Interlude: Mostly About Poo

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.

kylo-1

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.

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29 Responses to Interlude: Mostly About Poo

  1. dreameling says:

    You redefined (read: soiled) pancakes for me already way back. But now you’ve also redefined Kylo Ren for me. This blog.

    I hope the new bags (or new old ones, if you get them) work better for you.

    Question: If there’s no vent, won’t the bag fill up with too much air on a gassy day? I imagine a single good fart [1] vents quite a lot of gas?

    [1] Accidentally wrote “god fart” at first. I think that would’ve carried the same meaning actually.

    • stchucky says:

      You redefined (read: soiled) pancakes for me already way back. But now you’ve also redefined Kylo Ren for me. This blog.

      FUCKING WIN

      Question: If there’s no vent, won’t the bag fill up with too much air on a gassy day? I imagine a single good fart [1] vents quite a lot of gas?

      Oh yes. Well, they’re half-litre bags, and on a heavy day (say, after a big night of beers and ciders, or basically anything with cabbage in) I can fill that baby up within a couple of hours. This means I’m up and down all night, going to the bathroom or outside to vent the bag, which I can do just by peeling aside the adhesive and letting the air out. It’s good enough adhesive to stick back into place more or less indefinitely (for “indefinitely”, read “I change bags daily or every couple of days anyway, and it doesn’t fail in that time”).

      Is that a pain? Sure. Especially if, say, I just got on a bus and my treacherous large intestine starts producing gas, and I can’t politely vent it. On one occasion it filled up so much that – well, it didn’t burst, the bags are pretty tough, but it peeled away and let out the gas anyway, so same effect.

      Nobody knew who created the God Fart[1], however, so we all just sat there and enjoyed the rich, heady ambience. I think I blogged about that incident…

      It’s also interesting to note that something makes me wake up when my bag is full. I don’t know what it is. Some sort of instinct. The interrupted sleep is annoying (which is why I try to minimise my gas-producing intake), but after 6 years of Wump, 2 years of Toop, 2 years of The Final Fall of Man and 5 years of having a colostomy bag, I’m pretty much used to not sleeping. And it beats pancaking any day of the week.

      [1] Accidentally wrote “god fart” at first. I think that would’ve carried the same meaning actually.

      [1] I approve of the God Fart. But only when capitalised.

    • aaronthepatriot says:

      OK, well there was a lot to digest here, and I have a lot of thoughts, so I apologize if I let one slip. Now that that’s out of the way….

      First, I’m surprised you couldn’t just go onto youtube to find out all these explanations of the bags and the history, and what’s going on. Everything else is online, surely this is as well?

      And I’m really puzzled by quite a lot that you are revealing here. Surely in my grief I am judging too harshly but the problems and answers seem so clear to me, from here. I know, SO out of character for me! But this shocked me the most:
      “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.”

      Wait, seriously? You didn’t know until a day ago that’s what the vent was for? The first time you told me there’s a vent I immediately assumed that was the purpose and it seemed like a really fucking necessary item.

      As dreameling wrote, it seems to me the backpressure of gas building up would be quite a problem, leading to all the issues you have been describing. And your response to him did little to allay my suspicions on that count.

      So, I gotta say, I see a lot of things you talked about here contributing to the pancaking, and I completely disagree (but what do I know, it’s only fluid mechanics and physics) that the vent is your problem, or even *a* problem. I really don’t understand how all those old codgers came to the conclusion the vent is the problem. It’s like how they also say requiring airbags is stupid because sometimes they hurt or kill a passenger. I mean really it seems like *exactly* the same thing.

      I think without a vent the pressure would build up and push out the adhesive tape, and you confirm that would be the case…and then poo would come out and pancake, man!

      I think removing and putting the tape back weakens the adhesive (just as above) and then it’s more likely to pancake, again!

      Also I hate to tell you how to do it, but perhaps shaving the stoma area is also important to how well the tape fully adheres? I say “fully” because you insist it’s very adhesive. Well, sure, but if it’s not *fully* adhering…pancakes.

      Honestly (aw!), putting some air into your bag at the start…I really don’t understand how that can help. I understand you are providing anecdotal and therefore somewhat empirical evidence, but there could be other explanations for the days when that works better. I dunno. I think you want as low pressure in the bag to start with.

      Why? Because again as we’ve been saying, the backpressure will result from any pressure inside the bag, and eventually it will be enough that the poo will find another escape route, sometimes. Pancake.

      I freely admit you’re the one doing this experiment and I’m not. This is just what the science tells me, and it’s not rocket science after all. I don’t even fully understand the mechanics of the thing, just that it’s a tube stuck into your intestine, taped down, leading to a vented bag. My thoughts above are from that premise.

      I’m glad the new bag seems to have better adhesive with it! Good luck solving this mystery…those pancakes do not sound fun.

      • stchucky says:

        Wow.

        First, I’m surprised you couldn’t just go onto youtube to find out all these explanations of the bags and the history, and what’s going on. Everything else is online, surely this is as well?

        Well evidently, since I left it 5 years, it wasn’t that urgent a problem. And I preferred to get an actual real live expert to help me out, because YouTube can’t navigate Finland’s labyrinth of medical and social security bureaucracy and order the right bags and get them added to my hospital docket and get them delivered on a regular basis to the supply depot where I get them. You know. For the rest of my life.

        But sure, let’s trust YouTube, it’s been such a source of wisdom and practicality since its creation.

