Colostomy: A Patient's Perspective (cont.)
Straight Talk About Daily Life And Events
You will likely encounter a number of situations
that you may not foresee and I will try to recall as many of them
as I can remember having and tell you how I managed or overcame
The first clue is a telltale odor - don't dismiss
it. Check it out and replace the bag if necessary. Earlier, I
suggested that you carry a spare bag, this is why. In almost a
year I only had this happen twice but the spare was a real lifesaver.
A note - the bag you carry as a spare should already have the
hole cut to fit so you don't have to mess with it in some rest room.
Beware it isn't always silent. You will get
a funny feeling in your stomach, learn to recognize it, and this
can give you as much as 15 seconds notice, not very much, then
sometimes you get no advance notice. I handled this with a sense
of humor and no-one was ever offended, here's how. Simply smile
and say "excuse me but I recently had an operation and I
don't have very much control over that yet". I suppose you
could stick a pin into the top of the bag to relieve the gas but
I never tried it, you might give it a shot.
Swimming and Showering With The Bag On:
Water is not the bags best friend. What happens
is that the wax absorbs the water from the side and if exposed
to enough water for long enough the wax sort of turns to a soft
putty-like substance. It wont stay on for long. If you go swimming,
keep it to about 45 minutes and have a spare bag ready to install
when you are done. REMEMBER: The stoma and your incisions are
not able to deal with sunlight like your skin so you don't want
to expose these areas to direct sunlight any more than necessary.
I never experienced it, but, I think it might be pretty painful
to get a sunburn on these areas and it could cause other problems.
I used a baggy swimsuit and pulled it up over the stoma and bag.
That seemed to do the trick plus it covered the area so it wouldn't
bother anyone else.
I found that roughage, salads and the like,
are among the most efficient foods and produce the least amount
of stool while fast food restaurant fare produces the most stool
in relation to intake. You can watch what you eat and keep an
eye on how long different foods take to process and how efficient
they are and keep your own mental notes. This may not seem important
but it is. You don't want to eat pork and beans 5 hours before
you go to a quiet church service. Neither would you want to eat
a fast food lunch if you were planning a long trip. You can regulate
your food to compliment the activity you have planned and thus
keep embarrassing situations and inconveniences to a minimum.
$5.00 Per Bag:
With tax, colostomy bags cost just under $5.00
each. This can get expensive if you change them too often. About
every 3 to 5 days is the useful life of a bag if you are careful.
Keep the bag clean and watch for flexing of the wax along skin
folds or the beltline area. If flexing is occurring it will soften
the wax to the point where it will blow out. Don't let the bag
get over half full of stool, and don't let the bag balloon over
half full from gas. When it gets to these points, empty it. (Since the publication of this article, the price of bags has risen to over $30.00!)
Bag Cleaning Adapter For Your Sink:
You can buy an adapter for your sink faucet
that allows you to attach a garden hose to it. Waterbed stores
have plastic ones hardware stores have more durable metal ones.
You can than adapt a small hose to the faucet which will help
you clean the bag out but don't use too much pressure. I was able
to adapt a kitchen sink sprayer for rinsing dishes to my bathroom
sink and this gave me an on/off handle to better control the water
flow. When I was done cleaning the bag I would remove the hose
from the sink, clean it, and store it. Except for the 1/4"
adapter on the faucet no one was the wiser. I found everything
I needed at a local hardware store and it cost well under $20.00.
You will find that you may still want to eliminate
rectally. I questioned this at first. How can the rectum function
if it is essentially "out of the loop". I learned that
the rectum still produces mucus and at a certain point it needs
to eliminate what it has accumulated. It usually isn't very much
but it is normal. On my first colostomy I eliminated mucus four
or five times in the first month then nothing after that. On my
second colostomy it occurred about every 7 or 8 days regularly.
I would suppose that either is normal. Just don't be alarmed if
it happens. Ask your doctor if you're not sure.
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Colostomy - Cause
Question: What was the cause of your colostomy?