Tag Archive for: ostomy

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Finding Humor in life with an ostomy and IBD

My name is LTC(R) Justin F. Blum and I had my initial ostomy surgery 29 years ago and my rectum removed six years later.  These surgeries were done because of an ulcerative colitis diagnosis that lead to colon cancer.

During the 1980s, I had many colonoscopies and a litany of medications, the Army assigned me to duty stations in Kentucky, South Carolina, Birmingham AL, and Fort Monroe VA. I started with 20mg of Prednisone per day and that went up to 240mg in the fall of 1992.  During that following winter, I made an appointment with an Army gastroenterologist at Eisenhower Army Hospital, Fort Gordon GA.  After the exam, he told me I needed to have ostomy surgery. I knew what an ostomy was, I raised

Still a tanker at heart!

my voice and said, “The only way I will have ostomy surgery is if my back is to the wall and I have one foot already in the grave”. Little did I know in one year I would be having that surgery. I was bleeding profusely while taking 240mg of Prednisone per day. My last colonoscopy showed that I had a large black spot on the transverse part of my colon.

My doctor immediately scheduled me for ostomy surgery at the end of February 1993. I was in the hospital for two weeks and proceeded to convalesce at home for 30 days. Three weeks into the leave, my wife and I tried having sex for the first time as an ostomate. My bag ended up going where no bag has ever gone before and probably had a better time than we did. After some maneuvering, life did get better! I reported back to duty in Birmingham AL after convalescent leave was over. I was eventually given a J Pouch which I had for four years.

My years with IBD and now an ostomy showed me that it takes a village to obtain a good quality of life.

The next few years living with my J-pouch were horrible. Despite taking 15 hospital strength Imodium per day, I was still defecating 20 times per day. I continuously was sore on my bottom. I would develop leaks and I ended up having to wear pantyliners in my underwear. When I retired from active duty in August 1996, I immediately started my second career as an Army JROTC Instructor in Bennettsville SC. I continued to go to the bathroom quite frequently and in the spring of the following year my daughter, who was six at the time, wanted me to play horsey with her and take her around the block. I bent down half in tears and told her that “daddy can’t play horsey because he is too sore on his bottom”. I immediately went to talk to my wife and we both agreed it was time to get back to having an ostomy bag. That summer at the Columbia SC Veterans Administration hospital, I had my third surgery to restore my ostomy due to my poor quality of life with the J Pouch. On the positive side, since I’ve had an external pouch, the veteran’s administration awarded me 100% total and permanent disability. I spent the next 23 years as an Army JROTC Instructor.

By the Fall of 1997, I was ready for my first formal engagement with my ostomy. The NAACP was conducting its annual scholarship banquet and I was one of the evening’s speakers.  I made a very big mistake on the Saturday morning of the event by eating two packets of oatmeal for breakfast. I then went to a local bowling alley with my 6-year-old daughter for a birthday party. At the party, I ate too much popcorn!   That evening my wife and children attended the dinner and I was dressed in my brand-new army dress mess uniform. I was sitting on the stage at the head table when it was my time to give remarks. Once I was finished with my remarks I looked down and I thought I had spilled some water on my lap. After a closer look, I realized that that was not water but wet feces seeping through my lap. I immediately got up and my wife and I proceeded to the nearest restroom. In the men’s room, my wife was straddling me with her body trying to clean off the feces from my pouch with one hand and trying to put on a new ostomy bag with the other. During this time three individuals came into the restroom and became startled because they thought we were having sex on the floor!

From 1997 to 2002 I would experience a lot of burning, stinging, and itching around my stoma. Unfortunately, I did not have access to an ostomy nurse at any of the two hospitals where I lived in Florence SC. To my good fortune, a new assistant WOC nurse was assigned to Carolinas Hospital. I called the nurse the next day and told her about the problems I was experiencing on my skin. She immediately asked if I could come in the next day for her to examine my broken skin. That next day she examined my skin and applied Nystatin Powder to the inflamed areas. Within two days the burning, stinging, soreness, and red skin started to heal very quickly.

