Imagine if there was a place where over forty ostomy product manufacturers, accessory makers, distributors, lifestyle experts, and related support organizations could gather with ostomy patients from around the world? Well, UOAA’s 7th National Conference Exhibit Hall is that place, and everyone is invited. It will be open August 8 and 9, 2019 at the Philadelphia 201 Hotel in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

People return to UOAA’s biennial national conferences not only because of the lifelong friendships, education, and social events but also because of the exhibit hall. It is a fun one-stop experience to ask questions about your favorite supplies or discover what is the latest and greatest in the world of ostomy care. Attendees have the chance to sign-up for sample products and talk one-on-one with representatives of all the major and specialty ostomy product manufacturers. Visitors often find the passionate owners and inventors of unique ostomy products on hand to introduce you to their products.

 

UOAA is proud to be able to provide this space for our community to gather.  The conference runs Aug. 6-10, but If you can only come to our conference for one day you’ll want to consider registering for the exhibit hall days Thursday and Friday. There is even a free box lunch Friday for all those registered attendees who enter the exhibit hall. You may want to consider staying longer, however, to take advantage of the free stoma clinic, expert educational session and surgery specific meet-ups. And don’t miss social events such as the Roaring 20s Casino Night and Music Thursday and the Saturday night fashion show, desserts, and dancing. Be sure to stop by UOAA’s table where you can sign an important petition for the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights and learn about all the upcoming events such as Ostomy Awareness Day and the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k.

 

Here is a list of all the businesses and organizations exhibiting this August. Like UOAA, they are dedicated to improving the quality of life of people living with an ostomy. 

 

11 Health and Technologies Inc.
www.11Health.com • 657-266-0570

11 Health helps people living with medical bags by combining peer-to-peer support with unique patented SmartBags that collect patient generated data for preventative care. 11 Health thinks and acts differently from all established medical bag companies because we see the patient as a patient – not an end user.

ASCRS – Colon/Rectal Surgeons
www.fascrs.org • 847-290-9184

You are invited to visit the ASCRS Booth and receive information regarding services ASCRS can provide, including patient referrals and patient education brochures. The scope of colon and rectal surgery includes the small bowel, colon, rectum and anal areas.

Avadim Health, Inc.
www.theraworxprotect.com • 877-677-2723

Avadim Health Inc. is the Bionome Life Science company. Avadim’s flagship product Theraworx® Protect is a topical solution that supports the skin’s outer most layer, the stratum corneum, while remaining Non-Toxic and Safe.

B Braun Medical
www.bbraunusa.com • 800-227-2862

B. Braun Medical Inc. develops, manufactures, and markets innovative medical products and offers ostomy products including Flexima® 3S two-piece appliance with a unique guiding system and a High Output System. The myosto™ resource offers ostomates the ability to request product samples and educational resources on the website. Visit www.bbraunusa.com and www.myosto-mylife.com

Byram Healthcare
www.byramhealthcare.com • 800-227-2862

Byram is the leading service and solutions provider of disposable medical supplies delivered directly to the home while conveniently billing insurance plans. We provide convenience, affordability and choice™ to make a positive difference in the lives of the people we serve.

Calmoseptine, Inc.
www.calmoseptine.com • 714-840-3405

Calmospetine® Ointment protects and helps heal skin irritations from moisture such as urinary and fecal incontinence. It is also effective for irritations from perspiration, wound drainage, fecal and vaginal fistulas and feeding tube site leakage. Calmoseptine® temporarily relieves discomfort and itching. Free samples at our booth!

Cancer Support Community
www.cancersupportphiladelphia.org

Cancer Support Community is a leader in cancer support, and is the largest cancer support organization in the world that provides 100% free services and programs for individuals and families impacted by cancer. The Community serves those with cancer, who have a family member or friend with cancer and who have lost a loved one to cancer.

Celebration Ostomy Support Belt 
www.celebrationostomysupportbelt.com • 413-539-7704

Our ostomy Celebration Belt systems are designed to protect your dignity while allowing you to lead an active life. Learn how to measure for a correct fit, get wear and care information, and order your belt with confidence.

Colo-Majic Enterprises
www.colomajic.com • 866-611-6028

Colo-Majic® Flushable Liners are designed to be inserted into a two piece closed end pouch system to collect colostomy/ileostomy output. Liners will keep your pouch clean allowing for reuse and makes output disposal quick and easy.

