Learning To Care For Your Ileostomy Or Colostomy

A surgically created diversion that allows your bodily waste to leave your body through an opening (stoma) in the abdomen is known as an ostomy. Ostomy surgery involves bringing an end of the intestine through an incision in the abdominal wall. The end is sutured with the abdominal skin to form a stoma.

An ileostomy or colostomy diverts the stool away from colon, rectum, or anus. Both the ileostomy and colostomy can be temporary or permanent. It all depends on the severity or nature of the underlying condition.

Types of intestinal ostomies

There are two types of intestinal ostomies: ileostomy and colostomy. An ileostomy is when the surgeon brings out an end of the small intestine through the abdominal wall, bypassing the entire colon. This ostomy results in the passing out of the stool that is loose or watery.

A colostomy is when the surgeon brings the large intestine out through the abdominal wall. The surgical process of the creation of a colostomy typically involves cutting of the colon to separate the healthy segment from the diseased one. The healthy segment is part of the active gastrointestinal tract. The remaining diseased segment is either removed or left to heal. A colostomy, too, results in the premature evacuation of the bodily waste. The four types of colostomy are ascending colostomy, descending colostomy, transverse colostomy, and sigmoid colostomy. Each of these types is defined by the location of the stoma on the colon.

Learning to care for your ostomy

Your nurse will teach you about how to care for your ostomy during your hospital stay. With the help of that initial training, you will be able to learn the basic skills of applying, emptying, and changing an ostomy pouch. Before you will leave the hospital, the ostomy care staff will provide you with the basic supplies to help you care for your ostomy for the first few days at home.

Now, let’s talk about the basics of ostomy care.

  • The first thing to know about is your ostomy bag. It is a plastic, leak-proof bag that comes with a flange, also known as a skin barrier. The flange has an opening that allows the stoma to open into the ostomy bag. It has an adhesive side that goes against the peristomal skin. The skin barrier fits over the stoma, and its adhesive side makes a seal with the skin. This seal is ideally leak-proof to make sure that no waste seeps under the barrier.
  • Emptying an ostomy bag is one of the basic skills that you will learn during your stay at the hospital. You will need this skill in case you intend to use a drainable pouch. A drainable pouch comes with an open-end bottom that is secured with a clip. To empty the bag, you will need to remove the clip and squeeze the bag. Make sure that the pouch’s contents fall into the toilet. Once the bag is empty, clean the open end, and secure the bottom using that clip.
  • The change of pouch typically involves the removal of the skin barrier. You should change a pouch once or twice a week. The changing first involves the removal of the barrier. To remove this barrier, you have to push the skin away from it using your fingers. You have to pull the skin barrier using the other hand. Make sure that you are proceeding with this entire procedure gently.

Ostomy care may also involve the use of several other products that ensure the health of your peristomal skin. Generally, you don’t need to use any product if the basic supplies are working fine. If your skin is vulnerable or irritated, you can consider using those products, but you should do it after consulting with your ostomy care nurse.

Summer Sailing with an Ostomy

One thing that is new on my vacation list is sailing. I have always been an avid outdoorsman and really enjoyed fishing, and jet skiing but once I married my wife my inlaws introduced me to sailing.  This is a whole new world of watersports and has taken me by surprise for my love of it.  Now I will say that it can be rather rough and certainly on the stomach and I don’t just mean because I have a stoma. 

The water and rocking really can bring out sea sickness like never before because it is much more apt to be a rocky ride with a sailboat verses any other watercraft I have been on. It didn’t stop me though and even with an ostomy bag I found it to be an amazing time.

Now I will say that if I am going to sail on a very small boat and it is going to be relatively short, then a stoma cap is preferable in my opinion. On the small sailing crafts I have noticed that the ride can be crazy.  Shifting sails means tacking and moving from one side to the other while other obstacles may be in the way. Honestly, it can be a bit of a hazard to your stoma if you have an ostomy bag attached and I just find it safer with a stoma cap.  Now this does not apply at all to larger boats in my opinion but to each their own and I suggest you think hard about what gear you are going to use.

