Was it really all that bad? My first solo ileostomy bag change

So it’s hard to believe that I am almost 2 months to the day from my first surgery. Time flies and life changes when you’re having fun right? Anyways about three weeks ago I had my first solo bag change. I know this post is late and I swear I’m punctual in my daily life although I’m going into medicine so who knows. Still, this was not a well-executed or surgically precise change by anyone’s standards. I felt like the confidence instilled in me by my stoma nurses got left behind in the hospital and the ensuing scene was akin to what a Jackson Pollock studio must have looked like. Now I won’t describe it play by play because I will undoubtedly get bogged down in some really gory details so I’ll give you the highlights and then take home messages. So here is what happened.

Its 3 am, I wake up, realize what’s happened, freak out and start tearing all the stuff off my bed. How the hell did my pillow get dirty? How the hell do I wash a pillow? These were my first discernable thoughts. Remember that Jackson Pollock scene I mentioned. I made the executive decision, based largely on the fact that I have no idea how to wash a pillow, that it was beyond repair and was trash. After running around like a chicken with its head cut off checking everything in my bed, I realized that most of my other stuff was fine. Bag 1, Me 0.

A 3rd party perspective of my room

A 3rd party perspective of my room

So I go over to my bathroom and start what turned into a marathon 30 minute bag change. For folks who don’t have one of these things just imagine a volcano of excrement and bile that you’re not quite sure when it will erupt. It seemingly lays in wait for you to get your skin clean and dry then suddenly turns into Mount Vesuvius. My damn stoma (un-affectionately named Walter here on out), wakes up at night for no real reason (no I don’t eat late). So FINALLY I get this thing changed and it’s about 4 am. Bag 1, Me 1 (I’m being generous with that point to myself-cut me some slack).

So now I have to walk through my apartment, over to the elevators, down to the garage to throw all this stuff away. At this point, I have on clean boxers, flip flops, no shirt, toting my trashed pillow and a huge trash bag full of well dirty stuff. I just said screw it…that was all I was going to muster up, so I said lets do this and left my apartment. As I’m standing waiting for the elevator I’m just thinking “It’ll be just my luck for the elevator to open and I have to ride with some young couple coming home from a late night out”.

Ding. . . Empty. . .sigh of relief.

Like I have said in a previous post…it could always be worse. I threw the pillow and everything away and went back to bed.  Bag 1, Me 2. I could have taken this story with me to the grave, so why am I embarrassing myself in a public forum to tell you this stuff? Well I think there are two good take home messages for new ostomates or ost-homies as I affectionately call you all.

1. Improvement:

The first is to show you that your first few bag changes will feel awkward, they may be messy and they may take time. YOU will get better! It’s funny how something SO overwhelming at first becomes routine quickly, I guess that’s true throughout life. The second time I changed my bag solo it took about 15 minutes, by the third, I was at about 7 minutes don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it

2. Laugh:

The Second take home message is that it helps to develop a sense of humor about this awkward kind of stuff. Come on, none of this is fun and I wouldn’t wish it on someone, but if you take a step back and look at it in a different perspective it can be comical. The more you practice this way of dealing with the awkward/unpleasant stuff, the easier it becomes to “roll with the punches” and just chuckle about all the crap (literally and figuratively) we have to deal with as IBD patients. I wish someone told me this when I was younger.

Writing about this is funny for me because there are no assurances that anyone else has had an experience like this. I constantly think I’m just hanging myself out to dry. Oh well I’ll hedge my bets that I’m not alone and keep writing.  If you’ve had a stoma disaster story, send me an email!

Hope you all have a good week. To all the crohnies who may be in the hospital or flaring… stay strong, keep your heads up and always try to find some humor in the worst situations.

Photo from the actual night-yes I took a photo because I knew I had to share this crazy story

Photo from the actual night-yes I took a photo because I knew I had to share this crazy story

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