Despite the ostomy pouch I worked very hard my first few years and to my happiness in 2003, was named the Army Junior ROTC instructor of the year for the entire worldwide JROTC system that consists of over 5000 instructors. In August of 2010 I received a letter from Cindy Norris, Carolina’s Hospital WOC nurse who enclosed an application for the ConvaTec sponsored Great Comebacks program. The Great Comebacks program identified ostomates that also accomplished acts in their lives of giving back to others. I mailed the application back for processing. The application highlighted my time with IBD and then in 1993 acquiring my ostomy while the whole time serving my country as an officer in the United States Army. In addition, in November 2009 I was promoted to the rank of full Colonel in the South Carolina State Guard. I received a phone call from former NFL Placekicker Rolf Benirschke with the great comebacks program. He told me I would be the recipient of the Tony Snow Award for Public Service. The Tony Snow Award was annually given to an individual who has an ostomy and performed years of public service to our nation.

In 2010 and 2011 I was honored to be recognized with several awards.  I was named the 2010 volunteer of the year for South Carolina, the Tony Snow award winner, and in the summer of 2011, I was named for the second time the Army JROTC instructor of the Year. South Carolina Representative the Honorable Jim Clyburn recognized me on the floor of the House of Representatives in the summer of 2011 for these mentioned achievements while having an ostomy.

Eight years later I retired after 23 years as a JROTC instructor for a total of 44 years in uniform. My first act as a retiree was to apply to become a member of the United Ostomy Associations of America’s Board of Directors. To my good fortune, I became a board member and will have served a total of four years upon the conclusion of this tour of duty.

Justin at UOAA’s National Conference in Jacksonville , FL in August 2013. He now serves as a member of UOAA’s Board of Directors.

Over the four years, I was diagnosed and experienced neuropathy in conjunction with my ostomy. I was first put on a regimen of three 800mg tablets of Gabapentin per day which lasted six months. Not feeling any relief from the pain my doctor said we should try acupuncture. Apparently, the ears are where the acupuncture needles went because it was a central place for the pain sensors around my stoma.  I was on acupuncture for about 3 months and unfortunately, I did not see any relief. My doctor prescribed Lyrica, which is a derivative of Gabapentin. I started with one tablet per day now I am up to three tablets after two months. My pain levels have gone down considerably and fortunately I have been able to start exercising again in moderation.

My years with IBD and now an ostomy showed me that it takes a village to obtain a good quality of life. My wife Leah, who I refer to as my “Chief of Staff” is the most important person in my village. She stood by my side during four surgeries and all the years of total discomfort. In addition, if not for my caring and loving wife, I never would have gotten through the transition from non-ostomate to being an ostomate. She is my go-to person for any of my problems and she is both sympathetic and empathetic to those problems. She also stood by my side during countless tours of duty with the Army bringing her continually farther away from her home in New Jersey. Ten years prior to my initial surgery, in 1993, my father died at the age of 61 from colon cancer that spread to his liver. My ostomy surgery gave me a second chance to live because I was a prime example that ostomies save lives! If I did not have my proctocolectomy, my young wife would have become a widow with three children all under the ages of seven.

I am also most fortunate to have three WOC nurses in my life: Joy Hooper, Donna Sellers, and Joanna Burgess-Stocks. I can contact any of those three nurses at any time of the day or night, especially Joanna, if I am having problems with my ostomy/neuropathy. A healthy support system is needed for anyone inflicted with these lifetime conditions. I have learned to always look at the positive side of life throughout all those years I had IBD and now my ostomy. Today I counsel individual ostomates who are having problems adjusting to their ostomy and speak to UOAA Affiliated Support Groups around the country via Zoom and share my story and listen to theirs. Remember, you’re not alone!

By Jeanine Gleba, UOAA Advocacy Manager

Too many people living with an ostomy have the worry that due to a need for frequent pouch changes or a high output stoma they will run out of their monthly Medicaid allowable ostomy supplies.  For the past year, UOAA has been supporting efforts, led by Coloplast, to expand Medicaid coverage of extended wear products in states with remaining access problems across the country. 

UOAA’s advocacy work has included:

  • Raising awareness on this important issue
  • Recruiting Affiliated Support Group leaders that are also WOC nurses and other local clinicians to provide clinical support and insight
  • Sending letters to state divisions of Medicaid services urging them to review the ostomy supply policy regarding coverage of ostomy supplies for HCPCS codes and quantities, specifically for extended wear products. 