This summer I went on an impromptu sail with my brother in law and I was not planning on it at the time. I was walking by the beach and he rolled up in a two man sail craft and was like want to go a little wild?  Well the wind was really going and I still had all my regular clothes on and I asked if I was going to get wet and he said “no, it is not too bad out today, smooth sailing” 

Well inside I knew he was lying but it was all in good fun and i knew it would be a great time.  So I hopped on.  Within minutes we were moving 12-15 knots and that is booking on the water with a small sailboat. It was rough.  We were hanging off half the time to keep the boat from tipping and it certainly was a wet and very choppy ride.  Luckily, I didn’t get sick, but I did get knocked around especially on my side a good amount.  It made me think that I wish I had a stoma cap on. 

We made it back safely a hour later, but I learned to plan a bit more before I go on excursions. I did not regret going and I still tell people to be adventurous, but it made me think that I should be a little more careful. All of this is to say that you can still be adventurous and be around the water with an ostomy.  You do need to be a little more careful and plan a little bit ahead of time but it is all worth it in the end. So be safe, consult your healthcare provider on your possible limitations with your situation and go out and have fun!

Ocularist with an ostomy bag

At age three, I was fitted with my first prosthetic eye.  I can remember sitting and watching the gentleman paint each detail to reflect the interictal detail of my good eye.  It was amazing to me how the shape, the color, the positioning all matched.  I don’t think I truly understand the complexity until I was older.  This experience captured me like none other.  I decided I wanted to be an Ocularist so that I could help bring a type of normality to others.  

To say that my life started out with a bang would be an understatement.  The experience was life changing as a child.  I don’t remember all the details of what happened because I was so little.  I think sometimes our brains block out such tragic events.  I wish I could say that is where the story ends, but it isn’t.  

I woke from surgery with a colostomy bag.  The questions absolutely flooded my mind.  I can remember being out to dinner, then heading home.  I vaguely remember to experience an excruciating amount of pain and then nothing.  As I have gotten older, pain and I are not really friends.  I tend to pass out for a short time whenever I start to experience really bad pain or start to think about and concentrate on others’ pain.  So strange, I know.  My colon had ruptured when we arrived home from dinner, and I passed out due to the pain almost right after the initial onset of that pain.  What I thought was maybe just an issue with what I had eaten turned into a life-threatening and altering development.   

I had quite a hard time at first dealing with my new reality—first a prosthetic eye and now a stoma and colostomy bag.  I struggled to adjust, to be honest.  Over time, however, I was able to maneuver the new addition with little problems.  I think honestly, I was the perfect person to undergo all that because of how I was able to adapt so well to my first handicap.  So many people shy away from that word, but truly I felt at a slight disadvantage.  I decided just to keep pushing forward in my career, and I slowly enjoyed doing what I do even more.  I am in the business of helping people, and being on the receiving end of help has changed the way I do business and work with others.  The sacrificial ways that the doctors and nurses helped me adjust to my new addition were beyond comprehension.  

We all have scenarios in our life that we wish we didn’t.  Some may be visible, and some may lie under the surface.  The fact of the matter is you never know what is going on in a person’s life.  My experiences have been amazing because of the people that have helped me through them.  I’m lucky because I know that it isn’t always like that for everyone.  How we deal with things shows our character to some extent.   A colostomy bag is by far the end of the world and the same with a prosthetic eye.  So many others have stuff they are dealing with that we will never know.  Do I want you to know about these things I have? Probably not, but I am not afraid to talk about them if I can help just one person.  Painting exact replicas is a gift I will always be grateful for.  What can we be grateful for today?

It is OK to have a Stoma

The older I get the more I am beginning to understand that we all have problems.  People in general are really not perfect and the pursuit of human perfection always makes me smile.  I like to see us getting better in all aspects of life but some people try to think they are perfect and then a medical emergency comes along and changes their perspective. 

