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Dealing with surgery when you already have a stoma

Gemma Savory shares her experiences on dealing with surgery when you already have a stoma.

Dealing with surgery when you already have a stoma

I’ve been away for a few weeks recovering from hopefully my last major surgery for bowel cancer. The cancer has now been removed, along with my rectum and I’ve been reconstructed in an ode to Frankenstein type way by having half the skin and muscles from my stomach removed to replace where my bottom once was. It also means that my stoma is most definitely permanent. There is no turning back.

As I had my stoma surgery a few months previous, I found that going into hospital now raised it’s own questions and needed a little extra planning. Here’s what I discovered.

How many bags do I take in with me?

I went a little overboard and ended up taking a box of closed bags and a box of drainable bags for a two week stay plus a pile of wipes, two bottles of adhesive remover spray and two packs of disposable bags. I actually barely used any bags. As I wasn’t really eating and drinking much, nothing came out for the first 10 days so my bag was only changed if the wafer started curling. I actually came home with more bags than I started with! I would say take with you what you would normally use plus maybe half just in case. You’ll easily be able to get hold of supplies whilst your hospital just be aware that it might not be the same as what you use.

Will I be able to change my own bag?

I guess it will depend on what you’re having done and how well you’re feeling. My bag was pretty much left untouched during my first few days in ICU as it covered over half my bandages too. In my experience, unless they were a colorectal/stoma nurse, most nurses didn’t really have much experience in changing a stoma bag successfully so I would ask a nurse to hand me over the supplies and do it myself from the bed.

Things may change

I came round confused how my once perfectly placed stoma had moved from its left side position to sitting almost centrally on my stomach. The nature of my surgery meant that my stoma had been pulled out of position when I was stitched up. This may also have contributed to my stoma being a little out of sorts.

Recovering at home

Before I went into hospital, I had got into a nice little routine with my bag changes and I had my supplies ready in the same place for each change. Being in hospital disrupted that routine and made me feel a bit unsure again about my stoma. I was also very tired and lacked the energy to get up to make the bag changes. My output has also changed and is now a little more unpredictable than before making it difficult to gauge when the best time to change my bag is. My advice is to persevere with your old routine. Put all your supplies back in their original place and aim to change your bag as often as you did before. It will help with your recovery and get you back to a mental state where you can not only cope but also thrive with your stoma once again.

Visit Gemma over at her blog site

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