As the voice and leading organization advocating for people living with an ostomy, we know first-hand how important access to ostomy supplies are for our patient population. We share the patient perspective with testimonials from advocates as well as explaining patients’ unique needs, such as those who are unable to achieve normal wear time with a standard barrier. Improved access to extended wear barriers will assist those who do not have an optimal fit or have a high-output stoma and go through more standard wear barriers and pouch changes. For these individuals extended wear products would be the prescribed solution. 

As a result of the collaboration between Coloplast, UOAA, State Home Medical Equipment (HME)/Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Associations, local clinicians and other advocates, we have expanded patient access to extended wear products in seven states as noted in the above map. This is excellent news for Medicaid beneficiaries living with an ostomy in these states! (Note: States that are grey/light blue on the map were not seen to have any state Medicaid extended wear access challenges.)

More advocacy efforts are underway in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin to remove the current barrier to access in those states. These states have Medicaid coverage that is much less than the current Medicare standards.

By Robin Glover

No need to be alarmed, but if you have an ostomy you already have a hernia! When the surgeon opened your abdominal muscles to pull your intestine through, they technically gave you a hernia. But we’re not talking about that kind of hernia. We’re talking about parastomal (peristomal) hernias. That’s when more intestine than planned pushes through your muscles and causes a bulge at your ostomy site.

You can tell if you might have a parastomal hernia by a noticeable bulge or by placing your hand over your stoma and seeing if it protrudes out when you cough. (This doesn’t count as an official diagnosis. You’ll probably also want to talk to your doctor.)

What Is a Parastomal Hernia?

A parastomal hernia is like any other hernia. They happen when an organ pushes through a weak spot in the muscle. For people with an ostomy, the organ is your intestine and the weak spot is in the same area the surgeon created your stoma.

While every effort is made to close everything and ensure a tight, snug fit, some extra intestine can force its way through and push against your skin. (This is as opposed to a prolapsed stoma when extra intestine is actually coming out of your body.)

Parastomal hernias usually happen within the first one to two years after ostomy surgery, but can occur later. While people without a parastomal hernia will tell you they’re mostly asymptomatic, those with one will likely beg to differ. Parastomal hernias can cause discomfort and pain and make it difficult to keep your appliance on.

Dealing With a Parastomal Hernia

One of the most frustrating things about having a parastomal hernia is dealing with leaks. Every parastomal hernia is unique and they come in all shapes and sizes so finding the right pouching system is important. It can take some experimenting and ordering plenty of free samples from ostomy supply companies to get it figured out.

If possible, you should also consult with a Wound Ostomy Care nurse. In fact, you should probably do this first. It can save you plenty of time and frustration. Check out this link for resources on finding one. Ostomy nurses are out there and ready to help!

Preventing a Parastomal Hernia

The best way to prevent a parastomal hernia is to listen to your doctor. When they say to not lift anything over 10 pounds for 4-6 weeks after surgery, don’t do it! You should also always be careful about what you lift and use proper form no matter how long ago your surgery was. It’s also a good idea to wear an ostomy support belt or undergarment when you’re working out or doing any strenuous activity, and to apply pressure to your stoma when you cough or sneeze.

Strengthening the area around your stoma site can help, too. But, as always, check with your doctor before beginning any sort of exercise routine. (Also, as always again, quitting smoking and/or maintaining a healthy weight can make a big difference.)

How Do You Fix a Parastomal Hernia?

Well, there’s no simple answer. Like every parastomal hernia is different, so are our bodies and the surgeries we’ve had. It will take consulting with your doctor or a WOC nurse to find a plan of action that’s specific to your needs.

But something you can do right now is find support from the ostomy community. We are a tight-knit group (and just not our sutures!) of people always eager to help and offer a listening ear.

 

Robin Glover is a writer based in the Houston area. He has a permanent ostomy after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2017.

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications Manager

Beverly Dabliz is ready to celebrate a monumental 60th anniversary but even her closest friends do not all know what it is for. Recently she decided it was finally time to share the news. “Just last week I told a close friend I’ve known for 66 years – I’m the godmother of her twins, but even they did not know I have an ostomy. It was just not something people talked about,” Dabliz says. She adds “People are surprised to learn the news, but it does not matter to them one bit.”

