I have been nursing on a surgical ward as a Registered Nurse since 2006. We care for a few specialities, including colorectal surgery. This has always been of interest to me and I loved to support those patients after their bowel operations, including stoma surgeries, however I never thought I would end up needing one myself.
Over the years I had helped countless patients with their first days and weeks after their stoma was formed, caring for them when they couldn’t, demonstrating what to do and encouraging them to learn the ropes of their new accessory.
I was fortunate enough to have time to prepare for my surgery, not everyone does. My colon had become so inflamed and developed a stricture (narrowed section of bowel) which made day to day life painful and tiresome. I was at this point quite keen for the surgery, I wanted to be free from this agony and be able to get back to nursing and caring for our kids.
However, knowing so much about the surgery and recovery phase can be both good and bad. So many thoughts were running through my mind, the risks, possible complications, how would I cope with the stoma? I was unsure but knew this was the best option for me, in the end the only option.
Learning to care for my stoma was still such a new experience, it is so different to do when it’s your own, it is just pretty weird to see it there at first.
All my years of caring for stomas and here I was with my own.
My stoma nurse and colleague for many years was brilliant, supported me every step of the way. Once I was fully recovered, I was keen to get back to nursing, I really missed it when I was too unwell to work.
Plus, now I could share with other patients that I too had a stoma. This has been the best part of all from my experience, that I can help others.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I would tell staff and patients but I find it just comes out! There are just so many positives to me sharing my story, however this is an individual choice and ostomates should only share if or when they feel comfortable.
I soon started my post graduate studies in stomal therapy nursing, with the encouragement and support of my husband, family and friends. Now I work in the stoma nursing role one day a week, my other shifts spent on the ward. I have learnt so much. I thought before all of this, that I had a pretty good knowledge base about stomas, as a surgical nurse. However, I have learnt so much more and continue to everyday.
The biggest thing I have learned has been to recognise that each person is different and each stoma is different. There are so many different stoma products out there to accommodate this, what works for one person and their stoma may not for the next ostomate. Each day I am inspired by my patients, many going through battles such as a cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy and other difficult challenges. They are courageous and all deserve the best care and respect possible.
I look forward to helping more incredible people in their stoma journey.