It’s a process thing

It was mentioned as a comment to an earlier post that changing a stoma bag appears to be a process. That’s true, that’s how I rationalise what I am doing. It is no different from the processes that I do in the darkroom. I don’t want to spill chemicals in the darkroom and I don’t want to get crap everywhere when I change a bag. So, like any good process it is about organisation, things in the right place at the right time.

This is my process, it might be similar to other peoples, but it’s a very personal process, every stoma is unique to that individual and depending on where you are in your stoma journey the process will change and evolve. This is where I am, at the moment.

I’ll describe the process just so that non stoma people can understand what we do on a daily basis, understand that it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a slightly more convoluted process than wiping your arse or clearing up after your dog!

It all starts and ends with the soap – clean hands at the start and clean hands at the end.

Black scented pouch disposal bag, just like the one for your pooch. The scent is sickly sweet, cloying, an attempt to mask what lies within. It’s enough to make you gag, and unfortunately, like all plastic bags, you need to lick your fingers to separate the edges.

Scented adhesive remover spray – remarkably effective at getting the adhesive that holds the pouch in place to loosen so that you can pull the pouch away from your abdomen. Once I am two thirds of the way down the bag I stop using the spray and use both hands to pull the remaining part of the bag off. Gently does it, you don’t want the thing ripping off quickly, risking spillage or worse.My spray smells of mint, but again quite sweet and sickly.

The pouch is safely put in the black bag.

I skip round to the dry wipes, at four o’clock on the sink and carefully wipe the excess effluent from around and on my stoma. Ideally there is only a small amount round the edge of the stoma.

Then it’s back to the bowl and a wet clean of any dried on adhesive and crap.

Occasionally, I then use the icing palette knife to scrape off any of the paste that remains on my skin. My stoma nurse said that the paste I use to fill in the gaps around my stoma was like toothpaste. It is more akin to epoxy resin, sticking to virtually anything it touches.

Then another dry wipe to make sure that the skin to which I will attach the bag is clean and dry.

It’s not in the picture, but I have a small compact mirror designed to help with touching up your make up that I use the inspect the bottom of my stoma – pun intended. My mirror came out of a Christmas cracker.

Now it’s time to prep the bag.

I take the bag and blow in to it to inflate it. Then I take the small spray dispenser, to the right of the tap, and spray a couple of squirts of non-virgin olive oil in to the bag. Just to give gravity a helping hand.

Next, I peel the backing plastic off the bag. Then I take the filler paste, tube to the right of the tap, together with a cotton bud I squeeze and shape a semi-circle of filler paste on the bottom edge of the hole. All the time with the bag balanced on my leg and one eye on my stoma, to ensure that it doesn’t ‘baby burp’ a slug of crap over my abdomen or leg. The bag has been pre-warmed, tucked under my leg, while the removal and cleaning process has taken place.

It’s bag fitting time. I find it easier to stand up for this. I get the bag and snuggly fit it over and around my stoma. It has a convex seal, and a flap that I can pull up and look through a ‘window’ to see my stoma. I use my fingers to push it tightly around my stoma, paying attention to the area that generates the leaks. Then using the palm of my hand, I smooth out from the middle to the edges of the bag.

Finally, I take the semi-circle of tape, also pre-warmed and attach it around the top and side of the bag. Completing the job by attaching the belt to the plastic ears on the bag that hold it tight in to my abdomen.

Chuck the waste, used wipes, backing paper etc, in to the black bag, tie it off, place it in the bin.

Wash my hands and I am ready to return to the big wide world.

Even after I have washed my hands there is still a smell. Not of what you might expect, but of the cloying sweet smell of the black bag and the adhesive release spray a combination of mint and parma violets. It lingers for a couple of hours, reminding me, when I am ready to forget and move on.

It’s just a process. It helps me deal with the physical element of life with a stoma.

But it takes some time to get your head round it.

Highlight of the week (1) – No Leaks!!

Highlight of the Week (2) – My birthday!!

Highlight of the Week (3) – Getting through my first week back at work.

Food highlight of the Week – Battered Fish from the Fish and Chip shop for my birthday tea.

Food lowlight of the Week – Bulgar wheat and Quinoa salad – made me very noisy!!

Thanks for reading

Take care


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A 50 something film and digital photographer based in Kendal, Cumbria. Blogging about mental health, mental wellbeing, living with a colostomy and music memories.

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