Dabliz had ileostomy surgery in 1962 at Ferguson Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ferguson was one of the first clinics in the world to perform such surgeries. By the time she turned twenty she was suffering from ulcerative colitis and by twenty-four ran out of treatment options. “After sixty years I have never regretted it, it has allowed me to live a great life,” Dabliz says.

Almost no one with the exception of her doctor understood the procedure and how to care for it. She knew she was on her own on how to carry on and reach her full potential.
Even if you have a great support network Dabliz recommends, “You have to own it and take care of it.” Ostomy supplies of that time bear little resemblance to the lightweight, contoured appliances of today. “I wore a heavy two-piece rubber appliance held on with an ostomy glue,” she recalls. It was not until the 70s that pouching systems began to evolve into something similar to the one and two-piece systems commonly used today.

“It was just not something people talked about,”

Over the years Dabliz has helped other ostomates in need through the Detroit Metro Ostomy Support Group. While doing hospital visits she would always appear in fitted clothes and enjoyed how grateful the patients were to hear from someone else living with an ostomy. She is happy about the recent return of in-person support group meetings. At meetings, Dabliz is sometimes surprised by some of the concerns new ostomates have regarding things like food, “I just tell them to be sure you chew your food very well, in the beginning, I tried it all without being scared but I’m still often the last one eating. I chew my food so well I’ve worn down teeth.”

Beverly Dabliz, right, works during a mission trip to Costa Rica with her Michigan church group.

Dabliz worked in the accounting department of a computer company in Detroit and Plymouth, Michigan for 45 years before retiring. Her boss was aware of her ostomy and supportive. “I never missed a day of work because of the ostomy,” she says.

Six years ago Dabliz had a fight with kidney cancer and three years ago a shoulder replacement surgery. But she has otherwise been fortunate to live a healthy life since the ostomy surgery six decades ago. She still makes it a point to get out of the house almost every day. “I have always been very active and really have not had any ostomy issues,” Dabliz says. In her eighties now, she still enjoys golfing and was in a bowling league for many years.

Beverly Dabliz working as a volunteer at the Eagle River Methodist Camp in Juneau, Alaska.

Dabliz can also still be found tending to her yard and is reluctant to give up shoveling the Michigan snow – though neighbors have started beating her to it. With the exception of some subtle changes, her ostomy regiment remains routine. She consistently uses the same products.

Dabliz is an active member of her church and has gone on many mission trips over the years in countries such as Jamaica and Costa Rica. “I’ve had to use outhouses in Alaska and done mission work after Hurricane Katrina,” Dabliz says. Even in these tight living quarters, nobody knew she had an ostomy.

An ostomy has never gotten in the way of her passion for traveling and cruising the world with her older sister. The pair have even circumnavigated Australia and New Zealand. Her advice; “I take extra supplies and always bring some on carry-on and have never had any trouble flying. Just do it. Go swimming, do whatever you want to do,” she says.

In celebration of her 60th Stomaversary and 85th Birthday, Dabliz is hoping to take a Holland America cruise around Iceland with her sister. Her minister and family have known of her ostomy but she hopes to tell more friends about what this landmark occasion means to her. Dabliz is confident they will take the news in stride as they help her celebrate a life that could have been cut way too short if not for that long ago ostomy surgery.

By Robin Glover

The recovery process for a j-pouch is just that. It’s a process. It takes time and patience and is different for everyone. For some, it can be relatively easy. For others, it can be a winding path with twists and turns just like the colon that was removed for it.

But one thing is the same for practically everyone: j-pouch surgery offers hope for a return to a life that’s less encumbered by the alternatives. Seriously, who doesn’t want to poop out of their butt again if given the opportunity? Oh, and getting rid of that disease-ravaged large intestine is a plus, too.

What Is A J-Pouch?

In case you’re reading this to research information for yourself, friend or family member, here’s a quick explanation of what a j-pouch is:

Medically known as Ileal Pouch Anal Anastomosis (IPAA) surgery, it involves removing the entire colon and rectum and then connecting the small intestine directly to the anus. The term j-pouch refers to the shape of the “pouch” that’s created when the surgeon folds the small intestine on itself and creates a reservoir to hold waste until it is passed through the anus. It can also be known as an s-pouch or w-pouch based on how it’s surgically constructed. J-Pouch surgery is most often done in cases of ulcerative colitis where there is no disease in the small intestine or as a result of FAP, colorectal cancer or a bowel perforation.

