Body & Fitness

Living with a colostomy bag

Reader Rita Fletcher wrote to the Weekly after we ran a story about an Auckland woman'scolostomy bag medical mishap. Rita, who wears a colostomy bag herself, sympathised with the woman's plight, but wants

Reader Rita Fletcher wrote to the Weekly after we ran a story about an Auckland woman’s colostomy bag medical mishap. Rita, who wears a colostomy bag herself, sympathised with the woman’s plight, but wants others to know that living with a bag isn’t always a terrible experience. She inspired me to look into what it involves.

When it comes to modern medical breakthroughs, ostomies are right up there with pacemakers and organ transplants. Most people who have the surgery – to cut a hole into the abdomen to allow their bowel to empty – probably wouldn’t have survived without the surgery, which provides a way of safely removing waste from the body when the digestive system can’t do it the usual way.

Nevertheless, you don’t hear too many people saying, “Gosh, I’m so glad I’ve got a colostomy bag!”

That’s partly due to the fact that bowel function is simply not the kind of subject people discuss openly. Many ostomates – that’s the correct term for a person who wears an ostomy appliance such as a colostomy pouch – are understandably shy about admitting they have one. But while nobody actually wants to wear a pouch, they are life-savers and having one doesn’t mean that normal life is over.

Marie Buchanan, an ostomy clinical nurse specialist in Auckland, says most people who have them find they are able to get on with everyday activities and even play sport. “I’ve had rugby players, netball players, there’s a guy who kayaks

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