Wednesday April 23, 2014
When I had an ostomy, I kept it to myself, mainly. I didn't sport a bikini that summer, or even necessarily get involved in advocacy. I knew it was for a short time in my life, but I also knew that I could always go back to an ostomy if needed. I had never known another person with an ostomy, at least not personally. I had met a few here and there, especially when I was younger.
I will never in my life forget my first post-surgery visit to my colorectal surgeon's office. The office staff commented on how good I looked (I was only 26 -- I never looked ill even when I was). They expected me to appear pinched and drawn, maybe even hunched over, clutching my abdomen as I walked. To be sure I had many staples in my abdomen and was presently upright mostly due to the painkillers in my system, but their attitude shocked me. What did most people look like at their first post-surgery visit?
Recently this got me to thinking about what many people think about ostomies, and how untrue most of it is. Even me, before I underwent the surgery myself, didn't really know what to expect. And I didn't run around advertising the presence of my little stoma, but I certainly didn't hide under bulky clothes, either. I put on my flat-front pants and went to work as if everything was just the same.
And so, thus, perhaps much belatedly, I present what I would tell people about my ostomy (when I had one). Would you add anything to the list?
Things People With An Ostomy Wished You Knew
Image © CÚcile Graat
Monday April 21, 2014
Recently I've been listening to podcasts while working or going about household chores, and Star Talk Radio has become a favorite. One of the episodes dealt with all manner of practical items when it came to space travel -- including pooping. Now, in space there is no gravity, so there is no up and down. In addition, anything in the cabin of the spacecraft or the space station just floats around. This is true for everything from a dirty sock to food to human waste. You don't want anything wet, including body fluids, being set loose to roam about the cabin on their own. It could be disastrous, not to mention embarrassing and a potential health hazard.
Therefore, special commodes were designed for space travel. Different countries have slightly different designs, but they tend to operate similarly. The toilet is a vacuum, essentially sucking waste material into it and away from the body. This does require a certain amount of technical expertise on the part of the operator -- you don't just plant your bottom and go to. You must be in the right position, and training toilets available on Earth include a closed-circuit camera that can help a body to get in the right position.
Naturally, I was intrigued by the ingenuity of NASA to come up with such a way to deal with the most natural of biologic functions. And thinking about how this would work, and if it works when one has diarrhea, led me to think about people who have an ostomy -- either urinary or intestinal. For them, using a toilet in space is not really that much of a stretch. Emptying a bag in zero gravity could itself be fraught with peril, but if one used closed, one-use pouches or connected the pouch to a vacuum, it would arguably be easier than the "usual" way of doing things.
Obviously, many ostomates are not in a position to become astronauts, but I thought it was an intriguing idea. Perhaps one day an ostomate could go into space, and the whole "bathroom" issue might be simplified.
More about space poop:
Image © NASA, ESA, and E. Perlman (Florida Institute of Technology)
Friday April 18, 2014
Now that spring is here in the Northern Hemisphere, and snow is melting across the temperate areas, it is now becoming time for the spring and summer charity walks. Many inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) organizations (such as the Crohn's And Colitis Foundation Of America [CCFA]) hold runs and walks in order to raise money. The funds raised are put towards everything from IBD research to public education efforts. In the case of the CCFA, walks are held all spring and summer across the United States.
The thing about participating in a charity walk is that if you don't walk regularly year-round, it might be a challenge for you when you do a charity walk or two during the summer months. Not that it is impossible, and not that you shouldn't walk to in support of the causes that you believe in. But, you will want to start thinking about getting your body ready to walk as soon as you possibly can. Even if you're reading this a few days before your walk, there is still something you can do. But, ideally, you are thinking of getting ready for your walk a month or more ahead of time.
At whatever level you're starting, our Walking Expert, Wendy Bumgardner (AKA Walking Wendy), has her Once-A-Year Walker's Survival Kit just for you.
Wednesday April 16, 2014
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day
. This is a day where adults are encouraged to plan for their future care by providing information about their wishes for their own healthcare. Having these plans in writing helps healthcare providers to care for a patient in the way that the patient prefers.
Why is this day important to you? With chronic conditions such as IBD, healthcare decisions may need to be made quickly. When patients provide that information in advance, healthcare providers can make choices for the patient that are in accordance with the patient's beliefs.
I encourage you to have an advance directive. I also hope you will speak with those closest to you about your wishes for your care, particularly as they relate to issues surrounding your IBD. This can include decisions about medications, surgery or surgical complications, and mental health care.
More about talking with your family about healthcare: