Adjusting to life with a stoma bag

I could faintly hear a voice saying, “Wake up Karen, wake up,” and as I opened my eyes I could see I was in the recovery room. “Everything went well,” I was reassured, “and now we’re taking you back to the ward.” I nodded, feeling my eyes close once again.

Once we were back on the ward I could tell that I was hooked up to all kinds of machines and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It was around nine o’clock and so I fell back into a sleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night, something wasn’t right, I felt down my right side, it was sodden, well everything was, my gown and my sheets were drenched. I thought the worst, “I’m bleeding out,” and I looked for the alarm button but couldn’t find it. Luckily, the lady opposite me was up out of her bed and so I asked her to fetch somebody for me, which she duly did.

Two nurses came, one was a huge man, they took one look at me and gasped. On closer inspection they discovered that my stoma bag hadn’t been closed at the bottom and so all the waste was going straight through. So the male nurse gathered me up in his arms, (yes, he was that strong!) and sat me down next to the bed while the other nurse stripped the bed.

I was past caring as the male nurse wiped me down, carefully avoiding all the tubes and changed my gown, I just stood obediently half asleep, waiting to be lifted back in bed.

The next morning the stoma nurse visited me. I hadn’t really looked at the bag and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to and when I told her about the leaking stoma bag she said, “Well, that’s a great introduction to having one!” She showed me how to empty it into a bowl while I was laying in bed and said she’d be back in a couple of days to show me how to change the bag. I wasn’t really looking forward to that, but I knew it was something I would have to get used to.

As the days went on I became more confident in handling the stoma bag, I still had to empty it in a bowl, so that the nurses could record the flow and sometimes it made me feel a bit queasy but overall it was okay.

The stoma nurse showed me how to change the bag, which entailed measuring the stoma and cutting a hole to fit it, cleaning it, cleaning the skin around it and putting it on so that it sat nicely on your stomach. It does feel good when you have a new bag on. (I never thought I’d say that!)

I spent the next two weeks in hospital (which I will go into more detail in a separate blog) and during that time me and my stoma got to know each other a little better each day. I was on a low fibre diet and things like sweeetcorn, peas, skins on potatoes, skins on fruits, nuts, seeds, spicy food, are all a total no no. The menu at the hospital was:

I was discharged by the stoma nurses after seeing them three times and showing I could change a bag by myself and it became routine emptying it, day and night.

I was given a bag of supplies provided by a company called Fittleworth, which are of no cost, so you just telephone them when you need some more supplies. There are lots of different stoma bags available, so if you can’t get on with one, there’s always another to try. I was having trouble with red skin around the stoma, so they changed the bag to a more raised one and that is much better.

So, when I was discharged from the hospital, me and my stoma went home, did it go well? You’ll find out in my next blog about Life At Home With A Stoma Bag…

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