Coloplast
www.coloplast.us • 888-726-7872

Coloplast develops products and services that make life easier for people with very personal and private medical conditions. Working closely with the people who use our products, we create solutions that are sensitive to their special needs. Our business includes ostomy care, interventional urology, continence care, wound & skin care.

ConvaTec
www.convatec.com • 800-422-8811

At ConvaTec, we exist to improve the lives of the people we touch and are committed to helping people living with an ostomy live the life they want with more confidence and freedom. Our me+ program gives you the support, insights and products you need. For more information, visit convatec.com.

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation 
www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org  888-694-8872

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is dedicated to finding cures for Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. The Foundation is at the forefront of research in inflammatory bowel diseases in addition to educating, supporting, and empowering patients and caregivers.

Edgepark
ww.edgepark.com • 800-321-0591

Edgepark is a leading provider of home-delivered, disposable medical products. We specialize in ostomy, wound care, urological, incontinence, diabetes and more, offer comprehensive insurance options and provide free nationwide delivery. To learn how we can help meet your supply needs, please call 800-321-0591 or visit www.edgepark.com.

Friends of Ostomates Worldwide
www.fowusa.org • 502-909-6669 • info@fowusa.org

Friends of Ostomates Worldwide-USA is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that collects donated ostomy supplies from individuals and organizations in the United States and sends them and educational materials at no cost to ostomates in need around the world.

Girls With Guts
www.girlswithguts.org • info@girlswithguts.org

The vision of Girls With Guts is to establish a national support network that assists women with IBD and/or ostomies in their search for community, acceptance, and empowerment. This rapidly growing sisterhood helps to ensure that no woman will ever feel isolated by her disease.

Hollister Incorporated
www.hollister.com • 888-740-8999

At Hollister Incorporated, we are dedicated to delivering the highest standard of quality in medical products and services, and each member of the Hollister team is committed to making a difference in the lives of people who use our products and services.

Hy-Tape Int. 
www.hytape.com • 800-248-0101

Hy-Tape’s latex-free, waterproof, zinc oxide-based adhesive is soothing to delicate skin, and removes without compromising skin integrity. Our tape is perfect for extended ostomy wearing time, adhering securely so the end user can resume normal activities such as walking, exercising, bathing and swimming without worry of detachment.

KEM Enterprises, Inc.
www.kemonline.com • 616-676-0213

KEM Enterprises, Inc. manufactures the Osto-EZ-Vent.® The Osto-EZ-Vent® is the unique venting device designed for any Ostomy pouch, which allows quick, discreet release of air pressure. Invented by an Ostomate, the OEV™ gives the wearer complete control and confidence to lead an active life. Medicare code A4366. Visit us at kemOnline.com.

Marlen Manufacturing
www.marlenmfg.com • 216-292-7060

Since 1952, Marlen has been a leading innovator in ostomy care. Offering an extensive line of one-piece and two-piece systems for Ileostomies, Colostomies and Urostomies, Marlen has always strived to provide the highest quality products while meeting the comfort and security needs of our customers. Visit our website at www.marlenmfg.com

McKesson Patient Care Solutions
www.mpcs.mckesson.com • 855-404-6727

From doctor to doorstep, McKesson Patient Care Solutions provides healthcare that fits into your everyday life. With online support to answer all your questions, a team of customer service Reps to help you choose the right supplies, and fast, convenient shipping right to your door.

No You Cant’cer Foundation
www.noyoucantcerfoundation.org • 609-464-4647

The No You Cant’cer Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to dispel the negative stigmas surrounding ostomy bags and colorectal cancer while inspiring through song. By nationally distributing informational pamphlets and creating her awareness ribbon necklaces, cancer survivor and ostomate Melissa Marshall aims to help everyone say No You Cant’cer.

Nu-Hope Labs
www.nu-hope.com • 800-899-5017

Nu-Hope manufactures ostomy devices, accessories, belts, barriers and adhesives. We specialize in custom molded pouches and custom ostomy/hernia belts. Other highlights are our oval convex pouches, and stoma wafer hole cutters. Check out the Nu-Comfort belt and new for 2019, our moldable extended wear barrier. Don’t forget the Fun Run/Walk!

