Want to see some old style ostomy products?
Check out my interview with Geoff, I had the pleasure of meeting Geoff in Adelaide in 2015 at the national Australian Council of Stoma Associations (ACSA) annual conference and in 2017 he accepted my offer to answer a few questions. Geoff has been an ostomate since he was a child. Despite the lack of a bowel as you can see from his responses below this never hindered his life in fact it gave him the opportunity to live life. He talks of sports, dating and what his first products were like.
"When I first got my stoma the only appliances available were made from rubber. The flange (base plate) was stuck to a foam base with Skinbond cement" Said Mr Geoff Rhodes
What lead you to becoming an ostomate? Tell us a little bit about your story.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1958 at the age of eight. It was unresponsive to treatment and I had an ileostomy by the age of nine. The surgeon left my rectum and anus in place but removed all of my colon and some of my small bowel. Back in those days there may have been some though of a reversal but it was a very remote possibility. The stoma needed to be refashioned in 1963 and again in 2008 when I reversal was taken off the table after getting my rectum removed. Officially joining the Ken and Barbie club, my stoma was also re-positioned. Fun fact as I write this I have been an ostomate for EXACTLY 58 years.
Being so young, did you know any other ostomates?
I was lucky enough to have another young boy in hospital with me Warren, he became an ostomate at the same time, so we have grown with it together. Once I was released from hospital my parents and I got involved with the Ileostomy Association of NSW which was just starting to get established. That association is now Ostomy NSW and I remained a member until I moved to Canberra in 1988. I then joined the ACT and District Stoma Association where I am still a member and on the board.
How did you approach relationships, did you date much pre meeting the one?
By the time I reached my mid-teens I was very comfortable with my stoma and had no problems engaging with girls. Up until meeting Carol my wife in 1974, I had several serious relationships including one where we lived together for a period of time.
Did/Do you play any sports growing up? If so what and did your ostomy present any complications?
Once I recovered from the surgery I returned to playing soccer and also took up tennis. I was not allowed to play Australian rugby both NFL & NRL as my parents were concerned a tackle could damage the stoma but besides that the stoma had no impact on my limited ability in both sports. In high school I took up squash which I continued to play until I was in my late 50’s when I ran out of playing partners.
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I also was a keen body surfer, going to the northern beaches in Sydney, initially with my dad and then with mates once I had my own transport. These days I play three sets of tennis (doubles) two nights a week and 18 holes of club competition golf every Saturday. I walk as often as I can and still body surf when the opportunity arises.
Is there anything you haven’t been able to do due to being an ostomates?
I’ve had a pretty varied career, getting into IT in the late 1970’s which led to joining the Department of Defence as a civilian in 1980. There I worked on developing Command and Control systems for the RAAF and RAN. In the RAAF project I teamed with Air Force personnel and we hitched a ride in a Hercules to look at a system used by the RAF in the Falklands war. That involved a 21 day trip to the UK and back via the USA in the back of a Hercules transport aircraft. After that trip I realised that there wasn’t much I couldn’t do and having a stoma wasn’t an excuse for not doing things.
Ostomy products have changed over time, do you remember your first product? What was it like?
When I first got my stoma the only appliances available were made from rubber. We quickly determined my skin does not tolerate rubber next to it. Through the association we found one of the members made up flanges from plastic. So for many years used flanges made by Ken with plastic bags attached by a rubber O ring. The flange (Base plate) was stuck to a foam base with Skinbond cement which I also used to attach the base setup to my skin. It was primitive but with a metal ring to attach a belt it was effective but I need to change the base plate every day.
Have you switched products over time? If so what made you switch?
Once the more modern products became available I switched to a two piece system with belt and I’ve been using the same product for many years and get three days use out of the base plate which I can stretch to four if necessary. I occasionally will look at new products but generally take the engineering approach. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
ACSA President Geoff & Vice President David
You are the president of Australian Council Stoma Associations (ACSA), tell us a little about what they represent and do?
Australia is truly a lucky country for ostomates. In 1975 the Australian Government established the Stoma Appliance Scheme (SAS) which provides fully subsidised appliances to all ostomates. The scheme is overseen by the Commonwealth Department of Health and those appliances are distributed through stoma associations. There are currently 22 associations in Australia and the peak body for those associations is the Australian Council of Stoma Associations.
One of the conditions for distributing products under SAS is that the association must be a member of ACSA. ACSA works with the Department of Health to ensure the SAS is operating effectively and continues to meet the needs of Australian ostomates.
Any tips for your fellow ostomates?
For most ostomates, their stoma provides an opportunity to get on with life. My advice is to embrace that opportunity and do whatever you want to. Without my stoma I wouldn’t have a fantastic wife, three wonderful children and five fantastic grandchildren. I also wouldn’t have had a fulfilling career and the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing welfare of my fellow ostomates.