International Children’s Ostomy Educational Foundation UK (ICOEF UK )

                                   INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S OSTOMY EDUCATIONAL
                                                                               FOUNDATION UK
                                                                                  ICOEF UK

I am amazed that I haven’t heard of this wonderful charity before now , that is why I have decided to help promote what they do for children who have bowel, bladder or intestinal diversions.

These wonderful puppets help children cope with the big changes in their lives due to these surgeries.

Introducing The Gastronauts®

For children who have more than just butterflies in their tummies.

These fun Ostomy puppets help stoma nurses assist ostomate children and parents through their life changing medical procedures.

The Gastronauts were developed by Liz and Phillip Prosser, authors of “Unwanted Baggage”, a resource book for all ostomates.

Here are a few of these lovely puppets.

These individual personalised puppets are for children who have bowel, bladder or intestinal diversions. Each puppet is designed to reflect the child’s own diversion with its own ostomy bag, catheter, gastrostomy tubes etc.


This is how it all began……

Judith White, President, International Children’s Ostomy Educational Foundation UK

Life changed for a fifty year old, living in the depths of Mid Wales. Liz Prosser woke up from an operation which left her with a stoma. What was a stoma and what would happen to her from now on and for the rest of her life? She researched the subject as much as she could and found very little to satisfy her knowledge. So, Liz, together with her husband Philip, who are both writers, produced a resource book ‘Unwanted Baggage’, but this wouldn’t help parents of children who had gone through the same experience as herself.The majority of the time Liz was confined to bed. In the evenings, to help to pass the time,
Phillip would sit on the edge of her bed discussing the days’ events. During one of these discussions, Liz said she would like to help mothers and children with bowel and bladder conditions like herself. She had the experience of the operation, the experience of changing her lifestyle. What happened next was to change their lives and the lives of 12,300 children worldwide and all in the space of just six years! Phillip, acting the fool as he does, wrapped a scarf around his arm, made a face with his hand and started talking to it. Liz saw the funny side of this and at that moment forgot her medical condition laughing at her “stupid” husband.

On thinking further, they decided to purchase a puppet and modify it to have exactly the same appendage as a child. Phillip sourced a 15” puppet and one was made for a child in a hospital in Wales. This was a great success and the
hospital asked for another one to be “manufactured” and, again, given to the child. The hospital noticed that the child talked to her puppet, which became a personal friend, as her puppet would not “tell Mummy” of her hurts and anxieties. This puppet was used as a friend to cuddle, a friend to take to bed, indeed a friend to share all her problems with on a one-to-one basis.More and more puppets were made and adapted by Liz, while Phillip sourced the puppets, arranged postage, etc. and introduced a ‘Knit and Natter’ group to help Liz, as demand was increasing at an alarming rate. One day, an email arrived from the USA asking for a puppet.
Liz started correspondence with Janet who now runs things from the ‘other side of the pond’ in the USA. Liz still produced the puppets for the USA, indeed the rest of the world. These would come into her in one’s and two’s which meant she could still have the pleasure of overseeing each puppet.I worked together with Liz on a local newspaper and have kept friends ever since the early days. It was after spending a Christmas with her and Phillip down in Wales I was asked to become involved with her charity. I would be her ‘legs’, running around the UK, doing talks and study days together with manufacturers and charity clubs. We have never looked back.
Last year saw me in Cape Town, South Africa, at the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET) Congress presenting an abstract on ‘The importance of using puppets as a tool to educate children into their new medical way of life’.
In 2016, the workload was so great that it was decided to divide the world into four main areas. I would control the UK, Janet would look after the USA, while Ruth would run Australia, leaving Liz and Phillip, who moved to France, to set up the EU countries.
The International Children’s Ostomy Educational Foundation UK (ICOEF UK for short) is operated throughout the United Kingdom by five trustees, and a small number of volunteers.
We meet five times a year and more often when major items need discussing. At the last meeting I was elected to President, while John White is Vice President. He looks after the dayto day running of the charity leaving me to oversee the puppet orders. This works well for us and keeps the wheels well oiled.Here in the UK, we have cut down on the number of puppets we can stock as our only source of supply is from abroad. These have to be ordered in massive amounts. The storage of 500 15” small puppets and 500 30” nursing teaching puppets requires a large space. When an order comes in through the post or via the website the details are checked and confirmed.
Each child’s puppet costs £35 to produce, so a donation to help fund the postage and packing is always welcome. The medical ‘bits’ are put into the puppet bag together with the puppet and are sent out to one of our sewing teams. These are collected when completed and the finishing touches added. Each child receives their puppet in a cardboard box, together with a
sterilizing plastic bag, a cloth bag (to carry the puppet to School), a Membership Certificate and a letter from me. Each puppet is numbered and from this number we can identify were the puppet comes from, the child’s name, the procedure and the hospital where it was carried out. On the outside of the box is an A4 label addressing the puppet to the child; not to the
parent, unless requested specifically.
The main problem in supplying children with puppets is Data Protection. We have the puppets to give to children if we can find them. The other problem is volunteers. We need people to be our ears and eyes and to tell parents and carers about our charity and the website.
If parents are informed about the charity, they can then make contact and directly order the puppets from us and this, in turn, avoids any Data Protection concerns.
Since ICOEF was formed, we have helped 12,300 children worldwide and over 2,500 here in
the UK.
There are over 53 reasons why a child may be ostomised. So, please ask yourself, the next time you’re out shopping or on holiday, is that child ‘normal’? I’ll bet you – you will never know.


Judith and her husband are now in their 70’s and are hoping to pass on the care of this charity to someone dedidcated and committed , who is willing to work with them with a view to taking over.




The Gastronauts® are personalised by the trustees and Volunteers