Oley Foundation
www.oley.org • 518-262-5079

The Oley Foundation is a non-profit organization providing information and support to those sustaining themselves on home infused and/or tube fed nutrition. Outcome data demonstrates that those connected to Oley have better outcome: significantly higher quality of life, less reactive depression, and a lower incidence of catheter-related sepsis.

Ostomy Canada Society
www.ostomycanada.ca • 888-969-9698

Ostomy Canada Society is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to all people with an ostomy and their families, helping them to live life to the fullest through support, education, collaboration and advocacy. www.ostomycanada.ca

Parthenon Co., Inc.
www.parthenoninc.com • 800-453-8898

Family owned and operated for over 50 years. The Parthenon Company is a manufacturer and discount retailer specializing in ostomy supplies servicing customers throughout the United States.

Philadelphia Ostomy Association
www.philaost.org • 215-629-1648

The Philadelphia Ostomy Association was established in 1949 as the Colostomy Ileostomy Rehabilitation Association. As time went on and Urostomy surgery was developed, we changed our name to the Philadelphia Ostomy Association to support all types of ostomates.

Pouch Place
www.pouchplace.com • 865-531-1285

Nurse owned and managed ostomy care and supplies. For more than 27 years the Pouch Place has offered a complete selection of ostomy, wound care and incontinence supplies treating each patient’s needs with thoughtful and respectful care from two store front locations and an online store serving patients nationwide.

Pull-thru Network, Inc.
www.pullthrunetwork.org • 309-262-0786

Pull-thru Network, Inc (PTN) is a volunteer-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, education, support and advocacy for families, children, teens and adults who are living with the challenges of congenital anorectal, colorectal, and/or urogenital disorders and any of the associated diagnoses.

Quality Life Association, Inc.
www.qla-ostomy.org • 662-801-5461

The Quality Life Association, Inc. (QLA) is a non-profit nationwide association aimed at meeting the special needs of the continent ostomate and to educate others on the latest advances in ostomy options.

Safe n Simple
www.sns-medical.com • 844-767-6334

Safe n simple is an innovator that develops and markets a full line of high quality, cost-effective ostomy accessory products. The patented Peri-Stoma Cleanser and Adhesive Remover wipes are their most popular product. Now offering Security Hernia/Ostomy Support Belts.

Sanitary Ostomy Systems, Inc.
www.sanitaryostomysystem.com • 805-441-6708

Discover Our Exclusive Pouch-Emptying Systems For Use At Home And Everywhere Else. THE SOS KIT: Compresses pouch contents into a detachable, disposable collection bag. The perfect reusable solution for ostomates & caregivers. THE TRAVELER KIT: Empties your pouch anytime, anywhere – even in your car! Completely disposable, discreet and easy.

Schena Ostomy Technologies, Inc.
www.ostomyezclean.com • 239-263-9957

The revolutionary EZ-Clean Pouch system can be cleaned in less than 3 minutes. Water under pressure is dispersed via a manifold inside the pouch to provide thorough, hygenic cleansing of the pouch and stoma while sitting on the toilet. See details on how to normalize life with an ostomy online at: www.ostomyezclean.com.

Simply Beautiful
www.simplybeautifulstore.com • 304-771-1773

Wraps and Lingerie that empower women and preteens to feel more confident and reveal your true beauty while thriving with an ostomy.

Stealth Belt Inc.
www.stealthbelt.com • 800-237-4491

A Stealth Belt is an ostomy support belt that is specially designed to hold an ostomy appliance securely and discreetly. A Stealth Belt may be worn 24/7 to provide comfort and give you privacy. Stealth Belt’s great design features include, light weight fabric, a zippered pouch compartment, and a range of adjustability for ease of sizing.

Stomagienics, Inc.
www.stomagienics.com • 225-939-1460

Stomagienics Inc., was created based on an extraordinary situation involving a family member who, after having ostomy surgery, solved a plaguing issue that occurs during the ostomy pouch replacement process. We use many of his original design principles to create a revolutionary new product that will change the lives of ostomates worldwide.

