I’ve now had the colostomy bag for over a week and I feel like we’re just getting acquainted with the new sensations, the new smells and the challenges it’s going to bring. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Here’s How Things Look 9 Days After Surgery
For those that are curious, here’s how things are looking at the moment. The procedure was initially going to be keyhole, although I was warned that things could change when they started operating. During the procedure a new fistula was found which meant that an incision needed to be made.
The wounds have all healed well although the area around the stoma is still quite swollen resulting in the bag protruding more than it should and being more visible beneath clothing. The swelling will reduce and the stoma itself may adjust in size too.
If you’re really curious, here’s what things look like without the bag!
View My Naked Stoma! (Not for the squeamish!)
Changing the Bag
The first day after the operation a stoma nurse visits you, as they will do for every day you are in hospital, and checks on the progress of your bowels to see if the bag is starting to fill up. After surgery the bowel will temporarily stop working and can take anywhere from a day to a week to kickstart again.
As soon as my lazy bowels kicked in the stoma nurse demonstrated how to change the bag which looked very straightforward. From that point onwards I was expected to change the bag myself – with as much assistance as I required. I quickly found that it was as easy as it looked.
- Prepare your kit – new bag, waste bag, dry wipes & wet wipes (peg for your nose is optional).
- Remove bag and bin
- Use wet wipes to clean stoma (there are no nerves on the bowel so you can’t feel anything). It’s at this point I’m hoping that nothing decides to come out.
- Pat dry with dry wipes. Still hoping that nothing comes out.
- Attach new bag
- Continue with normal life!
After changing it once with supervision I was good to go and didn’t require any further assistance.
It’s a guarantee that I will experience a number of different accidents with the bag so it’s good to experience them as soon as possible.
When Your Bowel Does What It Wants To Do
The very first time I tried changing it I was a bit unprepared for the fact that the bowel is uncontrollable and will keep doing what it does best – pooping! As soon as I removed the bag some poop came out of the stoma onto the floor so naturally I bent down to pick it up but that just caused more to come out!
Realising How Important It Is To Ensure The Seal Is Completely Sealed
The seal on a bag is very secure and won’t budge when moving but you have to make sure that the seal is completely flat against the skin. Whilst having an examination on a hospital bed the contents of the bag shifted and found a tiny piece of the seal that wasn’t fully against my skin. No poop managed to get out but you instantly notice the smell and that could be an issue when out and about.
My bowels took five days before they needed a nudge with some laxatives and with a big backlog of food there was going to be a lot of wind. As soon as things started moving wind would randomly come out of the stoma. You wouldn’t know it was coming, you wouldn’t know how long it would last and you wouldn’t know how loud it was. I don’t know if it was more active due to the bowel starting up or if it will continue to be noisy. It’s become less vocal at the moment but will have to test out out with some gassy drinks to see what happens.
What It Feels Like to Poop Through A Stoma
Due to initial constipation, laxatives and antibiotics, things have been a little looser but when the poop is formed you can sense it coming out of the stoma and when I first experienced it the first thing that popped into my head was squeezing Play-Doh through a squeezer!
So far I’ve only experienced a bulging bag once due to a build up of wind. I’ve already read that drinking gassy drinks and beer can lead to more gas leaving the stoma. As someone who drinks a lot of fizzy drinks and likes a beer or two, it’s going to take some experimenting to see what comes out of the mouth and what comes out the other end.
At the moment all of my stoma experience has been in a closed environment where unexpected noises and smells are expected and depending on where you are post-surgery could even be celebrated!
Venturing outside will be my next test where I get to experience the bag making random noises, having to change it in a public toilet and no doubt experience an accident such as a leakage.