The surgery for a j-pouch almost always involves two or three steps. The first step, and usually the more major surgery, is to remove the large intestine. At the same time, an ileostomy is created that will be used until the small intestine is reattached. This will be a temporary external pouch.

Stages of J-Pouch Surgery

Depending on individual circumstances, the first surgery can also involve removing the rectum and creating the internal j-pouch. However, it can also be its own separate procedure. But either way, the final step is to reverse the ileostomy and connect the small intestine to the anus. At this point, no external pouch is needed and the traditional route of passing stool can resume.

Be aware that the patient has the right to decide between a J-pouch or keeping the ostomy and should know not all temporary ostomies are able to be taken down and not all J-pouches are able to be connected.

Early Recovery From J-Pouch Surgery

It’s an exciting experience when you wake up from the final surgery and see that there’s no longer a need to have a pouch attached to you. What was once your stoma is now a still pretty nasty wound, but one that will heal and become just another proud scar.

Things won’t be working quite yet though. It will be a few days before you actually have a bowel movement. Sometimes it can take longer, but that’s not a big deal. When you’re in the hospital you’ll be monitored and well taken care of. You likely won’t go home until your doctors are sure everything is working correctly, including being able to eat and pass solid food.

Everything that comes out will still be liquid, though. It will be a little bit before you start passing anything even semi-solid. And you might not ever get to that point or only have it happen on rare occasions. There’s nothing unusual about that.

J-Pouch Guide

Diet Right After Going Home

The diet you follow after getting home from the hospital will be communicated to you by your doctor and you’ll probably go home with many guides and resources. Mainly, staying hydrated is very important and avoid raw fruits or vegetables, nuts, whole grain, seeds, or anything else that doesn’t digest in around two hours. Since you no longer have a large intestine, food has much less time to be processed and if you eat a handful of nuts they’re going to come out the same way they went down.

Check the Eating with an Ostomy Guide for a much more complete diet guideline.

But, even worse, it can cause a blockage. Blockages are the bane of a j-pouch’s existence. You need to be careful about what you eat (typically called a “low residue” diet) and chew your food thoroughly. Chew extra. And then some more. Take small bites and don’t take any risks right away. Introduce new foods slowly.

NOTE: Your doctor or dietician will know the best foods to eat and what to avoid for your specific needs. Always follow their directions before anything you read on the internet.

Getting To Know Your J-Pouch

It can take a while after surgery to completely adjust to your new plumbing. You’ll learn what foods are “safe foods” and which to avoid. You’ll also learn about how your j-pouch behaves and how it affects your daily life.

For example, you’ll start to get an idea of how many times per day you’ll go to the bathroom and what consistency you can expect. You’ll also learn what each sense of urgency means and when you need to go to the bathroom right away and when you can hold it. It will feel like you need to go to the bathroom a lot and you’ll probably actually need to at the beginning. But, over time, your j-pouch will stretch and grow to be able to hold more before needing to be emptied.

Ideally, after everything settles down, you will only go to the bathroom 4 to 8 times a day and it will be a simple and quick emptying process.

You’ll Experience Butt Burn

Speaking of going to the bathroom a lot, you may experience what is known as “butt burn.” This is because, on top of going to the bathroom more often, without a large intestine your stool will be much more acidic from digestive enzymes.

It’s necessary to take special care and make sure everything is extra clean. A bidet is a great idea because rubbing with toilet paper can also cause irritation. There are also many creams and lotions you can use to soothe and protect. Zinc-based lotions are a good place to start. And get some disposable gloves while you’re at it.

You may go to the bathroom up to 20 times a day (or more) and experience irritation from going so much. But, it will get better as you learn more about your j-pouch and develop processes that work best for you. In the end (no pun intended), you’ll get to a point where you’re comfortable and know how to manage it like an expert.

Ideally, after everything settles down, you will only go to the bathroom 4 to 8 times a day and it will be a simple and quick emptying process.

It’s Not Always Easy

As mentioned, j-pouch recovery is a process. At the beginning, there will be accidents (typically nighttime) and discomfort. It’s a whole new way of digesting food and your body needs time to adjust. And you will need time to adjust to it too. It’s a major change.

