Until recently, the word colostomy had not featured in our lives. Now, within the last year, two family members suddenly found themselves with a colostomy bag as a result of major bowel and cancer operations, which requires a steep learning curve on maintenance and management and the emotional impact should not be underestimated. Some stomas can be reversed, but many are for life.
However, ostomy bags have come a long way and in many cases, they can be life-changing for the better, as they allow for a piece of diseased organ to be removed, allowing the user to live a healthier and fuller life.
After the initial operation, you are left with a stoma, which is the healthy end of the intestine, turned inside out and sits externally on the abdomen. This is the exit point for the poo and is the piece that the stoma bag can be fixed to. Stoma bags can now be ordered to your stoma’s own specific dimensions, ensuring a snugger fit which is more comfortable and less likely to leak.
Fashion designer Ted Baker had a temporary stoma and after experiencing the products that were then available to him, he worked with the manufacturer Coloplast to improve the design of the bag.
With both family members, it is a hidden disability and access to an accessible washroom can make life easier as this provides a washbasin next to the toilet which is really important for hygiene. Having a stoma bag makes you eligible for a Radar Key, providing access to accessible toilets around the UK.
Colostomy or stoma bags can generally be unattractive and quite unsexy, to say the least, but with the help of tattoos and a bit of imagination, some creative people have found a way to make them more attractive for intimate moments.
Inspired by her own family’s struggle with Crohn’s disease, Brunel University Graduate Stephanie Monty designed a prototype silicone ostomy device which is washable and re-usable and more appealing than the usual pouch. The flexible device adheres to the users’s skin, and is covered with a waterproof membrane that creates a natural, skin-like feel. Inflammation and infection are also an issue, so she included integrated vents that release gas but contain odours.
Northumbria University student James Shutt noticed that stoma users were getting younger and after research involving teenage colostomy users, came up with the ‘Myostomy’ product.
James found colostomy users struggle with sexual intimacy and body consciousness, as well as more practical issues such as the bag inflating with wind, or concerns about leaving their spare bags and cleaning kits behind if they stayed over at friends or a partner’s house. They also found that their partners were put off by the bag at intimate moments and really needed something that would be more discreet which would give the them more confidence with body image.
James’s Myostomy range includes a jewellery stoma plug that fits into the stoma to prevent any bowel accidents at intimate moments, which restores dignity for the user. James also came up with the idea of body art and tattoos to help users embrace their stoma. As yet, the Myostomy range has yet to be launched.
The Colostomy Association is available for support and they run the Stoma Aid project which collates unused stoma bags and re-distributes them to patients living with stomas in developing countries that cannot afford or access supplies.
StomaWise is an internet based support website offering support and advice to Ostomates of all types. They are available online and a contact telephone number is also available.