Just like there were steps to take in preparation for surgery, there are steps to take post-surgery. By doing these, you can help reduce your admission time, complications, and better your outcome with your new stoma!

Have a Positive Attitude

Alright, harder said than done. It’s easy for someone to say “lighten up” to you, when they are not the one going through surgery. When I talk about having a positive attitude, I mean looking for the light in the dark. Your pouch may not be sticking, your skin may be getting irritations, but you finally remembered to close the end of your pouch! You may be having pain post-surgery, your appetite hasn’t quite come back, but you’ve walked farther around your hospital unit today than any other. There may be many things to look down on when having ostomy surgery, but finding those small pieces of something going right is how you will work your way through the process of healing. Soon, you may find more light than dark.

Refuel

We all know appetites are not the greatest in the post-op period. A big, greasy cheeseburger may not sound as appealing as it did before, and that is to be expected. You need to keep in mind however, that the body needs fluids and food to fuel healing. Without these, your body is going to adjust to having an ostomy much slower than it otherwise would.

Move

If your nurse wakes you up at 8am and tells you to go on a walk, do it. Not only does walking exercise your atrophying-muscles and keep those lungs clear and able to breathe, but it also wakes up your intestines! After abdominal surgery, the intestines are slow to start, which makes keeping anything down impossible. Moving helps those intestines get back into their regular routine.

Expect Pain

Unfortunately, part of having ostomy surgery is pain. It is always important to advocate for yourself in the setting of pain. Letting your nurse and doctor know your pain level is key to good pain control. How can they help you if you don’t tell them you need it? A tip for assisting in mild abdominal pain is to hold a hug pillow against your abdomen. It acts as a support, so if you need to move or cough (which may increase pain), it creates security.

With all of the above tips, it is essential to follow the plan you and your healthcare team have created post surgery. This means no sneaking food if they tell you “no eating”, no Olympic level abdominal exercises right after surgery, and getting out of bed when you need to. The idea is to get you back to as normal a life as possible, and although it may seem as if they are pushing you too hard, they only want your outcome to be the best that it can!

Maggie

-Maggie Baldwin

Patients’ Champion Coordinator

 

I’d like to start by telling you that you are important. No matter what your role in life is; a mother, sister, husband, caregiver, friend, or coworker, you are important. For YOU, the patient, the one going through this disease or this life changing situation; you have support. If you don’t see it now, if you don’t see those around you searching for ways to be there for you and to tell you everything is okay, please think about it now. You are not alone. I’m telling you this because I thought I was alone. When I woke up in that bed after my surgery; a female teen with a bag on my stomach, I thought I would never be the same. Who would ever accept someone with a bag, someone who wasn’t the same as other girls, someone like me? I want to tell you now, give people more credit, they may just maybe surprise you. YOU are beautiful in every single way. YOU WILL get through this and make it out on top. I promise.

Kristen

My story from here has a bunch of ups and downs. I’d like to start with some positives. Some things that changed after my surgery for the good.

After making it home from the hospital and getting situated at college for my second year I was ready to take on my classes and my new experiences waiting to happen. This year I moved into the sorority house. I am a Delta Zeta and at the time there were 13 girls living in the house. Sounds crazy right? I loved it! There was always someone there to hang out with, someone to do homework with or watch a movie on our down time. I would walk to school and instead of coming home to my room to just lay down alone, I stayed on campus and went to events with friends. I was happy.

My classes were great. I switched from a theater major to a film major because that was more my forté. What I really needed was to find a place that I fit in, but all along I did fit in. I always had friends and support, but it was a matter of letting them into my life. I tend to push people away when I get scared and afraid of losing them. So, there I was, a second year into college, a sorority girl living in the house, and I was finally going out with friends.

Then I relapsed. One night I woke up in the middle of the night tossing and turning in pain. I believe I was the only one home in my room so that was a bit better because no one knew I had a bag. As the pain got worse it turned into screaming. My stoma had prolapsed from my body. It had completely fallen out and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I called my mom crying and told her we needed to get to Cedars immediately. I had to have my bag off the entire way and if you have a stoma, you know that is not an easy thing to do. I remember getting into the room and everything was just so sudden. No one was speaking to each other. The nurses were rushing in, then other help, then my surgeon. In that confusion I wasn’t given any pain meds. They put salt on my stoma because that was a way that could help shrink it, but it was not successful. Then Dr. Fleshner came in suddenly and tried pushing it back in. Yes pushing it with his hands with force. Remember I told you they had forgotten to give me my pain medication? So yes, there I was lying in a bed having my stoma pushed on with no meds. I would say this was the worst feeling I’ve had awake. He realized after I was screaming “bloody murder” that I had not gotten anything for the pain. He was not happy. Minutes later I was asleep and Fleshner did a reduction and revision to my stoma.

The surgery was successful, and I was out after three days. This was in mid-November of 2013. I returned to my house and returned to school. I was put down and angry once again. Why did things keep happening to me? Three surgeries in four months. I hoped I was finally done.

Things in life don’t always happen the way they’re planned, the way you want them to. I’m still always told till this day, “everything happens for a reason.” What twisted reason would this be in my case? Maybe it was bad luck, or maybe it was something to make me stronger as a person. Or maybe this happened so I could live to tell my story and help other people just like me. Whatever the reason I’m thankful for my life, my family and loved ones, my friends, and my new job at 11 Health. I wouldn’t be the same person without any of these amazing people.

Kristen 1

-Kristen Furey

Patient Champion

If you know you are having ostomy surgery, there are ways you can prepare ahead of time. Doing some of the prep work prior makes for a shorter admission period, allows you to feel and heal quicker, and makes for an easier transition back to your regular life.

Ask Questions

Before surgery, you’ll most likely have a few appointments with the doctors, nurses, and surgeons involved in giving you your ostomy. Make the most of these appointments by asking questions – whether it be about what surgery will be like or what life will be like outside of the hospital with your ostomy.

Prepare Your Supplies

Get an idea of what you might like to “dress” your stoma in before you ever even have one! You will find that many ostomy supply companies will provide free samples. Getting these samples before surgery will give you an idea of what you may want to use. You can even bring these to the hospital to try out. If you find something that works well for you, you will be able to order these pouches or flanges before you ever even leave the hospital! That way, you’ll have supplies when you head home.

Maggie before surgery

Prepare Your Body

You are probably preparing for ostomy surgery because you have an illness that an ostomy may assist with. Even though you are working towards the ultimate goal of improved health, there are things you can do prior to surgery to help your body get through the process! Eating a well-balanced diet approved by your physician, staying hydrated, exercising as your body allows you, and getting enough sleep at night will help your body be in optimal shape for surgery. Healing is hard work!

Prepare Your Mind

Mentally preparing yourself is easier said than done. There are a few things to keep in mind when planning for surgery. Know that those first few bag changes you do after surgery will not be perfect. It takes practice and patience to make a flange stick, and with time you will gain that skill!

Prepare Your Home

Having the space where you will do a majority of your recovery ready for your arrival is a key aspect to healing. Have your bed or sleeping area prepared with fresh linens. Ensuring you’ll be able to access that area is also important. If you will not be able to make it up stairs after surgery, ensure there is an area for you to rest downstairs. Having meals ready to go is also a great idea! Gentle meals that have been approved by your doctor are always nice to have at hand, so you won’t be struggling to nourish yourself after surgery.

 

By preparing in the previously mentioned ways, you are assisting yourself in the healing process. Surgery is not easy for anyone, but these steps can improve your outcome!

  • – Maggie Baldwin, Patients’ Champion Coordinator