Be aware of possible complications such as pouchitis and tell your doctor if you have more frequent or blood in your bowel movements.If you have a j-pouch or need one, you’ve already been through a lot. You know you’re resilient and can make it through almost anything. This is just another step in your journey.

Don’t let any of this discourage you. There’s a reason you decided to get a j-pouch and there’s a wealth of resources and support out there to help. Everything you will experience has been experienced before and the j-pouch community is always ready to help. But keep in mind that social media is often a place to vent so you might see more negative than positive posts.

So focus on the good, be patient, and look forward to enjoying pooping out of your butt again!

 

 

Robin Glover is a writer based in the Houston area. He has a permanent ostomy after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2017.

Caring for a child with short bowel syndrome (SBS), a serious and chronic malabsorption disorder, can often feel isolating and disheartening.1, 2, 3 Unexpected barriers and challenges can make the condition difficult to manage and live with. And, because SBS is rare, finding information and support can be especially difficult. But for my daughter Mariah and me, this life with SBS is not about injustice, it’s about empowerment – a lesson Mariah has taught me better than anyone. As she puts it, “Mommy, I picked this life, and I picked you to be here to do it with me.”

Hearing those words years ago through the smile of my young daughter has been the ultimate source of strength for me. Mariah was born with most of her small bowel and half of her colon missing and was diagnosed with SBS at birth. She doesn’t receive nutrients as well as she should, which can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and other physiological complications. However, she was also born with incredible, innate resilience – that resilience has empowered me to break down walls and advocate fiercely on her behalf along our journey.

Finding strength has not always been easy. At the time of Mariah’s birth, the doctors said she would not live past one year. Essentially, I was told that my daughter had a death sentence. I did not accept that. But even though I didn’t doubt that she would survive her SBS diagnosis, I still grieved. Then, eventually I said to myself, “We will be the exception. We will be unique, and my child will thrive.” And, ultimately it was Mariah who created her own reality by not only surviving, but thriving. She simply shocked everyone.

Mariah is now ten years old, and she’s just like other kids in so many ways. For example, she certainly doesn’t like to clean her room! She is also her own wonderfully special person – she is a trickster who loves playing jokes on her brother and sister, and even kids around with nurses and staff during difficult hospital visits. She is equally nurturing and an avid caretaker of the sunflowers in our garden.

As Mariah gets older, I want to encourage her to become independent in every aspect of her life and to be curious about her SBS management. She already likes to gather her own supplies and has taken a particular interest in flushing out her own line (of her total parenteral nutrition [TPN]). Mariah doesn’t have the eating aversion that some kids with SBS might develop, so I allow her to eat whatever she wants and stock up her assigned “snack pantry” with what she chooses. Giving her the option to choose her own snacks is just one way that we’re building and supporting Mariah’s self-reliance in her SBS care and daily life.

This sense of independence helps Mariah feel like her true self because, as other parents of children with SBS likely know, the disease is not always pretty. That was especially true of Mariah’s experience following a surgical procedure known as an ileostomy. An ileostomy is a surgically created opening from the ileum, the lowest part of the small intestine. The intestine is brought through the abdominal wall to form a stoma. We agreed to do the ileostomy after she had been experiencing incredible pain when trying to use the bathroom. She would have acidic bowel moments and fissures – it was just awful.

The ileostomy was a temporary solution at best but was by no means perfect. We never had enough bags (or ileostomy pouches) and living with an ileostomy was challenging for us. At Mariah’s school, I would try to encourage curiosity and acceptance by telling the other kids that Mariah was an “alien from another planet” to explain her pouch. While a somewhat satisfactory explanation for most of the kids, she still experienced bullying from some of them. Thankfully, Mariah has always been confident in letting those bullies know that even if they weren’t being very nice, she would love them anyways. She punished them with kindness. It’s just another one of those things that makes her “Mariah”. Ultimately, Mariah was able to have the ileostomy reversed a few months ago which was a relief to us all.

