The problem with stoma bags

I have been trying various stoma bags for my and Tomas’s needs recently and really need to find my perfect bag, and I don’t mean a Gucci.

 

I need the perfect bag, who can solve my problem? any takers

Since I first got my stoma 4 yrs ago I have been on the search for the right stoma bag, and  it is a very long journey indeed. They all have good points, some more than others but can I find exactly the right one to meet my needs? the answer is unfortunately no, not for me and my fistula with its irregular base shape and output issues.

If I could have a mixture of bags rolled into one my choice would be…

The base plate of the Pelican Platinum with vitamin E

The colours and no sagging effects of the Salts Confidence B

The selection of sizes and baseplate sizes of the Coloplast Sensura Mio.

So the things that don’t work for me but would work for me if different…..

The Pelican Platinum balloons like a dodgy lip job, but the base plate sticking is by far the best I have ever used ( and believe me when you have a pooing fistula, this is essential) When it balloons it can lift off with the weight of it which then causes leaks, it isn’t all the time but it is a problem. The size is great for me with it being a mini but I don’t mind larger. If this bag was in the colours and material of Salts Confidence B and Coloplast Sensura Mio, I would be the happiest ostomate.

 

Salts Confidence B is an amazing bag in many ways, the colours are superb, the material is perfect with next to no ballooning and the way it sits ( no sagging when full ) is fabulous, BUT the baseplate although sticks well on the whole, it can’t manage to stick well where my fistula is. This is a real shame because I really like everything else about it and it causes very sore skin just at the bit around my stoma.

Coloplast Sensura Mio is a great all rounder with a a good solid grey colour and many options with sizes. Again it doesn’t seem to balloon and it sticks quite well BUT again, it can’t cope with my fistula, so again this is sad news because I love the bag too.

I cannot explain how painful and itchy getting sore skin is, it is so bad that the only thing to help it is to take the bag off and attend to your skin, let the air get it ( with plenty of tissues ) and try various lotions and potions to ease it. Can you imagine a sore then loose poo getting onto it for hours? It burns.

I know there are others bags on the market, but for one reason or another I really didn’t like them. These three are as near to what I like that is available ( I think ) so if you, the supplier, could get your heads together I would be very pleased.

So for now at least, I will be continuing with the Pelican Platinum because the baseplate is so important to me and my skin.

 

4 year stomaversary

I started this post just before the coronavirus pandemic became more widespread  so that is why it hasn’t been mentioned in this post, yes I am worried as I have other health issues that mean I could be vulnerable if I do get the virus, stay safe everybody.

Sometimes it seems an age ago, sometimes just yesterday, but what is for certain is that it’s a rollercoaster ride having stoma surgery. 

Stomaversary 3rd April

How do I feel 4 years on ? Do I celebrate or commiserate? Well I am certainly still here, and mostly enjoying life. I say mostly just because of the little blips I keep having or have had since surgery. My stoma’s friend the fistula, that’s a big blip and so is my leaking bottom parts, that’s more than a blip, but in general I feel good.

 

All the years living with IBD make me realise things are so so much better with a stoma. I can go out and about without the worries that go with having a severely diseased colon and although I still need to use a toilet to empty my bag, the urgency isn’t there anymore.

What about body image after all these surgeries? I admit I don’t like the bottom of my abdomen scar and having my large bowel removed seems to have made me lose my power of a fast metabolism, that I don’t like, as I have a love of anything sugary. I am still going to the gym which I actually like when I am there, and I come away feeling much better. I have limitations at the gym but I work around them. ( Alas this is not to be anymore for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus)

I have met some wonderful people in the stoma community and have a new interest with my blog which has given me some great opportunities. I have brilliant family and friends so I manage my issues with support. I have been lucky enough to have helped others with my story and hope to keep helping others who need it. My story isn’t there to frighten but to prove life goes on with a stoma and it isn’t so scary after all once you are through the surgery and recovery period.

One thing to mention is that most stoma patients don’t just have the stoma to cope with, many of us have either complications from surgery or disease severity before surgery, and /or other auto immune diseases/ issues, so life can be difficult but with the right support, we can enjoy our lives.

I am awaiting for another MRI to see why I still leak and am on a different inhaler for my asthma. I still have foot drop after walking a distance and have been given various devices to help me, but to be honest they are not that great. I have had a confirmed diagnosis of idiopathic intracranial hypertension after two lumbar punctures found raised pressure, which I have pulsatile tinnitus and headaches, luckily for me I don’t appear to have papilledema which causes blindness due to the swelling of the optic nerve.

