People with an ostomy come from all types of ethnic backgrounds, social classes and age ranges, from infants to the elderly. They could be the person standing next to you in line at the store, your next-door neighbor, your child’s teacher or even your coworker. Ostomies are hidden under clothes so while the person with an ostomy knows it’s there; most other people are unaware of its presence.
There are many misconceptions about having an ostomy, so let’s clear up some of these and get to the facts:
- Ostomies can be temporary or permanent.
- They can be located in the small intestine (ileostomy), colon (colostomy) or urinary system (urostomy).
- Having an ostomy is not the end of the world as many people believe. Most people with an ostomy adapt well. There are problems that can occur but most of these are very manageable.
- Having an ostomy can often save lives and almost always improves quality of life.
- People with an ostomy can still do things everyone else can do: get married, work, attend school, be physically active and swim.
- Body fluids from the ostomy are collected in a bag, called a pouch. An intact pouch prevents leakage and odor.
- People with an ostomy are still people; they just have an altered digestive and/or urinary system.
Having an ostomy is an emotional adjustment. What people with an ostomy need the most is support and understanding from their families, friends and community. Support comes from becoming knowledgeable about ostomies, being available to listen without judgment and treating the person with an ostomy no differently than anyone else. Support groups are available across the nation and are extremely helpful for people with an ostomy. A Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) nurse, a.k.a Enterostomal Therapist (ET), is also an invaluable resource for ostomy problems, education and questions.
*Having an ostomy shouldn’t be taboo. Models are now showing off their ostomies in photographs on social media. Changing this stigma starts today with increased awareness, so go spread the word.
United Ostomy Association of America www.ostomy.org
Living with an Ostomy (Video) http://www.ostomy.org/Ostomy_Living_Video.html
Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Society www.wocn.org