What is an ostomy?
An ostomy is a surgically created opening, where a portion of the intestine is pulled through the abdominal wall to create a stoma. A stoma simply means an opening or mouth. The part of the intestine pulled through, along with the waste it diverts from the damaged part of the intestine decides the type of ostomy. The stoma itself has no never endings so it does not hurt, this, however, is not the same for the skin around the stoma, which can sometimes sting if the right appliance is not found. Someone with an ostomy can be referred to as an ostomate or in the case of having two ostomies a double bagger. Ostomies can be permanent or temporary depending on your condition and how it came about.
Types of ostomies
There are many types of ostomies, the main ones are clarified more below.
A colostomy is the most well-known ostomy and is often used to reference all ostomies. It is created for fecal waste and uses the large intestine or colon for the stoma creation. The colon consists of five sections and depending on where along the colon the stoma is created will determine how regular and solid the waste will be. It is possible for colostomates to have the same toileting schedules as pre ostomy surgery. For this reason, it is believed that a colostomy is the easiest stoma to deal with on a daily basis although all surgical procedures do come with complications.
An ileostomy like a colostomy is created for the removal of fecal matter, it, however, uses the small intestine. The small intestine consists of three sections, one of which is called the ileum which is where it gets its name from. The small intestine unlike the large does not absorb fluids as well as the large colon, although over time can adapt, so the output at its best is a toothpaste consistency. How much small intestine you have left along with the food you eat will determine the frequency of bathroom visits. It’s common for an ileostomate to frequent the bathroom up to five to ten times a day.
A urostomy like an ileostomy uses the ileum as a stoma but instead of attaching to your small intestine it is used as a conduit from your ureteral tubes to bypass urine into a bag. Urostomates have their own issues as finding a time to change the bag when the stoma is not active is more difficult than with an ileostomy where you can generally get a morning free from output. They also need to be very careful of urinary tract infections which can occur due to the nature of the ostomy.
Why would you need an ostomy?
There are many reasons someone can end up with an ostomy bag, the main contributors are cancer and irritable bowel diseases (IBD), such as crohns and ulcerative colitis. Other reasons can include but are not limited to Hirschsprung’s disease, diverticulitis, congenital birth defects and trauma injury related. Whatever the reason, it is generally to save a life and without it, many of us wouldn’t have survived.
How does an ostomy affect your life?
Like all changes, some adjustment is required but I live a normal healthy active life with an ostomy bag. Once recovered there is nothing stopping you from doing exactly what you did pre ostomy surgery, albeit some additional preparation may be required. For many suffering with IBD, you can actually do more than you could pre ostomy and it is not uncommon to find a new lease on life, one you never believe possible. Below is a slideshow of some of the things I have done since becoming an ostomate.
What support is there for someone with an ostomy?
This really is dependent on the country and area you live in. There are local support groups in many areas and if you are in Australia please check out the Support Groups page in my resources section. If you are not lucky enough to have any local to you then there is always online support through social media networks. A number of closed support groups out there is amazing, not to mention the patient leaders sharing their stories to help others.
What can you do to raise awareness?
It’s can be as simple as starting a conversation or sharing your story or the story of someone you know. Poo doesn’t have to be taboo, so help me break the stigma around ostomies this world ostomy awareness day and show the world that we are truly amazing just the way we are!