This post was originally written for Eakin’s A Bigger Life
Seriously? I don’t think I would have gotten through my surgery without mine! Stomal therapy nurses play a pivotal role in our lives pre and post-surgery. Most of us lucky enough to have a stoma nurse (and it amazes me that anyone is allowed to go through ostomy surgery without one) know they are amazing human beings. Ostomates have a special kind of relationship with their stoma nurse, and I might be a bit biased, but of course I think my stoma nurse Kerrin is the best!!
Kerrin has been part of my life for around 6 years now. I was introduced to her well before I even had my surgery. It was during one of my early hospital admissions for a Crohn’s flare. Things were looking a bit grim, so my gastroenterologist asked her to prep me “just in case” surgery was necessary. I hadn’t even contemplated (or really understood) an ostomy and what it meant at that point.
I still remember the first time I met her in my hospital room. She came with all sorts of props and pamphlets, including several different types of ostomy bags and other supplies. Funny looking back at it how something so foreign and strange to me at the time, is now just a normal part of everyday life! Kerrin explained everything clearly and answered my myriad of questions, all with a calming nature and natural way about her (as well as a sense of humour which also helped!). I didn’t end up having surgery that time around, and whilst it was a shock and a lot to take in, I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to speak with her early on. She definitely helped me contemplate and prepare for the possibility of surgery in a way that made me feel comfortable and didn’t freak me out too much!
A few years later after not responding to medications or biologicals, surgery was back on the cards. Once again, Kerrin was there to answer all my questions, talk me through what to expect and help me through recovery. She marked my stomach for the stoma site and was one of the last people I saw before being taken into theatre. I can’t remember clearly because of all the pain meds, but she was probably one of the first people I saw after coming back from recovery too!!
Every day I was in hospital, she would check in on me several times a day, and along with the other nurses on the ward, I wouldn’t have gotten through those first few weeks without their support and guidance. I know this is their job, but somehow it feels like much more than that.
Before being sent home, I was fully prepped with a list of things to look out for, things to do like rest and stay hydrated, and things not to do like heavy lifting and certain foods to avoid. I knew how to monitor my output, order my supplies, and the nurses had helped me practice changing my bag numerous times (they did it for me the first few times until I was ready to give it a go myself). Kerrin wasn’t letting me go home until I was ready and she knew I was comfortable with everything. No stone was left unturned! All I had to do was get home and start getting to know my new little stoma on my own! What could otherwise have been quite an overwhelming and traumatic experience (especially for some), was made stress free and as simple as possible!
I enjoyed my weekly, then monthly and now only as needed check-ups, feeling an odd sense of emotion every time I visited her, and everything that being back at the hospital stirred up for me. It always made my giggle walking into her office and seeing the toilet (of course a stoma nurse’s office should have a toilet in it?!). She would change my bag for me on some of these visits, and I felt like a proud school kid when she would praise how good my skin was looking or the fact that I was carrying around a water bottle!
For my temporary loop ileostomy, my pan proctocolectomy 4 months later, and still to this day (almost 4 years post-surgery), Kerrin has been a constant. Caring, reassuring and incredibly knowledgeable about everything ostomy related!! Even now that I’ve moved to the UK, I know I could email her with any questions or concerns I have. Kerrin helped me remain positive throughout the whole experience, and has encouraged me and offered support in so many ways. She even helped me pick the name Stoma-licious for my blog, and last Christmas I sent her a Purple Wings ostomy calendar which I believe now takes pride of place in her office (maybe above the toilet!!).
Kerrin probably says it best herself in the beautiful message she wrote me for my 2 year Stomaversary:
I feel somewhat like a “mother bird” (not to take anything from your own family!!). The early days of a new chick in the nest listening and learning all about your new stoma. We watched you become healthy and strong and “leave the nest” to travel, marry and enjoy life. Congratulations on embracing life.
“If you are born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing“- CoCo Chanel
Your wings have certainly grown.
Kerrin (AKA stomal therapist)
Love and gratitude to Kerrin and all the other amazing stoma nurses out there,