Living with an ostomy can be a challenging affair, especially if you lack the necessary support. One fact remains, that you are not alone in this. According to the United Ostomy Associations of America, UOAA, close to one million Americans have an ostomy. This figure is quite inclusive and covers individuals of different ages and gender that for one reason or the other have had the ostomy surgery. The greatest thing about it is that most of them lead relatively normal lifestyles afterward and you might not even notice. It is no longer something to put you down. In fact, it is a head start for a new life from the otherwise deadly disorder that could have easily cut it short.
To make this read more enlightening, it is only proper to understand the basics of an ostomy first.
What is an Ostomy?
An ostomy is a life-saving surgical procedure that involves making an opening in the body to help with elimination of either urine or stool. The opening is made in the intestine and helps redirect urine or stool for elimination. The body wastes, when left to accumulate could get toxic. For one reason or the other, some individuals have difficulties with elimination and consequently have these wastes accumulating to fatal levels. It could be as a result of the malfunctioning of the component and responsible parts of the digestive or urinary system. When an ostomy surgery is performed, the opening created is referred to as, a stoma and is usually pink in color. A pouch or bag is worn over it to collect urine or stool accordingly.
Depending on the nature of the ostomy surgery, there are three types of ostomies as explained here:
-A Colostomy is where the opening is created in the large intestine. The stoma created is covered with a colostomy bag, secured with comfortable colostomy bag holders .
-An Ileostomy is where the opening is created in the small intestine.
-A Urostomy is where the opening is created in the section of the intestine to redirect urine flow from the kidneys.
Whichever the case, it is important to resume your normal lifestyle as soon as possible after this surgery. This should follow immediately after recovery. One of the greatest ways to expedite this process is by finding a comfortable and fitting pouching system that will conveniently help with your elimination.
There are a number of concerns that you may have after this experience, which is perfectly normal to have, and some of the most common ones are addressed below:
Will I Resume My Daily Activities?
It is important to understand that as you recover, you can easily go back t your normal daily activities. You can still comfortably enjoy sports and other intense activities such as gardening and playing with your kids. Great care of the stoma should always be observed. Doing this with the help of your healthcare team can hasten your resumption of these activities.
Should I Change What I Eat?
You may need to make some small adjustments to your diet. Over time, you should be able to return to your normal diet. This should be achieved gradually as you assess the ostomy function with newly re-introduced food. Practicing sufficient food chewing and drinking a lot of fluids significantly eliminate the chances of blockage. For a urostomy, you can keep eating as you did before, but also include plenty of fluids in your diet. Again, work together with your healthcare team in this.
How Do I Go About Bathing And Showering?
This will entirely depend on your preference. You can bathe or take a shower with the pouch on or off. The stoma is not harmed by water exposure in any way. You should consider doing so when the elimination function is less active.
Will It Affect My Dressing?
You can still rock your dressing code, with a few modifications of course. Pouching systems at the moment are designed to be completely unnoticeable under clothing. Small modifications, on the waistband, for instance, helps enhance comfort by ensuring that they are not too restrictive.
How About Sex and Intimacy?
Sex and intimacy are vital aspects of your life and should remain so even after the surgery. For women, these aspects are not impaired at all. Men, on the other hand, may experience challenges right after the ostomy surgery but over time, develop back their confidence and restore their fulfillment from sexual experience.
When Should I Empty and Change the Pouch?
Emptying the pouch will mostly depend on the rate of your body’s metabolic activities. It should generally be checked occasionally to see if it is full and emptied accordingly. Factor in your surrounding and empty it while still in the house or near a convenient toilet. You shouldn’t use one pouch for very long. 3- 7 days is an ideal duration before changing it.
What Should I Consider As Emergency?
When you note any unusual feeling or change in the stoma, you should immediately seek medical help. A deep cut into the stoma, excessive bleeding, prolonged cramps, nausea and vomiting among other complications should be reported.
An ostomy is a life-saving and changing surgery that restores your elimination function. After this surgery, you undergo adjustments as you try to fit back into your previous lifestyle. Finding the right pouching system coupled with support from your healthcare team helps get you there much faster.