There is a great deal of information available on the internet these days regarding the formation of stomas – Why they need to be created, how to look after them and ways to encourage you back to work … but none of them will tell you how you can help yourself to recover quickly and be comfortable in doing so. These things can only be learnt from personal experience.
When I came out of hospital, there were a lot of things my Stoma Nurse advised me to do, some things proved to be inadequate and in some cases, impossible to adapt to.
I’ve listed some of the problems I encountered below along with some brief notes. Hopefully it will help you in your first few weeks home.
A small pillow / cushion
Whilst still at hospital I was advised to sit on the toilet and drain the stoma bag “between my legs” – this is all well and good in a hospital that has very large and wide toilets, but the average home just does not have that size toilet. The only way I found I could empty out is to kneel down and empty over the bowl. A dedicated cushion to kneel on is ideal in times like this.
A word of warning, always kneel down to empty. Never attempt to do this standing up. Take it from me, if you cough, get distracted or otherwise let your mind wander during this time, it gets very messy and becomes a swine to clean up after!
Puppy Training Mat
My Stoma often becomes at its most active at the most inappropriate times – when I am between changing bags. This is completely unavoidable. After all, you can hardly plug up the hole whilst changing! I’ve found through trial and error that a puppy training mat offers an affordable and disposable way to help minimise “accidents.”
I just stand on them whilst changing, and any “drips” will fall harmlessly onto the mat. It won’t stop those stomas that “spit” (as mine does sometimes), but it will catch the majority of waste. The mat will also offer protection when cleaning old adhesive glue away from the stoma area. With the best will in the world, the old glue falls onto the mat (rather than the carpet).
During my first week at home, I was asked to measure my output. This was done by using a cheap plastic measuring jug. It’s not pleasant, but it needs to be done!
Not as silly as it sounds, but to keep the adhesion of a stoma bag in tip-top condition, shaving the area around a stoma is advisable. The better the adhesion, the less the chance of a leak. I will say though that after a few weeks of doing this, I gave up!
Whilst your tummy area is settling down, it’s advisable to wear loose fitting clothes. Your stoma and the area around it will be very sensitive during this time. Loose clothing offers you protection from nasty knocks, belt lines and itching.
This is one of the most important areas of all. When you were sent home from the hospital, you were probably given a couple of weeks’ worth of a particular Stoma bag. This may have well been part of a “sponsored” setup from a particular manufacturer. In my case, I was given a travel bag containing curved scissors, disposable bags and some adhesive remover wipes. At the time I was obviously grateful for this, but after a while I realised that the stoma bag provided was not the most comfortable.
One of the first things I did at home was to Google Stoma companies that gave away free samples (most companies do) – I concentrated for a while on one piece stoma bags (and until you are fully healed I would advise you do the same) – but I also looked at different brands of Adhesive remover – some for instance contain Aloe Vera (which is no good for me) – in pouch deodorisers is also an area to concentrate on for a while, as is some “gel” thickeners.
All stoma bags are different – the one I use now is smooth to the touch and can towel dry really easily. You just need to find one you are comfortable with.
This is probably an area which is easy to overlook, and now that you have a Stoma you may not been entitled to it, but pre-op you may have been entitled to discounted water rates.
This is probably an area which is easy to overlook – I personally have not claimed anything, but know of some who do, it’s all down to your personal finance situation.
There are some items of clothing that you are entitled to per year for free (UK only) – these are “prescription based items” and cover clothing such as swimwear, underwear, stoma bag covers and so on. There is a limit per year what you can claim – my research shows this is UK area dependent – some areas are more flexible than others.
Even if you do not want to claim this, you should take a look anyway so it will give you an idea for more comfortable clothing. Items such as high waistband trousers are a godsend – swimming trunks that contain a “pouch” to pop the stoma bag in (saves embarrassing “flapping” noises!)