I have talked with a few people that this happened to and they have had their whole perspective on life turned around by a quick and simple surgery. What we have all come to learn is that having a stoma is ok and it is not the end of the world.  In fact most people that have had an ostomy live regular and normal lives.  They still go out and work, swim, hike just like any normal person would or could. In fact there has even been an ironman competition with a stoma and they finished!

So I want to let people know that you really don’t have to be perfect to enjoy life.  Having a stoma really simply means you do a few things differently and maybe have to plan a little more than the average person but you can enjoy life just the same.  Personally I am a big outdoorsman and truly like being outside.  I have lived with a stoma for several years now and found that I am still capable of doing all the things I did before.

One of the things that I like to do is hiking.  Hiking around the world and country brings me a lot of joy.  The one thing I don’t let stand in the way is my stoma.  This is something i Can do because gear is really great these days and I can carry and extra gear or supplies that I need in a smallish backpack. But when I am hiking I am always taking a backpack and did before my ostomy too.  So it is really important to get a good backpack that either doesn’t have a waist strap or fits your body well enough to not get in the way.  For myself on a day pack I generally just pull off the waist belt but on some packs that is not a capability. So that is why I think that you should try your gear before you buy.  Yes I know that is hard in 2020 with covid-19 pandemic going wild, but it is still important to make sure the gear is personal to you and fits you.

Now once you get a good backpack the sky is the limit for hiking and living the life you want to live.  Really for me I simply like to go explore and sometimes that does mean I have to take a little extra gear with with me but it wont stop me from living my best life. I suggest you try and do the same.  Don’t be sad that you have a stoma, instead embrace the fact that many people have ailments or hassles that they take with them each day and still do great things. So go out and be great.  I know you are an amazing person and won’t let your body get in the way.  Be safe and take care.

Learning to play Basketball with your stoma

Sports are really a part of a culture.  This is a big part of how many of us learn to be who we are and how to succeed in life.  Sometimes it can be more complicated because of medical issues and sometimes that does not matter to the kids in the neighborhood.  You simply have to learn to adapt and win.  I grew up in the Midwest United States.  Now for some, that means I grew up around corn, politeness, and the bible belt. What it means to most of the people in sports is that I grew up in basketball country.  Myself, I come from the Hoosier state and that means everyone plays basketball.  It is a natural sport that everyone knows how to play.  I spent days, weeks, and literally months of my life playing basketball.  I found it kept me healthy and gave me many life lessons.  Winning, losing, and working with a team of different people teaches lots of lessons.  Now I find myself playing basketball a little less and with a little more ostomy supplies.  

Yes, I have a stoma and I still play basketball.  Never for a minute did I think I would stop having fun just because I have to take a bag around with me on my abdomen. So I wanted to share a few tips on things I have noticed help the most when I lace up my basketball shoes and get to hooping. 

Since Basketball is a contact sport the best way to succeed with a stoma is to protect it.  Having an ostomy shield is the only answer in my book and it kept me safe back then and keeps me safe today.  Also, make sure you are wearing the right clothing.  So does this mean I need to wear armor when I am on the basketball court? No, not at all. Instead just wear loose clothing, like most people do when they play basketball.  I prefer moisture wicking t-shirts and regular elastic basketball shorts.  Now I will try to purchase all my ostomy supplies in materials to match.  If my ostomy bag is not moisture-wicking then it will get very sweaty and leave a huge sweat stain on my shirt.  That is just a little weird and people will play the game differently when they are around you.  They won’t guard you as hard and its just annoying and everyone will make a fuss about it.  

Perception really does matter.  Now all my friends would never play me any differently, but new people are new and will always hesitate to guard a guy who may be carrying a bag of poo with him.  Honestly, I don’t blame anyone and I keep my spirits up and most people laughing.  Because hey, life and why not.  But I still like to avoid that situation and just play ball like normal and lose fitting moisture-wicking clothes help a lot.  I also add a belt to my attire. No not a dress belt or anything, but it’s basically a body band that goes around my abdomen to keep everything in place.  Find a good one and you will be able to run around just like normal.  Just make sure all your gear attaches well and has great lockups on your stoma. Now go outside and play some basketball!