In the moments of struggle that come with her SBS, Mariah has always responded with even greater moments of strength – sometimes even more strength than I possess myself. She has already had 40 surgeries in her first ten years of life, and on one occasion I decided to do her makeup with “winged” eyeliner before her procedure. However, when she came out of surgery, her makeup had been smeared. When she saw that I was crying, I told her the white lie that it was over the ruined eyeliner rather than let her see how hard it was watch her endure another challenge. Yet she was the one who said, with an unbothered smile, “Mom, stop! It’s not that serious, we’ll fix it later.” Her spirit is my strength, and that spirit inspires me to advocate fiercely for her every day.

In general, I feel there needs to be greater advocacy for the lives touched by SBS. It’s rare, and in my experience, there aren’t many people who can bridge the gap between parents’ understanding of the condition and the knowledge that medical professionals have. Although people living with SBS often have a circle of care that includes healthcare professionals across various disciplines, it can be difficult to merge everyone’s insights and get on the same page.

I have learned that to speak the same language as medical professionals, you must be invested and passionate about your research. For me, Google is my best friend. I research online to understand things like the vascular system and other biological processes. I read medical case studies online. I look at clinical studies. I constantly do my own fact-finding because I want to understand how a treatment will impact my child. The best way to do that is by arming myself with information as I fight to ensure she receives the care and treatment plans that are most appropriate for her. 

It can take time to find medical professionals who are comfortable when a parent says, “I respect your opinion, but I’ve done my research, as well, and we’re not going to do that; we’re going to do this instead.” I’ve learned that you can, in fact, get through brick walls. Although sometimes it’s by going over, around or under versus breaking through. And when medical professionals don’t think I’m at their level, I have no problem “putting on my heels” to get there so they hear me.

Although I am not a physician, I do have a PhD in Mariah – no one knows her better than I do. I know that when she has an infection, her eyes will turn bright green. When she’s going to have a fever, she sleep talks. I’m compelled to ask the deeper questions about why a doctor may believe a new treatment or procedure is necessary. This sometimes has forced us to switch providers because in my view, “protocols” are not personalized to Mariah’s needs. Every person with SBS has a unique experience.

We are ALL human, doctors included. And we can make mistakes, learn and grow. All the things that I didn’t know when Mariah was diagnosed with SBS have helped me remain teachable and earnest in advocating for her. I’ve learned so much more by recognizing what I don’t know. Being humble enough to take advice has given me the greatest defense.

Nevertheless, it is challenging to constantly find resources and support, especially as a single parent. Trying to make ends meet at home while managing Mariah’s SBS journey is an ongoing challenge. Even when reaching out to other parents in the SBS community, it can be difficult to find balance. But the biggest support I find is that I don’t feel alone. When I talk to other parents in the community about our experiences, they just get it. I don’t have to explain Mariah’s condition or worry I will feel crazy. I can just ask, “Do you experience this?” and they say, “Yes, we got you!”  Immediately, I feel less alone.

This journey takes strength and resilience, there is no doubt about it. Even with the support of the community and loved ones, ultimately, no one really knows what it takes for Mariah to be Mariah. They don’t know she has to carry a backpack for her nutrition. They don’t know what it looks like when I have to hold her for 15 minutes after her three daily shots. But they do see her strength, and they are compassionate towards the way Mariah knocks down every obstacle in her way, even those that would probably defeat others. I am humbled that this is our walk, and I believe it was given to us for a reason.

Just as the community encourages me and reminds me that I am not alone, I hope to encourage others in the community who may just be starting out on their SBS journey or struggling along the way. When talking to parents of newly diagnosed children, I want them to know that every child is unique, like a fingerprint. It’s all about believing that your child can do what they need to do. The most important thing is to know you’re doing the best for your child at every step of the way. This condition does not have to be a death sentence. And, if your child is anything like mine, he or she is likely stronger than you ever could have imagined.

To learn more about Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), visit https://www.shortbowelsyndrome.com/. To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out https://www.facebook.com/TakedaSBS.

This article was created by Takeda.

 

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

 

My name is Katie Lee, and I was diagnosed with stage 1 rectal cancer at age 33, only eight months after the birth of my second child. My tumor was […]

By Elaine O’Rourke, Ostomy/IBD Health Mentor

Peristomal hernias are something that every ostomate should be aware of. Although a hernia can occur for a wide variety of reasons, there are some common factors to take into consideration, such as weight, age, level of fitness and other health issues.

Nurse Anita Prinz, CWOCN, is my guest in this must-watch video and we discuss hernias in detail. She shares a very informative slide show as well as showing different types of hernia belts and ostomy products that are useful if you have a hernia.