It would seem I am doomed to ill health, and believe me I felt that way when I started with all this and still do to some extent, why me ? who knows but it all happened in the last ten years ( apart from the Crohns colitis, that was when I was abut 20 years old.)  It could always be worse so for now I cope with what has happened.

Once again stay safe everybody and hopefully this awful time will pass quickly.

 

 

When things don’t go quite according to plan

STOP I WANT TO GET OFF

Having surgery is a rollercoaster ride at the best of times, but what if things don’t go smoothly? how does that feel? it can be quite a challenge to keep positive. Was it something you did? or didn’t do? Was it something someone else did or didn’t do? It doesn’t matter what caused it, this is where you are and you have to get on with it.

All surgeries come with risk, and some more than others, bowel surgery in particular is a surgery with many risks, wound dehiscence ( where the wound breaks down in some way and the scar may open). This complication is strange as it isn’t a question of just stitching you back up, you need to have the wound packed over possibly many months to heal from the inside out. My abdominal wound opened up at the bottom and it took 6 months to fully heal , to view CLICK HERE 

Weirdly it looked very painful but wasn’t really painful at all, and although the finished scar is not as neat as i had hoped, it looks like another belly button as it dints in too, but it healed well without infection.

This most recent surgery has some wound dehiscence , but because of where it is I won’t be putting you through the image. It seems to be closing quicker than the previous one.

I suppose my two most life altering complications were the rectal stump blowout ( in short, rectal stump blowout is a dreaded complication of an often already complicated patient scenario that causes pelvic sepsis )

The stump that was left in situ to be removed at a later date when I was more stable decided to blow its stitches causing pelvic sepsis. I had to have a rectal catheter placed through the burst stump into my pelvic cavity to drain the gunk that was gathered there. Lovely.

I would say it was one of the most uncomfortable things ( excluding or same as an NG tube) that I had. There is a balloon at the top that gets inflated after the tube has been placed, but whenever I sat or moved awkwardly, the damn thing brushed against something inside and caused the most excruciating pain for quite a few minutes. Unfortunately for me, the nurses didn’t really know the pain it might cause and kept insisting I sit out of bed now and again. I eventually spoke to a consultant who needed to reinsert it and he understood my issue and said I couldn’t sit with it, It was all quite traumatic, I had the drain for a good couple of months. This complication in turn caused the fistula and ongoing bottom complications that are still ongoing today but hopefully sorted with this  latest surgery.

The other complication is with Tomas the stoma.

I know, he is lovely and cute and all that, and I probably would have died without him, but he is a complete pest at times. It started very early in my stoma journey in hospital. When Kate my stoma nurse and I discovered that poo was coming out of the bottom of my stoma where it meets my skin.

WARNING, PICTURES OF STOMA POOPING

As you can see, this can be a big nuisance for many reasons

  1. The stoma can be quite watery or busier at different times and this can cause the bag to lift as it loses stickiness.
  2. This as you can imagine, causes leakage onto the skin
  3. And this in turn causes sore skin and incessant itching in that area.
  4. It is difficult to change my bag standing up because I can’t put anything under the spout to catch poo as it comes out onto skin as well anyway.
  5. I am constantly in a battle with my skin to keep it becoming a real problem, and I like to air it as much as possible when I change it, so it isn’t a quick change for me, it is time consuming.
  6. I have the dilemma of deciding on more surgery to move the stoma to the other side of abdomen and hope I don’t get more issues doing that.
  7. There are probably more but having a brain fog moment

All I can say is this, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, things do improve, and although it might not be the life you had hoped for, this new life brings new friends and new beginnings and maybe a life that’s worth living.

That leads me nicely ( ok plugging my daughters band Marty) to a song my daughter wrote for the band Marty, and I listened to it and thought it had some great words of encouragement if you are having a tough time coming out the other end of illness.

If you would like to follow the band you can find them on most social media sites @thebandmarty

 

 

Where is the post surgery counselling for patients and their families

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.

Thank you

 

 

Thank you for making my stoma journey less bumpy along the way

I think it is time I publicly said some thanks to those folk in my life that I couldn’t be without, and who have helped me get through the toughest times in my life.