Surviving to Thriving
www.elaineorourke.com/ostomyprograms • 978-281-6126

Are you struggling to live a fulfilling life with your ostomy? Elaine O’Rourke, creator of the “Surviving to Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges Program, has had an ostomy since 2005 and understands the struggles are real! Stop by to claim your gift, 3 Simple Ways to Eliminate Fears About Your Ostomy.

Takeda
www.takeda.com • 877-825-3327

Takeda is a global, values-based, R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader headquartered in Japan, committed to bringing Better Health and a Brighter Future to patients by translating science into highly-innovative medicines. Takeda focuses its R&D efforts on four therapeutic areas: Oncology, Gastroenterology (GI), Neuroscience and Rare Diseases. We also make targeted R&D investments in Plasma-Derived Therapies and Vaccines.

Trio Ostomy Care USA  

www.trioostomycare.us • 863-421-9400

Trio Ostomy USA, has an over-riding commitment to patient care with improvements to quality of life being at the heart of our business. We ensure that our products reach healthcare providers at an affordable level, offering the benefits of the most advanced silicone technology for all.

United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) Inc.
www.ostomy.org • 800-826-0826
United Ostomy Associations of America provides educational material, resources, support and advocacy for those who have or will have ostomy surgery, their family, caregivers and medical professionals. Stop by our booth to view our resources and show your support of the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights by signing the online petition.

Youth Rally
www.youthrally.org • info@youthrally.org
More than 30 years after inception, the Youth Rally continues to provide an environment for young people to meet others who live with conditions of the bowel and bladder. Lasting friendships are formed, in a short 5 nights, in an atmosphere that promotes self-confidence and independence.

 

Click Here to learn more and register for UOAA’s 7th National Conference Aug. 6-10, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA.

Summer is quickly approaching and before you know it we will be in Philadelphia at UOAA’s 7th National Conference. With so many new and exciting things planned it is sure to be the best ever! I know whenever I attend a conference I plan well in advance and create my own personal schedule to ensure I do and see all that is of particular interest to me.  This includes conference sessions, social activities and taking some time for local sightseeing in a place I may never have been before. I also always go out of my way to try a new food or beverage native to a particular city or state and in this case it will be an iconic “Philly cheesesteak”.   

As UOAA’s Advocacy Manager I’m very excited that this conference is being held in Philadelphia, a city so very rich in history and quite frankly home to our country’s first advocates.  Here is my twist on ways you can take advantage of this city and our conference, if you have a soft spot for things “advocacy”-related:

  1. Be sure to sign UOAA’s Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights during Exhibit Hall hours at the UOAA booth. These signatures will be collected for potential use in advocacy efforts to improve quality in ostomy health care. You also can see one of the 12 surviving original copies of the US Bill of Rights at the National Constitution Center while in Philadelphia.
  2. Pay tribute to our country’s first advocates and visit the Independence National Historic Park to walk in Independence Hall where our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
  3. Celebrate your independence and and see the most famous cracked bell in American history – the Liberty Bell.  You can see it for free at the landmark Liberty Bell Center.
  4. Calling all superheroes!  On Wednesday, August 7th at 2:45 pm attend the UOAA Advocacy Session United Ostomy Advocates to the Rescue”! Come hear first-hand from some of UOAA’s advocates on how they use their “superpowers”, and also learn more about current advocacy efforts underway at UOAA. Leave our national conference empowered to make a positive difference!
  5. Many times in advocacy we face an uphill battle and feel like an underdog. For decades now Philly has been known for the ultimate underdog tale in the Rocky movie series. Show your resilience and run/climb the infamous Rocky stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  There are 72 stone steps and at the top you can chant “Yo, Philadelphia! I did it!”. Or you can take a picture at the statue of this legendary “Italian Stallion” located near the bottom of the steps.
  6. Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”.  Show your love for the ostomy community and go to Love Park to get a picture at the “LOVE” statue designed by Robert Indiana.

