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August 18, 2016

Living Life Fully with Your Ostomy – Part 1

Let’s be honest. Doing life with an ostomy can be challenging – wearing a bag can be inconvenient at certain times and downright embarrassing at others. Thankfully, there are ways you can reduce the possibility and the frequency of those times where your ostomy supplies “malfunction”.

I’ll never forget one of the first public incidents I had with my ostomy bag. It was a hot summer day, and after driving in my hot rod along the streets of our local town, my wife and I decided to do what all good parents do and treat our son (and ourselves) to ice cream. Our oldest boy (we now have a younger son as well), always wanting to know his options before making any decision, asked my wife to list off all of the available flavors.

I knew what was coming next, so I decided it would be quicker to just pick him up and show him the different pails of frozen creamy goodness behind the frosted glass panels.

“Look”, I said, pointing, “there’s your favorite, strawberry cheesecake.”

“I don’t really like that kind anymore…is there something more…more…caramel-and-chocolately?” he asked.

“How about that one right there, with the chocolate-covered caramels in it?”, I suggested.

“No”, he sighed, “that one doesn’t look quite right”.

My wife chimed in with a smiling but firm, “Buddy, can you pick something…we don’t have all day!”

Living Life Fully with Your Ostomy - the early days after recovery from surgery and ulcerative colitis: the ice cream parlour accident.With a perturbed look on his face, he finally made his pick: “Ok, ok…I’ll get bubble gum”.

“Really?”, I remarked, “last time I checked, bubble gum didn’t have caramels and chocolate in it”. His response was to smile and laugh. I relayed his order to the lady behind the counter. I was just about to put him back down on the ground when she asked, “And what kind would you like, sir?”

Now I was the one with a perturbed look on my face. “I’m sorry…where’s the bathroom?”

I put my son down abruptly and headed in the direction she was pointing.

She had no idea that at the precise moment that she was asking what kind of ice cream I wanted, my son had stepped directly onto my gas-filled bag, breaking the seal between the bag and the flange that connected it to my ostomy.

Luckily, the bag had just fallen into my underwear, but not without making a mess. I was not a happy camper, and after cleaning up as best as I could, needless to say…we took our ice cream cones to go.

I’m happy to report that I haven’t had any ostomy equipment “malfunction” episodes like this for years now. That ice cream shop incident was one of several early on that caused me to think, “there must be a better way to do this”. Thankfully, there is.

Over the next several blog posts, I want to share some useful tips, techniques, and insights that will help you to limit and avoid your own ostomy equipment mishaps. I’ll relate things I’ve learned over the years that have allowed me to live a normal, active lifestyle with less and less fear that something might go wrong. Specifically, I want to share about:

  • Supportive People – the importance of finding doctors you can trust and other specialists (i.e. ET nurses) who can help with choosing and customizing equipment;
  • Practical Habits – understanding your own biological rhythms, as well as developing routines for checking and replacing your ostomy supplies;
  • Beneficial Products – supplies that I highly recommend as must-haves, and others that are just plain nice to have in a variety of situations;
  • Serviceable Information – other than your doctor, where you can find high-quality information about living a full life with an ostomy;
  • Advantageous Attitudes – how the way you think about your post-ileostomy life affects everything.

So stay tuned…

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