I feel the need to express my concern about how little help ostomates and their families get about coming to terms with life changing surgery. I am starting a petition which I intend to take to the government asking them to make it part of the policy for post surgical care, that we receive help mentally post surgery from someone who has knowledge of life changing surgeries, until we can cope for ourselves. This would also help with any complications that have arisen from surgery as I would also like the counsellor to have access to the surgeon and stoma nurses to quick refer any physical difficulties we may have back to them. Surgeons can’t just leave people to suffer with complications like hernias and fistulas for years on end before they get repair surgery, as quality of life is reduced so much by these things.
I have met and spoken to many people who have had this surgery and who feel lost once at home on their own. They don’t feel able to go out much because of body image, (a big concern for most ostomates )as well as leaking, pain, and they think that this is their life from now on. They don’t like to bother medical professionals all the time if the bags don’t work or their skin is raw they feel there is nothing to be done. They don’t realise that it is not normal and they should keep going back until it is sorted. Post surgery counselling and care would help those many people in this position.
I had counselling that I had to ask for myself, and I had to refer myself which seems the way nowadays, it is wrong on so many levels. My main concern is the amount of time it takes to get a first appointment, mine was months after my surgery and I was really really struggling. Secondly the counsellors themselves have absolutely no idea what it is like to live with a stoma and the lifestyle changes that involves. I was given cognitive behaviour therapy which didn’t really help me at all, after my sessions ended I just pretended they helped so I could get out of there. I know I had some post traumatic stress but CBT doesn’t do anything for that ( at least that was my opinion for me and my mental health) People need to be put in touch with stoma associations and groups, as I have also met people who were not aware they existed. It would have made so much difference in their recovery.
After a couple of months at home it is generally assumed that we can get on with things and don’t need as much support, but it is exactly that time when it is needed the most. Any concerns have become apparent by then, folk have had time to dwell on the enormity of there surgery, body image issues have surfaced and family concerns may be bubbling away, sex, relationships and seeing your partner/parent/ family member who was once bubbly and active, become reclusive and depressed. If you haven’t got a partner you may be worrying about telling someone, and what will happen when you do.
These are all real concerns that may not go away without support and help from a professional counsellor with the right skills.
I am drafting a petition to the government to get funding for tailored counselling specifically designed to meet the needs of ostomates. I will post it on social media and my blog and I hope I can get as many signatures as needed to make this possible.