    Love park

  7. Be sure to stop by UOAA’s booth in the Exhibit Hall to pick up some of our self-advocacy tools and educational resources for use when you get back home in your own advocacy efforts.
  8. When it comes to advocacy and activists I can’t think of a more wiser and inspiring person than the fascinating and influential Benjamin Franklin! Not only was he one of the founding fathers of the United States, but he was an author, politician, postmaster, printer, inventor, scientist, diplomat and statesman. Of interest to the ostomy community is that he was the inventor of the flexible urinary catheter and founded the first public hospital!  If you have time, visit the Franklin Science Museum or just drive by the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. As an advocate I am inspired by so many of his famous quotes. I often say the key to advocacy is not only raising awareness and educating others, but also patience and perseverance.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes by Ben Franklin:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

    9) On Saturday, August 10th, at 2:15PM, please pop-in to contribute to UOAA’s first-ever research study by completing a short survey.  This data will help us make improvements to the underserved ostomy population. Upon doing so, you will also be entered into a drawing to win a prize!

   10) Join us during the conference Closing Ceremony at 3:30PM on Saturday, August 10th where we will be recognizing for the first-time the top advocate in the ostomy community! The Mighty Advocate Award, sponsored by UOAA, is a new biennial award intended to honor one individual for his/her significant accomplishments and contributions to support UOAA advocacy efforts and/or has brought greater ostomy awareness in the United States. Your presence will help make this a special moment in our advocacy history!

 

In conclusion, I’m excited to put a name to the face of the many advocates who have emailed me or have worked with me on advocacy efforts over the past couple of years, and meeting more of the people we strive to make an impact every day in our work at UOAA. See you in Philly!

UOAA conference speaker strategically uses humor to help ostomy patients

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA

If you’re a patient of Janice Beitz, PhD, RN, CS, CNOR, CWOCN-AP, CRNP, APNC, ANEF, FNAP, FAAN,  she will likely look you in the eye and know when to employ humor and when not to. If you’re in a rut you may get an ostomy joke to break the ice. “You think this bag is full of crap? You should see my bother in law,” she once quipped, breaking down all barriers for a man struggling to adjust whose brother-in-law seemingly fit the description.

Dr. Janice Beitz is a longtime WOC Nurse and educator who will speak on the power of humor and hope in emotional healing after ostomy surgery.

Ostomy surgery and chronic illness is not a laughing matter, but how you handle it can be a key to your success. It does not seem to be a coincidence that some of the most well-adjusted ostomates tend to have a sense of humor. Humor can change a negative mindset for you and those around you.

Dr. Beitz has over 40 years of nursing experience in acute, sub-acute and outpatient care settings. She’s explored the science behind laughter and health in academia and has seen it in patient settings. She will be a featured speaker at UOAA’s National Conference in Philadelphia this August.

Her talk is entitled, Intestines Are Soooooo Overrated: Psychosocial/Physiological Issues For Ostomates. She’ll discuss the social, psychological and physical issues of having a fecal or urinary diversion. The session will describe the findings from scholarly work on these areas of interest. Strategies for ostomates to achieve a high quality of life including therapeutic use of humor will be emphasized.

Dr. Beitz also teaches the next generation of WOC Nurses as the director of the Rutgers University Camden Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Education Program (WOCNEP). Students she has taken to visit the jovial and globetrotting members of the Ostomy Support Group of Philadelphia have left in shock. “They turn to me and say these people have traveled more and have a better life than I do!” Dr. Beitz said.

“They are seriously funny,” Dr. Beitz says of the Philadelphia group led by Stanley Cooper that is always laughing and living life to the fullest.

“She is committed to her students. She is committed to all WOC nurses, and she is committed to all patients that need a WOC nurse to ensure they receive the best possible care,” Stanley remarked.

“Janice loves to have a good laugh and will supply a good laugh when she can. When she spoke to our group, she started off with a funny cartoon from a newspaper that she projected on a screen.” Stanley.

“One thing she said to me after her appearance was that she always wanted to enter a room after being introduced to KC and the Sunshine Band singing Get Down Tonight. That is the type of good spirited, happy, energetic person that she is” Stanley said.

Emotional health will be touched upon in many other conference sessions as well. A session geared toward young adults will address body image and self-confidence with an ostomy. Relationships and sexuality sessions will often center on emotional health as well. Overcoming physical challenges often comes quicker than lingering emotional ones.

For those who have not had a UOAA Affiliated Support Group experience, the peer support at conference can provide a sense of camaraderie that gives an enlightening experience for the many who still struggle with the day-to-day challenges of living with an ostomy. Caregivers are also not forgotten at conference with a session on how to cope with caregiver stress.

