I’ve been swimming with a colostomy bag for quite a few weeks and have been getting on ‘swimmingly’ with it. After surgery I wanted to start getting fit again and it was the first type of exercising that I started doing. Wearing a colostomy bag in the swimming can come with some risks and it was only inevitable that I would experience one of them.
Preparing for Swimming
Every time I go swimming I always make sure that I change my bag before diving into the pool. The last thing I want is to cause a pool to close because of some poop leaving my bag, although that is unlikely to happen. When I change my bag I check that the seal is good and that there are no creases that may allow water to seep in. I have to admit that at times I am perhaps not completely vigilant in checking.
What’s That Drag?
The plan, like other swims, was to get in the pool, swim 40 lengths and leave the pool with the bag in the same state as it went in.
30 lengths into the swim and I started to notice a bit of a slow down. Granted I’m not the quickest of swimmers but there was something that was dragging me down. Was I tiring or was there something else? I continued for another length and then wondered if something was up with the bag. A quick feel and yep, it had ballooned! My first response was is it water, or is it something more sinister? Thankfully it just felt like it was water. I was determined to finish my 40 lengths so continued but was constantly conscious of it.
I Need An Exit Strategy
Coming to the end of my swim I needed to formulate an exit strategy. I was swimming in the lane closest to the steps and also closest to the lockers so with good timing I’d be able to slink out of the pool hopefully unnoticed. With 40 lengths completed I rested up against the wall of the pool. To my left was a young boy sat in one of the spectator seats. He was using his mobile phone and at first it looked as though he could be primed to take a photo of me. Of course he wasn’t and being in distracted by a game or a video he probably wouldn’t notice the water-filled bag.
Further along the pool was the pool attendant who was looking in my direction and continued to look for what seemed an eternity. Was she looking at me? Did she know about the water in the bag? I looked down to see if you could see the bag through the water and whilst you couldn’t, I could clearly see the bubbles of air escaping from the bag.
My plan was to wait for her to turn away so that I could make my escape. Instead she climbed down from her lifeguard chair and walked in my direction. She stood behind me and talked to another member of staff. When the time came for her to return to her chair I was going to make a swift exit, which I managed to successfully do.
I quickly grabbed my clothes from the locking and dived into one of the mother and baby changing cubicles. During the late night swims these are not in use so it was safe for me to use one of them. The plan was simple, remove the bag and fit a new one. However, I realised that the bag I had fitted prior to swimming was the only one I had and the spares were in the car.
I had two options, either remove the bag and hope that the stoma doesn’t start pooping and I have enough time to get a new bag from the car or I could try and remove the water from the bag. I opted for the second option and broke the adhesive seal at the base of the join with my skin and drained some of the water into the sink. I managed to remove most of the water but due to the way the bag hangs beneath the seal I couldn’t remove it all. Not to worry, I’ll leave the small amount in there and make my way back to the car. What I didn’t take into account was I needed to bend down to put on my shoes and socks. I guess it helped in removing the last of the water from the bag.
At this stage of having a stoma I’m forever learning and there were lessons to be learned from this swimming session. Always have two bags when swimming, one for the pre-swim change and one just in case something goes awry. And double, triple check my seal before entering the pool.
In hindsight I think there was a small amount of old adhesive left on my skin in the area that opened and let the water in. The new adhesive may well have not stuck to the old adhesive.