Ostomy surgery and still live fully? 

Am I resilient? If I am struck by a medical problem, can I rebound?

What can I do that builds my inner strength? Do I have external resources to draw from? If I start from an unprepared position, can I get back to firm footing and a sense of normalcy? Specifically, if I’m facing ostomy surgery, what inner psychological qualities will help me cope? What physical strengths will be tested? Are there devices to help with the physical change? Are there people, books, or other sources of information that will assist with my brain’s struggles? What role does my intimate partner play? My family? My close community? How can I have ostomy surgery and still live fully?

Your job, their job

Good surgeons and their medical teams are expert at ostomy surgery. They know what part of the bowel works the best; where to put the stoma, how to avoid bleeding, infection, and peri operative complications; they’ve seen people heal before and most realize that the body sort of naturally “gets over the insult of surgery” with time. These surgeons can’t make you thinner before surgery to help the Stoma protrude better: A factor which assists with appliance fit and decreases leaks. They can’t exercise for you before or after surgery: a factor that greatly improves physical recovery. And typically, they don’t offer personal or family counseling: factors that could assist your social and psychological recovery.

Several ostomy appliance companies offer a plethora of plastic devices backed by ongoing research that will contain your ostomy output. Before you leave the hospital, somebody designated to help you, usually, a WOCN nurse will show you how these work. They are not rocket science, but every ostomy patient’s abdominal contours and crevices are different.

Sense of normalcy

Wound and Ostomy Certified Nurses are expert with stoma care and appliance fitting. Because they witness the after effects, they are also good sources for information on getting back to “normal”. Several manufacturers make specialized clothing to conceal the ostomy. This is similar to a bra fitting for a woman, or a guy trying out boxers’ vs briefs, or a coach advising a jock strap. Underclothes are personal items, but shouldn’t be scary. Other manufacturers make elastic Velcro deals that “tuck it all in” so an ostomate can be active or wear a revealing swimming suit. StomaCloak makes odor absorbing, perspiration wicking, sound proofing little wonderbags that fit over appliances.

When it comes down to needing a stoma, the health reason that got you there would indicate that you are better off physically than with your original plumbing. If it will keep you alive, it must be good! I realize that many with Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome are “walking a tightrope” for some time before ostomy surgery becomes imminent, but I’ve talked to many afterward who’ve wished they’d done it sooner avoiding the psychologically and physically debilitated state they were finally in that required nearly emergency surgery as a life-saving measure.

Life changes

If you haven’t faced psycho-physical trauma (or if you’ve experienced way too much of it before), ostomy surgery can be a surprise. No question, ostomy surgery is life changing. Decide to aim your psycho-physical attitude upward; do what you can before surgery to improve physical outcomes; pick a good surgical team; use WOCN’s to assist with appliance choice and function; be brave to show your stoma to your significant other and employ their thoughts on acceptability and intimacy; talk about your surgery to your kids and your parents, show them your stoma (only if they want to see it) so that nobody is afraid of it; laugh when you leak, and have extra appliances in your car, purse, and workplace; get psych help if you’re going nuts because those people have heard it all before!

Resilience is built into everybody. Tap into it. As I did in the past running  5K races with my daughters and will participate in a virtual 5K for ostomy awareness.  “I Am Resilient” so Join Me!!!

By Dr. Joseph Salisz, MD A Urologist with a stoma

UOAA October 1st Ostomy Awareness Campaign called “Bouncing Back Into Life” and asking ostomates “Are you Resilient”

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