UOAA’s vision is a society where people with ostomies and intestinal or urinary diversions are universally accepted and supported socially, economically, medically and psychologically. Connect with us locally, online or at conference and get on a positive path.

At the conference, perhaps we can arrange to turn up “Get Down Tonight” as we welcome Dr. Beitz to give us a laugh and hope about life with an ostomy.

By Karin, Newbieostomy

Whether you’ve been a part of the ostomy community for 20+ years or joined it yesterday, United Ostomy Associations of America’s (UOAA) National Conference is worth attending. There are two main themes that come up time and time again when talking to people about their experiences at the conference: education and friendship. You can read about the bonds that are formed at the UOAA conference in the post Ostomy Camaraderie.

Regarding education, it doesn’t matter if you just got your ostomy or you’ve had it for years, there’s always something new to learn because technology advances and our bodies change over time. If you’re like me, you’ve scoured the internet looking for answers to all your questions and have probably found quite a few answers hopefully here on ostomy.org or on my blog newbieostomy.com, but you might still have some other questions that are left unanswered.

Queue UOAA’s National Conference. Held every two years UOAA does a fabulous job of bringing in professionals to share the most up-to-date research and information. At the last conference in Irvine, California they brought in doctors, surgeons, WOC nurses, nurses who also have an ostomy, a geneticist, a pharmacist, a psychologist, scientists, a dietician, TSA officials, and people with inspiring stories, and probably others that I’ve missed – all who are happy to answer your specific questions and share their knowledge. That’s quite a toolbox for us ostomates to have all in one place! Here is a tentative program of what to expect at the upcoming conference August 6-10, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA.

Conference attendees speaking directly to TSA agents about traveling with an ostomy.

This year there are even suggested sessions and reserved meeting space for people with similarities. There is a Young Adult Track (Discount if 25 and under), Pediatrics Track and a Caregivers Track, so feel free to bring your family or partner along as well.

As a first-timer it was great, so much info.” – Eric, first-timer

I lean toward the studious side, so I brought a notepad and paper to every session I attended to help me soak up and remember as much knowledge as possible. In addition to (or in lieu of) taking notes during sessions, I’ve taken pictures of the slides I thought were really valuable.

Don’t want to draw attention to yourself with your hefty notebook or by holding your camera up every time there’s a new slide? Some speakers might also be willing to share their powerpoint presentations with you if you reach out to them after the event, or they might let you record the sessions if you get there early enough to ask permission.

I have learned more in these few days than I have in the almost 6 years with my permanent ostomy. – Daniel, first-timer

Wow. Right?

That’s pretty powerful.

With dozens of sessions offered, it’s can be hard to choose which one to go to if a couple of them conflict with each other. Luckily, each person has their own needs and interests so it’s likely that someone you know will go to a different session from you, which gives you both an opportunity to share what you’ve learned.

You might think that the sessions are only useful to a first timer, but not so. Derek has gone to every conference and has had his ostomy for almost 20 years, yet he still chooses to attend the “Basic Colostomy” session because there’s always something to learn and the other people who attend might ask a question he hasn’t thought of. While there are many repeat (basics) sessions offered every conference, the UOAA does a great job of bringing in new speakers to talk on different subjects as well. This year UOAA is also highlighting talks that will be of interest to both the new and experienced ostomate.

Like Derek, I also found value in the sessions from this conference even though I went to a ton of sessions at my first conference in 2015. I was happy to see new sessions offered, and to be able to attend a couple sessions that had conflicted with something else I’d prioritized hearing. I went to at least one repeat session that I noticed was really similar, but even there, I felt like I gained new knowledge and perspective because my brain can only hold so much information (even if we take notes).

In addition to attending the educational sessions and exploring the ostomy product exhibit hall, there was a hospitality area open every day where you could put a pushpin in the map of the United States to show where you’d come from, ask questions of local volunteers, and talk to members of the UOAA Advocacy and Communications team. There was also a free stoma clinic where attendees could sign up for an appointment to meet with a WOC nurse to troubleshoot pouching and skin troubles. On top of that, there were great speakers at the opening and closing ceremonies, and a really fun closing night party complete with dessert, dancing, and a perfectly executed fashion show.

