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What is an Ostomy?

Welcome to the world of Ostomies. If you’re visiting this site out of sheer curiosity – then welcome! I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you spread the word and help educate others! But if you’re here because you’re facing the possibility of this surgery, then you’re probably scared out of your mind. Don’t be. I’ve been where you are and yes, it is scary as heck. But now you’ve found my site, and you’re talking to a girl who’s been living with this for 6 years now. I am here to help you, support you, and provide you with tips and tricks… I’ll do whatever I can to get you through it. I promise.

Let’s start with some education. What in the world is an ostomy anyway? I sure hadn’t ever heard of it before they actually gave one to me, so I totally understand if you’re sitting there clueless. It’s not really a topic that people typically know about unless it affects their life in some way.

So if you’ve been doing any amount of research on this topic, then you’ve probably heard two words used almost interchangeably. Stoma & Ostomy. An ostomy is the opening in the body that is created surgically to allow the elimination of body wastes, while the stoma is the actual part of the intestine that is pulled through the abdominal wall.  The type of ostomy depends on the organs that are being removed. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick with the two most common ostomies in the IBD world: Colostomy & Ileostomy.

The United Ostomy Associations of America defines them as follows:

Colostomy: “The surgically created opening of the colon (large intestine) which results in a stoma. It is created when a portion of the colon or the rectum is removed and the remaining portion is brought to the abdominal wall.”

Ileostomy: “A surgically created opening in the small intestine, usually at the end of the ileum. The ileum is brought through the abdominal wall to form a stoma. They may involve the removal of all or part of the entire colon.”

Are you with me so far? I haven’t lost you, have I? You haven’t covered your ears and run in the other direction screaming? Okay good – because it sounds a lot scarier than it is. Sure, it’s an adjustment – but honest to goodness – I live a totally normal life. And if you met me and I didn’t want you to know I had one… trust me – you wouldn’t. I’m sneaky that way. Also, they just aren’t that obvious. :o)

So, moving on… Now you have your intestines coming through an opening in your abdominal wall. What’s next? Well, that “bodily waste” has to go somewhere right? Okay, so you need a bag, or also called a pouch. There are many ostomy products and accessories, but the most important thing you need is a bag/pouch. All bag/pouch systems consist of a wafer and the bag, plus a way to close it up. The wafer is the adhesive part that is applied to your skin and keeps it in place. The bag is what holds the waste until you empty it. The closing system is either a “lock and roll” or a folding clip.

I know this is overwhelming. Stick with me. You got this. We’re almost done.

One Piece Bags: On one piece bags, the wafer is attached to the bag. You peel the adhesive backing off and apply the wafer and bag to your skin around the stoma, allowing it to empty into the bag. It will come with either a lock and roll closing system, that uses a plastic Velcro roll, or a clip that you would fasten onto the bag after it’s been folded up into place. With a one piece system, when you change the bag, you would take the wafer and bag off together.

Two Piece Bags: With a two piece bag, the wafer and the bag are separate. This allows you to keep the wafer on, and just change the bag part if you so choose. In this case, it would typically connect to the wafer with a click-lock mechanism. These come with both types of closures also, a lock and roll, or a clip fastener.

Here’s an example of an ostomy bag. This is the kind I use, except I use the smaller version. I like the “Midi” bags. But it’s all personal preference. What works for me, may not work for you. It’s trial and error.

Ostomy-Supplies-one-piece-lock-and-roll

One Piece Ostomy Bag: Opaque with Lock and Roll closure

Okay friends – you’ve just learned the basic ins and outs of ostomies. That wasn’t so bad was it? Listen, my first experience with a bag – right after my surgery – was horrifying. I’ll save the whole story for another post, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I wasn’t afraid, or that this is the easiest thing you’ll ever do. That’s just a lie. I was horrified. But I also didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t get to research and make the decision for myself. My surgery was a last resort, life or death situation. Maybe that made it easier… I don’t know. But either way, I hope you know that you can contact me anytime. You want to call me and cry for an hour because you can’t believe this is happening to you? I get it. Do it. Hit me up, and let me help you. Still have questions after reading this page? Totally acceptable. Ask me. I want to help you in any way that I can. But keep your head up and stay positive.

YOU. CAN. DO. THIS. I promise.

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