 

You can become quite insular after stoma surgery, it’s all about you for a long time. How am I feeling ? what hurts? can I cope ? people running around after you whilst you are in hospital ( which in my case was almost 3 months ) help with taking the kids to various activities, some of which were not that close to home. Supporting me in my recovery which must have been an absolute nightmare, because it certainly was for me so god knows what goes through the minds of those close to you.

Firstly I would like to thank my husband, who has been amazing and pushed me through the tough times, which were many, having me crying every time he visited me in hospital because I knew I could cry to him. He would work all day and visit me all evening, then go home late and make tea for himself and my daughter, for three months, all whilst refitting our kitchen so that it would be ready when I got home. When I was discharged he sorted out a wheelchair so that we could go out by the river and I would walk a few steps then get in again, this would slowly increase each time we went out.

He even learnt how to clean and pack my wound when we went to my sister’s down south for her birthday party. ( Luckily she had it at home because I would have to lie down for a rest every now and then.) I had a rectal catheter in too and he would have to empty and measure it before he went to work and again at night. Not to mention my low moods, they were very dark times and he kept it together for me.

My mum is next. She visited nearly every day and again put up with my tears. She helped me wash, and took my soiled clothes home to wash. I could nod off if I wanted to because it’s my mum and she was there no matter what.

My wonderful friends need a mention too, I had many visits from my friends, again being there for me and my family. Jo and Helen would take my daughter to her choir rehearsal ( half an hour away) every week, sometimes twice a week. They cried when they saw me so ill, they cheered me up too. All my closest friends were wonderful and still are. A few of them came to clean my house when I was recovering at home, I love them all.

 

My children I thank for carrying on with university and school without falling apart seeing their mum in such a state. Helping dad at home, and being there.

The wonderful nurses on the ward who were amazing and never stopped looking after me to the highest degree. A few times I think I must have been a real handful, but they never changed their lovely ways.

A very special thanks to my stoma nurse, Kate, who came to see me just before my emergency surgery and then all through my hospital stay and beyond. I call her my friend because that is how she treated me, we laughed quite a bit, but she also saw me at low times. She held my hand when I had the NG feeding tube inserted ( let me tell you now, that is an experience ) and I can ring her anytime and she will get back to me.

To my surgeon, who saw how ill I was and got me to surgery and probably saved my life. He had a tough job because I was so ill and weak and I know that although it has been a journey and a half ( and still ongoing) I feel very safe in his care.

To my work friends and managers, your support has been lovely and has helped me get back to work much easier with your help and care. Being at work can sometimes be a challenge with my ongoing medical issues, but I feel able to cope much better knowing that I have that solid support.

I would like to thank ‘ A bigger life ‘ and TG Eakin for having me as a resident blogger, they have helped me get my story further, and I can give my help to others too.

To the Notts & Derby ileostomy team and young IA group. Thank you for accepting me onto the committee, I might not know what I am doing half the time 😉 but I totally enjoy it, and I love the young IA nights out too ( thank you Helen from Salts for arranging these great evenings)

Finally I would like to thank my many new friends in the stoma world. Opening up about my journey has been a great experience and the support from everyone who’s own journey has been a challenge, is something I couldn’t be without. Support groups ( which I am with a fair few online ) are brilliant for the vast experience of stoma life, and stoma suppliers also come in to that category because they offer similar support.

 

THANK YOU EVERYONE

A look inside the bag- ( includes song performed and written by my daughter that represents my stoma journey)

WARNING- STOMA PICS

Having a purpose – My life has changed dramatically these last two years, firstly having an awful flare of ulcerative colitis that left me in such a bad way I needed emergency surgery. That in turn left me with major complications that are still a nuisance today. But despite all the bad bad times, I can now say that I feel I have a purpose.

That purpose is to spread the information about IBD and stomas. I started with a free blog site that I tailor made for Tomas, and decided to be very candid about my experiences. I couldn’t see the point of just sugar coating it as that would not cut the mustard. I am very sure my friends and aquaintances were surprised and maybe even slightly grossed out at first, I know I was, but it is like having a phobia, the more exposure, the less of a problem it is. I am sure if a friend of mine decided to write a blog about her rectum and poo styles , I would be surprised yet intrigued at the same time.

I would honestly have thought that if you had said two years ago that I would be writing about my bowel and poo at every opportunity, AND including photos, I would have laughed in your face. Absurd.

