Day 59. 161 pages, 58,131 words.
I visited the colostomy nurse yesterday, for the first time in four years or so. I had a question about my bags, last week at my clean-bill-o’-health-see-you-next-year-for-probings-and-scans doctor’s consultation, but she couldn’t answer it so I was given an appointment with the nurse.
Colostomy nurse. Now that, right there, is a calling. Mad, fear-tinged respect for these heroic folks.
So, my question was, quite simply, can I switch to a different style or brand of colostomy bags? One that doesn’t have a vent/filter in it?
See, the idea of the colostomy bag is very simple. You have a butthole on your stomach, and without an anus it just intestine-works poo out of your system on a semi-constant basis. The poo comes out of the hole, so the bag is stuck there on your stomach by a nice big adhesive patch with a hole in it where it sticks to your skin around the poo-hole.
The poo goes into the bag, then on a regular basis you peel the bag off, wash yourself up, put a new bag on, and continue with your life.
Now, what usually happens is a thing called pancaking. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’m still sorry if pancakes haven’t been ruined for you yet.
Pancaking is when the poo doesn’t drop into the bag the way it should, but just packs up around the poo-hole. Especially when you’re wearing clothes, this can happen because the poo is left with no way to drop. What it does instead is, it spreads out around the adhesive, and with glacial patience works its way underneath it, between the bag and the skin, pushing further with every new intestine-squeeze of poo.
Eventually, best-case scenario, you wind up with a patch of poo only separated from the open air by a few millimetres of adhesive, and it low-key smells nasty. Worst-case scenario, there’s no separation and you have a shirt and/or pants smeared in shit.
So, simple solution for me, get a bit of air in that bag. Empty air in the bag means the poo squeezes out into open space, then just drops the way it’s meant to.
And it’s easy to fill a colostomy bag with air. Humans fart, like, a lot. This is why the bags were designed (I found this out yesterday), when technology allowed for it, with the vent-filter thingies in them.
The vent lets out the excess air, and the filter makes sure that air doesn’t stink.
But that’s no good for me (and, I would have thought, no good for anyone else), because I want that air in my bag.
So my process is, when preparing the bag at shower-time each evening, that I cut the bag cover open a little, put tape over the vent, then tape the cover closed.
Problem solved, although it is a lot of dicking around, and quite a bit of tape, every single day. I get my sealed bag with a bit of air and everything is fine.
Which is why, after four years and change, I decided to ask “hey, so do they actually make bags without the vent?”
See, I would have thought they would be cheaper and easier to make.
Anyway, here’s what I discovered.
Yes, there’s one variety of bag – a small one designed for swimming, that really couldn’t hold much poo – that doesn’t have a filter. The rest, they all have filters.
The nurse told me there might be some older model of bag without the filter, so she’s looking into whether they can deliver those to me. Get this, the bags used to not have filters, like I said, because the tech wasn’t there. When they started putting filters in, the people with colostomy bags at the time – old people, generally – complained about the new bags and wanted to keep using the filterless ones. I assume, for the precise reason I’m complaining now. Young people just getting into the colostomy game didn’t know what they were missing. Apparently poo working its way through the adhesive and squeezing out onto your clothes is just a thing young front-butters tolerate.
So I’m in the market for old-fart colostomy bags. Which works on several levels.
In the meantime, the nurse gave me a box of a different brand of bags, where the filter at least is on the outside of the cover, so I just need to put a single piece of tape over it without needing to cut. The bags are good, but they still don’t hold their air. Which is frustrating.
Still, they have yet to pancake. So maybe their adhesive is better. If that is the case, I may not need to worry about getting air in there, or taping up the filter, or getting old-fart bags. But I guess we’ll see. It’s only been 24 hours.
Thanks for reading.