So you have been told you need stoma surgery….
If you have been told with time to plan it can come with its positives and negatives. Time to plan and be prepared, but also to worry. You will find lots of useful blogs and advice from ostomates and reputable ostomy companies, advice is never hard to find. During your pre op appointment you should be given advice on essentials to bring.
Nothing makes a hospital bed more comfortable than your own pillow or an extra blanket. Subconsciously you will feel more settled with your own of these. With hospitals being one of the least sleep friendly places to be, it might just help you drift off that much easier. Recovery will be a longer road for some, more than others, so a book, kindle, sewing, whatever your thing to do during down time, bring a little something in case you are in for longer than expected. A water bottle with a soft cover could be used to provide comfort and warmth during the nights.
Hospital food can be very hit and miss wherever you go, and the snack trolley won’t be catered specifically for your dietary needs. In hospitals, you would think that this is the place where dietary and allergy requirements would be catered for perfectly, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. My little ostomate is coeliac (allergy to gluten, wheat and barley) and for hospital stays I have to bring his own food. Typically, following stoma surgery a low fibre diet is recommended. Soft, easily digestible food with no skins or seeds is recommended, while the bowel rests and your stoma starts to find its new rhythm. I had severe wind pain through my back following my surgery which can happen as a result of bowel surgery. Peppermint tea was very effective in combating this. Marshmallows and jelly babies are excellent for thickening output. Eating plain foods little and often would also be beneficial. I took a pack of rich tea biscuits which went down very nicely with a cuppa! Talking of a cuppa, caffeine is something many ostomates have to cut out or at the very least reduce. Be mindful of potentially increasing your output with this and monitor it to see if it is affecting your output.
Be sure to pack loose clothing that you don’t mind being spoiled and is easily washable. Now is not the time to pack your favourite pyjamas! Leaks can be a possibility following surgery, as is the risk of vomiting following a general anaesthetic, all of which should be communicated prior to surgery. A catheter may be needed for a few days. This together with other access ports may make it easier to wear a long loose nighty rather than separates. Other loose layers so you don’t get cold will help if you feel yourself getting chilly with not moving much being restricted to the hospital bed. Where underwear is concerned, soft non-wired bras were my choice so I had nothing digging in, and if you choose sports bras even better. Primark multi packs of knickers, high waisted and dark in colour were my go too. There may be leaking following surgery from the back passage which you may find you do involuntarily causing you to need to go through multiple pairs of knickers, so pack ones you don’t mind getting ruined.
You may have been researching ostomy products and claiming some free samples. It is very tempting to take them and try out the items that you think look good to use, however your stoma nurse will have a kit for you to use and take home during the first week. Stick to what your nurse recommends and follow their advice. When your stoma is established and you have recovered fully, then is the time to consult your stoma nurse if there are any niggling problems that you think other products may help with.
There are some cracking podcasts to listen to that cover topics about recovery, living a normal life with a stoma, and coming to terms with accepting it. Pelican Healthcare have their offering ‘Let's Talk.....’ hosted by Louise otherwise known as @crohnsfighting on Instagram where some well known members of the ostomy community online share their stories. Other great podcasts doing the same include ‘The Poodcast’ and 'Inside out by Amber’. Apps such as Calm may be a good one to download for in the evenings if you struggle to get some sleep. I never manage to sleep well in the hospital environment, all the harsh lighting, underlying noises from the machines and the chatter and movement of others makes it impossible. I always take an eye mask to try and lock out the lighting and try to zone out. If fiction is more your bag the Calm app is great for well known personalities telling stories, just think of it like the adult alternative of Cbeebies Story Time!
Until next time, Rach x