or pregnancy. UOAA Affiliated Support Groups are available for individuals and partners seeking emotional support. Our Sexuality and Intimacy Guide may be helpful in facing any new challenges.

Connect with a Community

If you have not had the chance to connect with others with a urostomy, UOAA’s 7th National Conference is a unique opportunity. Urostomates will find camaraderie and education with others from around the country. A few of the urostomy specific sessions include a Basic Urostomy session with Dr. Edouard Trabulsi, MD, FACS and a urostomy meet and greet. There is also a “Ask the WOC Nurse – Urostomy” session with Marie Brown-Etris, RN, CWOCN and other general sessions to get your urostomy or continent diversion questions answered.

This Bladder Cancer Awareness month you can send us your photo and urostomy survival story on social media and we may share your patient story. You may also be interested to know that people also have a urostomy due to spinal cord injuries, malfunction such as chronic infection of the bladder and birth defects such as spina bifida.

Celebrate Bladder Cancer Awareness Month and connect with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) on all the ways to make an impact. You’re also invited to join with UOAA for Ostomy Awareness Day on October 5, 2019 or participate in one of our Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k events around the country. We hope you’ll consider a donation, joining our advocacy efforts, or taking part in a support group to give back to the next cancer survivor in need.

 

Your stoma care nurse has the specialized training to help you care for your ostomy and address any issues that arise. These professionals are also known as “WOC” (wound, ostomy, and continence) nurses. Stoma care nurses are there to help you make a smooth transition after surgery, and can give you the training you need to care for your ostomy at home. You should consider them your “go-to” resource for ostomy care education, consultation, and troubleshooting.

In honor of WOC Nurse Week, celebrated every year in mid-April, it is important to recognize the ongoing role that stoma care nurses can play in your ostomy care.

When to Contact Your Stoma Care Nurse

Not every ostomy care challenge warrants contacting your stoma care nurse, but certain issues are causes for concern and should be assessed by a trained professional. Connect with your stoma care nurse if you notice any of the following problems.

If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, call your ostomy care nurse if you notice:

  • Skin irritation
  • Recurrent leaks under your pouching system or skin barrier
  • Excessive bleeding of your stoma
  • Blood in your stool
  • A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Diarrhea with pain and/or vomiting
  • A stoma that appears to be getting longer

If you have a urostomy, call your ostomy care nurse if you notice:

  • Any sign of urinary tract infection
  • Skin irritation
  • Urine crystals on or around your stoma
  • Recurrent leaks under your pouching system or skin barrier
  • Warty, discolored skin around your stoma
  • Excessive bleeding of your stoma
  • Blood in your urine
  • A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  • A stoma that appears to be getting longer

Finding a Stoma Care Nurse and Showing Your Support

If you do not have a stoma care nurse, you can search to Find a Nurse using your state or zip code on the WOCN Society website. This feature is also accessible by clicking the “Resources” icon in the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers, a free, easy-to-use, digital tool designed to help teens and adults living with an ostomy identify common skin problems, provide next steps for care or management, and prompt when it is appropriate to seek support from a WOC nurse.

How Hollister Secure Start Services Can Help

Hollister Secure Start services offer free customized ostomy support for as long as you need it, regardless of the brand of products you use, including help using the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers. Call us at 1.888.808.7456.

 

Incredible WOC nurses make a daily impact in the lives of people living with an ostomy. Show your support for all they do during WOC Nurse Week (April 14-20, 2019) by sharing a story or photo on social media using the hashtag #WOClove.

 

The Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers was funded through an educational grant from Hollister Incorporated.

The information provided herein is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your personal physician or other healthcare provider. This information should not be used to seek help in a medical emergency. If you experience a medical emergency, seek medical treatment in person immediately.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. 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.

If you are facing a potential surgery leading to an ostomy, you naturally will have many questions and concerns. It is important to voice your questions and concerns to your healthcare professional. Gather as much information as you possibly can while you are in the hospital. Having a friend or family member with you can be helpful as they can also assist in remembering information and understand how you will need to care for your body and pouching system after you leave the hospital.

However, despite education offered both before and after surgery, statistics show that as many as 46% of patients still feel underprepared when they’re discharged from the hospital. If you have already had your surgery and are back home, feeling a lack of confidence, ill-equipped, or underprepared, you are not alone.

Many ostomates are unsure of how to care for themselves and their pouching system following their surgery. That is why WOC nurses recommend that ostomy patients be connected to additional resources after they’ve left the hospital.

Coloplast Care is a comprehensive support program that gives people with an ostomy personal support throughout their life.

Having the support of Care, you’re not travelling the journey of living life with an ostomy by yourself. – Keagan

There are so many questions that you don’t know to ask until you start life as an ostomate. Coloplast Care helped me stay focused on what was important. – Mike

Coloplast Care covers everything from the Basics, such as: ‘What is an Ostomy?’ and ‘Before Surgery’, to ‘Routines’ and ‘Lifestyle’. Not only are there helpful articles and real-life stories from others on the website and through emails, individuals are partnered with a dedicated advisor for personalized support.

One of the best parts of Care is that you can actually speak with a person. They were listening to what I was trying to do and what my concerns were, and coming up with different solutions they felt would work for me. – Mike

Having the ability to access the Coloplast Care website is a great resource. The reality is that your healthcare provider isn’t available 24/7 around the clock. – Keagan

Gathering the right tools, resources, and community around you following your ostomy surgery will determine your ability to succeed and live a full life as an ostomate. Whether figuring out what to wear to the beach, how to prevent leakage, or learning how to use your appliance, there are resources available to you 24/7. You are not alone in this new chapter of your life.

Visit Coloplast Care to enroll and get your support program started.

 

Mike and Keagan have been compensated by Coloplast to provide this information.

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.