This year the conference is at the Philadelphia 201 Hotel in the heart of the city and there are even more social events such as a free improv comedy show and music act, a Roaring 1920s Casino Night, and plenty of free time to explore an awesome city with new friends.

UOAA’s National Conference the perfect place to bond

By Karin (Newbieostomy)

Ostomies don’t discriminate, it doesn’t matter your gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, attitude toward life, social status, diet, or activity level. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, if you have an ostomy, you have something in common with 725,000 to 1,000,000 other Americans and a huge number of other people across the world. If you have an ostomy, you’ve probably experienced the anxiety, fear, and stages of grief that come with such a life-changing surgery. You may have experienced feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair, concern that your life was never going to be the same and that no one could possibly understand what you’ve gone through.

Karin and friends at the last UOAA National Conference in Irvine, California in 2017. A fashion show and dancing will again close out this year’s conference in Philadelphia Aug. 6-10.

It’s true that your life might never be the same, but it can absolutely be better. And it’s true that while only you have experienced your experiences, there are a ton of other people who can empathize and identify with what you’ve gone through by relating it to the similar experiences they’ve endured (and vice versa). United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) National Conference offers opportunities to meet these people face to face and when that happens, magic happens.

I like figuring things out for myself. I just always figured this as my fight and nobody else is going to do it for me, so why go to a conference. However, I realized that I actually did have some unanswered questions and more than anything I was curious to see what I could learn at the conference. I’m glad I went, because all of my questions were answered, I made some new friends who share an immediate, strong connection and I found new courage and perspective that I didn’t realize was missing from my life.” – Nathan, first timer

Nathan has had his ostomy for seven years and still had questions. Good thing he came and got them answered! His “this is my fight” attitude is not unique to him (sorry, Nathan!). It may be your fight, but you don’t have to fight alone, and I think that’s a huge thing that people realize once they attend the conference. A perfect segue into one of my favorite parts of the conference: the unbreakable, timeless, instant bonds and friendships.

I would say the most powerful aspect of the conference, that I was not expecting going into it, was how close everyone there seemed to be. It was my first UOAA conference, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but as soon as I got there (you) came up to introduce yourself, and within a few minutes we had a group that was speaking openly about anything and everything that came to mind.”

As a fairly introverted person who can often be quite clumsy when first starting a new conversation/friendship, I found the welcoming environment of everyone I met to be the highlight for me. The instant level of understanding between everyone was pretty special.” – Collin, first timer

At the UOAA conference, it’s like a weight is lifted, allowing people to candidly talk about the emotions, struggles, and achievements they’ve experienced. These people who were strangers a moment ago have an uncanny ability to say things that make you think “Yes! That! That’s exactly how I feel!” — An instant bond is created.

[At UOAA’s Conference] I had no idea what to expect and went in knowing no one. When I got there I was quickly met by a girl who seemed around my age and had more energy and joy then I thought was even possible when first meeting someone. Her name is Alyssa and she instantly welcomed me to the “group”. My initial thought was I have no idea who these people are and she knows all of them and I am going to be the outsider. But I was totally wrong! I was welcomed and accepted by everyone instantly and next thing I know I am sitting in the pool with them, attending meals together, and exploring the conference together.

I learned that attending this conference was crucial to understanding myself, I learned that I can be myself still even though I have an ostomy and that my ostomy doesn’t hold me back or define me. We all talked openly about our struggles, which made me realize I am to the only going through the hard times, but most importantly we talked about the good things that have happened and come from our ostomy. We also talked about things having nothing to do with having an ostomy, and personally, I think when you can do both you have met a really good friend, they want to know who you are as a person not just who you are because you have an ostomy. Meeting this group of people was one of the most valuable things that happened at the conference.

Overall this conference was a life changing experience and I would really encourage anyone who has not attended one before to go to one. I think it is super important for younger ostomates because it gives you a chance to meet other people your age and just ask questions.” –Mallory, first timer

It was no surprise to me that Nathan, Collin and Mallory all had such positive things to say about their social experiences at the conference, because I had the same experiences at my first conference and again in 2017 (where I got to meet each of them)! We come to the conference for knowledge, but we keep coming back for the camaraderie.

UOAA’s National Conference is held every two years so while you may have missed the last one in Irvine, California, registration is now open for the 7th National Conference in Philadelphia from August 6-10, 2019.