Health Services,

Life can go on as normal with a stoma

Yinnar South man Colin Richards was devasted when he woke up with a stoma bag after he had surgery for a ruptured bowel early last year.

But now the 55-year-old is letting people know that life can go on as normal with a stoma, and he has returned to cutting firewood, playing with his dog Rex and performing guitar at local gigs.

“It was devastating news when I learnt I had a stoma, I didn’t want any part in it, I imagined all the mess and inconvenience,” Col said.

“But it’s actually not as bad as you think it is, and it’s easier than managing other issues such as colitis or incontinence without one. Most people don’t even know I have one unless I tell them.”

A stoma is an artificial opening in the abdomen from either planned or emergency surgery and can be either permanent or temporary.

The stoma provides a new passage for either faeces or urine to leave the body depending upon the type of surgery. A bag is fitted over the stoma to collect the waste.

The good news is that most people can return to nearly any activity and manage their own stoma.

Col said he was not released from hospital until staff were confident he was ready to manage his stoma.

“I just have to be aware of heavy lifting and manage my diet. You get used to having a stoma bag, and emptying it is not that much different from going to the toilet anyway,” Col said.

Latrobe Regional Health supports its stoma patients with referrals for post-acute care, arranging home visits or outpatient stoma clinics, backed by specialist nurses Tanya Dyer, Jo Tippet and Annie Keating.

Tanya said nurses spend a lot of time with patients preparing them for life with a stoma and providing emotional support.

“Every stoma is different. So, our biggest focus is on empowering patients to care for their stoma themselves,” Tanya said.

“It can be life changing, I tell patients that if they are walking down the street, you will probably see other people with stoma bags and won’t even know. It’s more common than you think.”

Stomal Therapy Week is 24-30 June and this year’s theme is ’uniquely you’.