 

After quite a few months writing the blog and getting the odd hit here and there , I decided to step it up a notch and blow the cobwebs from my purse and pay for a half decent site with the name of my choice .co.uk. I was very excited as this meant I could use videos and links. So as soon as I was up and running I decided to post a video of my stoma moving, I know, I know, my husband said ” surely you can  leave some things to the imagination ? “. But I knew this was what I needed to do. The traffic to my blog really began to grow, people made lovely comments and I felt I was making a difference. I won’t lie, it is a thrill when I get a lovely comment from someone going through a similar experience, but it is also disappointing not to get one on some posts, I don’t know if those particular posts are not as interesting or just that there is no need to comment. Either way, I will continue with my musings if only for that one person who needs it.

Oh and I am attending my first Ileostomy association meeting next week for Notts and Derby region, excited.

I am now nearly two years post ileostomy and I blog for my site, also for “A bigger life ” ( stoma information site run by TG Eakin, this is worth a look not just for my posts, although of course they are worth a peek too 🙂 ) I tweet, and have joined many forums and sites. Although I haven’t met the people on them they feel like new friends. We all have that one thing in common that helps us all accept who we are now. Life does have it’s ups and downs, make no mistake about that, but generally speaking my life is much better and I almost feel it was all a dream in the hospital ( until of course, my stoma farts or leaks, and I remember that  my tummy is no longer svelte and smooth). I may be one of lucky ones that have been able to overcome the fact that I have a permanent stoma, and use it for my help and the help of others who may not have such a great time. Every single one of us is different with different needs and different issues so the help and support will be there for those ( including myself at times) who needs it. ( sounds like Gryffindor’s sword is going to appear).

I would also like to add my daughter’s song which she wrote and performed as a present for me during the hard times. I am immensely proud and absolutely love the song, I hope you do too. I am having a tattoo to represent who I am now and the song is based on that. I know I am plugging this too 😉 but if you fancy having a look at more from her, please follow on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJjPp6hrjmO-WI9duUWlvNQ

 

I will warn of stoma pictures etc, but I will not apologise for them. This is me, and this is my story warts ‘n all.

Colonoscopies

 

Colonoscopies can be performed for a variety of reasons but I will give you my take on them. I have had numerous with and without sedation.
The fear is greater than the actual procedure. There always will be exceptions to that rule but in general I find the whole thing not nearly as bad as I anticipated. The worst bit by far is the preparation.

You will be given some form of bowel preparation which is often a salty awful tasting mixture that you need to drink over a period of time, and because you can’t eat ,it is very nausea inducing I am afraid. But you just have to get on with it. After so long you need to start going to the toilet.
DO NOT PLAN ON GOING ANYWHERE as you will almost certainly need to go lots of times to clear your bowel out. Because of the timing of the prep you will be able to sleep, and in the morning you will need to drink one more sachet usually. You should be fairly clear after a while but the urges may still be there. As long as you have done as they asked you are ready. ( things may vary depending on when you are booked in, either morning or afternoon).
When you arrive at the endoscopy unit you will be taken to see the nurse before hand to talk about sedation and consent etc..you will be asked to get into a gown and you usually have to wait a short while for your slot, this is the time that most folk are nervous about the unknown, please don’t be, it is ok.
Next, you will taken into the procedure room where you will see a bed, a monitor and various other machines and items. Your doctor will there ready fro you , as will a nurse or two. One of the nurses will get you comfortable and look after you the whole time.If you asked for sedation this will be given now, you will have a cannula placed in your hand or arm and the sedation will be given.

The nurse will give you an oxygen nasal cannula or similar which is just a small foam piece attached to oxygen that you place in one nostril. You may get a different type but essentially they will be the same idea.
Once the sedation starts working you will feel very relaxed and may not remember too much, you are still awake and may even watch the monitor if you are not too squeamish. You will be on your side with your knees up and they will then insert the camera. Lubricant will be used to help it in and you should feel fairly comfortable.
The doctors ( as there may be two) will guide the scope around the bowel and may ask you to move into a different position now and again.

If they take biopsies you will not feel this. Sometimes you make be asleep and sometimes you may wake a bit. I do find some pain when they are moving the scope around the bowel corners, as they tend to use your tummy to help push it around, but in all honesty it is soon forgotten.
Eventually it is over and you are wheeled into the recovery bay where they will let you sleep off the sedation. You then get a cup of tea and biscuits and are on your way. You won’t be allowed to drive after sedation. If you are lucky you will be given a copy there and then of the report.
Good luck and don’t be scared, it’s a breeze. You have probably been through far worse with what has got you there in the first place.