Colostomy: A Patient's Perspective (cont.)
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Straight Talk About Daily Life And Events
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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 them.
Bag Blowout: 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.
Passing Gas: 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, and 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.
Stool size: 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, my 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.
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.
Your Rectum: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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/5/2014