Stories from the Bag

I did not have an ostomy bag for long.  But for the time that I did have it, I never really got comfortable with it.  I had a two-part surgery that was to remove my whole large intestine. After the removal, my surgeon created a fake colon out of the small intestine and rectum.  This fake colon was called the J-pouch.  In order for the J-pouch to heal, my surgeon had to put on an ostomy bag for three months.  I would return to have the bag reversed.  That was the plan.  Although it did not turn out exactly the way I wanted, I do have memories of wearing the bag.

Learning how to fasten the bag

I had trouble fitting the bag onto the ostomy. It kept coming off. The bag would fill up so fast, that the bag would begin to leak.  When the bag began to leak, it would literally burn my skin.  Since I was not eating anything, my body was expelling bile onto my skin.  It is so acidic!  The hospital had to bring in a wound care nurse to constantly clean the area.  I remember she would use a barrier ointment on my burning skin.  This would form a “wall,” so to speak, between the bile and the skin.  It did not work that well.

Dealing with high output levels

The second problem that I remember was that, as stated above, my output was too much for a regular ostomy bag. Before I got put on the ventilator, they removed the actual bag, leaving my stoma open.  They hooked up an overnight drainage bag so that they would not have to change the ostomy as much.  Again, I don’t remember this as I was so out of it from the medication.

Finding the best way to change my bag

I do remember that they tried to send me home for the week with the ostomy bag. The problem was that the hospital staff did not show me very well how to change my bag.  And because the output was so high, I had to have my bag changed constantly.  I was very lucky to have a sister-in-law who was able to come over and change my bag.  I also had an ostomy nurse who was at my house a lot of times for the changing. I remember that it would leak as soon as she would leave and she would have to come back.

I remember being very confused when about the right way to change my bag. I was taught to change it lying down because, apparently, it was much easier.  But when I got home, my ostomy nurse taught me to change it while standing up.  That did not make sense to me, since I had to hold the bag from falling to the floor.

Dealing with unpredictability

The ostomy site was unpredictable. I never knew when it would expel waste. I could only compare the stoma to “Old Faithful.”  I remember changing it, hoping that it would not explode.

I will have to admit, the ostomy bag was a weird and life-changing experience.  I don’t know what I would choose if I had to do it over again.  Bag or J-pouch...

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