how to handle stomal surprises like a pro

Or, more accurately, how not to handle stomal surprises. Like a pro, or like any kind of sane person.

Forewarning that this post is a little more stoma/ostomy centric than others, and if you don’t have the experience of an ostomy – or at least IBD yourself, it may be a little much for you to handle.

I thought I had the world’s most perfect stoma. Sure, she was noisy at times, and she was still kind of sore – not to mention ringed with pink bumpity hypergranulation. But she kept to the unspoken code of Keeping It Together.

Yesterday, the usually docile Buffy and the appliance I was wearing decided to team up and strike out on their own. Which is the delicate way of putting I got my first leak. It was horrendous, and I was completely mentally unprepared (partly because at my appointment on Friday that was one of the cheerful things I said – “but no leaks or anything too untoward!”). I was all out of two-piece appliances, and didn’t even have an extra emptiable pouch to bring, so I was working a closed pouch for the first time at work – not ideal, since Buffy is often only active around 9-10am, and then silent for the rest of the day and night. I’d been doing two-piece swaps at morning tea or lunch most days, until I ran out of two pieces, and then resorted to emptiables, which are generally not ideal for colostomies (perfect for colon-free ileo folk, though), but “fortunately” I was having weirdly looser output at the end of last week anyway, so it was manageable.

Perhaps a tip-off that not all was right with skin/stoma/situation should have been noted when the first bag I put on of the day wouldn’t stick down properly around the very edges. Frustrated, I changed to another one, and everything seemed fine. Once I got in to work, I told myself I shouldn’t have a coffee – which was surely part of my demise. I have since completely sworn off coffee of all varieties, long black, americano, instant, filter – none of it (for now). But I did. And even though I’d put on a fresh bag at 6:45-ish, by 9am, it was getting pretty full. By the time disaster struck around 9:30, it was more than 3/4 full, more than a poor little pouch squished between knickers an leggings could handle.

And knickers, leggings, dress… Nothing was held sacred. I cleaned everything up as well as I could, wrapped up the offending bag, wadded up some toilet paper to press against the stoma (slightly moistened, didn’t want to piss her off more), clutched my belly and walked very, very carefully back over to the office.

I think one of my coworkers may have guessed what was happening – I could get a sense of some sort of odour on the air before I realised what might be happening, and between the epic grumbling and my rapid dash (not to mention the pathetic figure I cut upon my return) she obviously new something was up. But she was also lovely, asked if I was okay, and “of course, of course!”-ed me when I said I was feeling awful and probably had to go home. So I bailed with my bag, did a proper (as proper as you can in a disabled bathroom on a university campus) change, cried, and marched on. The story of how I happened to have left my keys at home would turn this into more of a tragedy than it already is.

And that, dear friends, is the story of how my ostomy sent me packing after an hour and a bit of work.

Since then, it’s been up-and-down. I changed it again shortly after I finally got home, after dousing my body in hot water and sobbing a little more. That one was fine, staying put until this morning – at which point I found a stray emptiable pouch lurking around, which I gleefully stuck on – though again, the edges were a little suspect. So I held my hand against it for as long as humanly possible (whilst only having about ten minutes before I had to go catch the bus), and hoped for the best. This time, I thought, I would be the winner.

I kind of was. I probably caught it about ten minutes before there would have been a mess on my hands – sort of a tunnel had formed between air and stoma in the adhesive (despite putting on a freaking barrier ring thing, lawdy lawd), but I got to it before anything started actually coming all the way through. So, an hour and a half after putting on the emptiable I’d been so excited to find, I switched it out for another closed pouch. Which I then had to change at lunchtime. Jebus.

BUT I STAYED COOL. Today was a day of being slick and professional, of getting sussed as quickly and cleanly as possible. I hope above all else that my delivery of new Hollister two-pieces arrives in the next couple of days – my life will be so much calmer. Less exciting, too, but frankly, I’m okay with that. But still – it’s another box to tick off, I suppose, and now I know how to handle the situation. Sort of. Maybe.

I don’t think you can really ever be prepared for surprise abdominal shit.

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