You will see and learn what hernias look like, how they form and preventive tips.

There are a great variety of hernia support belts on the market which can make a big difference. But you should be fitted/sized for your hernia belt as every body and stoma is different.

It is so important in the weeks following surgery not to lift or do anything strenuous. Even coughing can cause a hernia. Always proceed with caution especially when you are starting to exercise. If you are trying to get in shape and have not been active before surgery then you are advised to wear a hernia belt.

You might benefit from one-on-one instruction from someone such as myself who is trained and knows how to exercise safely and strengthen and engage the core with an ostomy. Hernias do not go away so you should consult your medical professionals to get more advice. Surgery can be done but be aware that hernias can reoccur.  Ask questions and be well informed.

Make sure to grab your FREE GUIDE: “3 simple ways to eliminate fears about your ostomy” by visiting Elaine’s website www.ElaineOrourke.com

Nurse Anita is available for a private consultation. www.AnitaNurse.com

About Elaine

Elaine O’Rourke is an Ostomy/IBD Health Mentor and the creator of the program “Surviving To Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges So You Can Live a FulFilling Life”.  She is a certified Yoga Therapist & Teacher since 2003, Sound Healer, EFT & Reiki Practitioner, Recording Artist and International Retreat Leader. Her lighthearted and fun personality shines through her teachings/programs as she loves to inspire others.  She is a contributing writer to the national Phoenix Magazine and UOAA, presenter at the UOAA National Conference and speaker at Girls with Guts retreat. 

YouTube: Elaine O’Rourke Yoga, Ostomy, IBD

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ostomyibdlife/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ostomyibdlife/

Web: ElaineOrourke.com

When Paige started seventh grade, she was excited to meet new friends and begin new classes, like most 12-year olds! Her life quickly changed when she began to experience medical complications. At the beginning of seventh grade, Paige started having to make frequent visits to the bathroom, as much as 12 times a day. Paige and her family sought out answers and treatment at a nearby hospital where the doctors found a parasite in her colon called cryptosporidium, which causes diarrheal disease.

Due to her Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis at the age of 10, the parasite was life-changing for Paige, as it destroyed her colon. “They told me that with how bad my colon was, I should have died.”

Paige went through a variety of treatments to save her colon. This started with receiving Remicade as an IV treatment…Paige’s body did not respond well. The next step in treatment was to try a j-pouch, again her body did not respond well to this treatment, but a j-pouch was tried one more time with the same outcome. After her two failed j-pouch operations, Paige continued to be sick and only had 8 feet of intestines left. Her mother, Cristy, discussed with her doctors to do something different since the j-pouch was not working, and that’s when Paige had surgery to receive a permanent ileostomy. After months of hospital stays, her life was saved with her ostomy. Paige’s journey doesn’t stop there. After being discharged from the hospital, Paige had trouble finding a pouching system that helped provide a secure fit to her body.

“We left the hospital with an ostomy pouching system that had a 12-hour wear time, at best,” says Cristy. “I went mama mode and searched for a better product. Luckily, we found a great gal on the other end of the Coloplast® Care phone line who answered all our questions and gave us just that!,” she said.
Once Paige found a pouching system that worked for her and started to gain her confidence back, she saw the need to create more resources for teenagers living with an ostomy, because there wasn’t much out there!

“I play volleyball, I go to camps that are just like me (Youth Rally), I attend high school dances, I go on dates…I do it all! Coloplast helped me find the best fit for my body. They may be able to help you too. I have used Coloplast for 4 years now and I still feel confident in my pouch.”
According to Paige, living with her ostomy is not always easy. Along with the physical challenges, there are mental challenges from her experiences as well. Paige encourages anyone experiencing mental challenges to speak up and find someone to talk with.

To help other teenagers living with an ostomy, Paige and Cristy contacted Coloplast, and they partnered together to create a care guide specifically for teenagers!

Throughout this booklet, Paige hopes to share the tips and tricks that worked for her as well and provide answers to common questions.

Download a free copy of this teen resource here: https://www.coloplast.us/landing-pages/teen-booklet/

*Paige is a Coloplast product user who has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person’s situation is unique, so your experience may not be the same. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether this product is right for you.

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.