As I celebrated the 55th anniversary of my ileostomy surgery, many things run through my mind. First is that, at 77 years old, how lucky I am to be alive. Except for dealing with the appliance, my life is nearly normal. With very few exceptions, I eat what I want and I do what I want. I was water skiing within a few months of my surgery! You might say I live 2 lives, the one most people see, a very normal life. Then my "ostomy" life, involving changing, emptying and burping my appliance.
My ostomy story begins in September of 1964. I began University a month before I turned 22. Within a few weeks, I began to have health issues. By December, I was too ill to complete my last final exam and was in and out of the hospital over the holidays. In early January they finally determined I had a serious case of Ulcerative Colitis and need immediate surgery, or I would die. The next day I woke up with an ileostomy. In 1965, appliances were much different than what we have today; let's just say, I love the appliances available today! The first ostomy pouch I had was made of rubber, reusable and closed with a rubber band.
I was able to return to school in the summer of 1965 following my surgery. My wife and I were married that September and started our family the following year. Eventually I transferred to Villanova, where I also received my masters. At the time of my surgery, the support of my now wife, Jackie, helped me assimilate to into my new normal.
I have now been married 54 years and have 3 wonderful children – a true family man. I retired in 2006 and took my first cruise in 2007. Since that time we have taken 20 more! We also spend time traveling to see our children, as far away as Australia. Having an ostomy has not slowed my travels, and I have some tips and tricks I think will help others.
"I often must remind myself that my ostomy is not the villain in this story."
Living with an ileostomy is and always has been challenging. The biggest challenge is maintaining an "attitude of gratitude." I often must remind myself that my ostomy is not the villain in this story. The disease is the Villain and the ostomy is the hero that saved my life. My ostomy allowed me to live to marry my sweetheart, have 3 terrific children, earn a MSEE at evening college and have a life filled with accomplishment, excitement, adventure and lots of love for and from my family and friends.
I am especially thankful for the SUR-FIT Moldable Technology Skin Barrier. I have used an extremely diverse set of "appliances" since my surgery in 1965, and never dreamed that anything would come along that would work as good for me as this product. The skin under my barrier has been very healthy since switching to moldable. (I was an early adopter.) I have had a few minor skin irritations around my stoma in the years of using this product, but adding Stomahesive Powder to my ostomy routine cleared it up. Also, the InvisiClose pouch closure, for the first time, allows me to feel 100% confident that the closure won't open as it has with previous systems.