        And I’m really puzzled by quite a lot that you are revealing here. Surely in my grief I am judging too harshly

        Yeah, let’s go with grief. I in turn will do my best not to react to this the way I did on first, second and third reading.

        but the problems and answers seem so clear to me, from here. I know, SO out of character for me!

        Mm hm.

        “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.”

        This was my answer to dreamling’s question, incidentally. It’s not news to me, it’s just an answer to a question he asked.

        What I found out yesterday was that they hadn’t always been designed with a filter. Because the technology didn’t exist. As soon as it did, they stopped making them for some baffling reason. And anyone who had used the filterless bags complained about it, because bags with vents in cause pancaking.

        Wait, seriously? You didn’t know until a day ago that’s what the vent was for? The first time you told me there’s a vent I immediately assumed that was the purpose and it seemed like a really fucking necessary item.

        Yes, I knew this was what the vent was for.

        It’s not necessary. It removes all the air from the bag and no air means pancaking. You can feel free to disagree but you’re wrong.

        As dreameling wrote, it seems to me the backpressure of gas building up would be quite a problem, leading to all the issues you have been describing. And your response to him did little to allay my suspicions on that count.

        Pancaking is not caused by excess gas in the bag. The only thing excess gas does is a) makes your clothes bulge out a bit, b) at its severest extreme can peel the bag off. You want to catch it before that happens.

        In neither case does it cause pancaking. It prevents pancaking.

        If you don’t understand this, try a thought experiment. Draw a circle, and pretend it is an air-filled colostomy bag. Then imagine a piece of poo entering it through a hole near the top. Try to imagine the internal pressure required to keep said poo from entering the circle, but instead press itself along the edge of the circle.

        Now take a straight line, and pretend it is an empty bag with clothes pushing on it from the outside. Feed the same piece of poo into it from a point near whereverthefuck it doesn’t matter because that poo is going along the fucking rim of the bag and out against your fucking skin.

        Experiment complete.

        So, I gotta say, I see a lot of things you talked about here contributing to the pancaking, and I completely disagree (but what do I know, it’s only fluid mechanics and physics) that the vent is your problem, or even *a* problem. I really don’t understand how all those old codgers came to the conclusion the vent is the problem. It’s like how they also say requiring airbags is stupid because sometimes they hurt or kill a passenger. I mean really it seems like *exactly* the same thing.

        Well done. I can’t even answer this because my colostomy bags are now the second shittiest thing in this thread.

        I had several opportunities to calm down and delete this comment, but I didn’t because I realised you had plenty of opportunities to think about what you posted too. Let’s say I’m grieving.

        I think without a vent the pressure would build up and push out the adhesive tape, and you confirm that would be the case…and then poo would come out and pancake, man!

        An over-filled bag is pressed against your skin from the poo-hole point, it prevents pancaking. The roundness of a full bag peels off the adhesive from the outer edges, it doesn’t cause pancaking.

        It’s an empty bag that makes the poo unable to drop into the bag itself, causing it to build up around the poo-hole, and lift the adhesive from the inside rim of the adhesive patch. This is pancaking. This is caused by the poo, and it having nowhere to go. Because there’s no space.

        I think removing and putting the tape back weakens the adhesive (just as above) and then it’s more likely to pancake, again!

        Again, only a very small amount of adhesive is peeled away from the edge when you manually vent, and it re-adheres fine as long as there isn’t shit forcing its way underneath. Which only happens in an absence of fucking air.

        Also I hate to tell you how to do it,

        It’s probably grief.

        but perhaps shaving the stoma area is also important to how well the tape fully adheres? I say “fully” because you insist it’s very adhesive. Well, sure, but if it’s not *fully* adhering…pancakes.

        No, you’re right. Shaving is important to keep the air in. If you have a lot of hair, the air can travel along it between the skin and adhesive, releasing it in much the same way as the filter does.

        So it would help solve some of my issues, but they’re mostly the ones which you think aren’t issues.

        Honestly (aw!), putting some air into your bag at the start…I really don’t understand how that can help. I understand you are providing anecdotal and therefore somewhat empirical evidence, but there could be other explanations for the days when that works better. I dunno. I think you want as low pressure in the bag to start with.

        You’re wrong.

        Why? Because again as we’ve been saying, the backpressure will result from any pressure inside the bag, and eventually it will be enough that the poo will find another escape route, sometimes. Pancake.

        No. When there’s too much air pressure inside the bag, the bag does eventually peel away – but only gas comes out (unless you have a bag full of diarrhoea. Then it gets nasty). The poo, as mentioned, has fallen into the bottom of the bag as gravity demands.

        It might be theoretically possible for the body to produce enough pressure, and something else to prevent the poo from falling into the bottom of the bag, to make the poo come out through the adhesive when there’s actual empty space for it to fall into, but I can’t imagine how that would happen. I mean, a bag full of air, high-pressure enough to prevent a piece of poo from falling from the top of it to the bottom? Think about what you’re saying there, Mister Physics.

        I freely admit you’re the one doing this experiment and I’m not. This is just what the science tells me, and it’s not rocket science after all.

        And you, in turn, mean well and want to help me through this, which is why you will never know the effort I went to, to answer this with the courtesy it absolutely did not deserve.

        I don’t even fully understand the mechanics of the thing, just that it’s a tube stuck into your intestine, taped down, leading to a vented bag. My thoughts above are from that premise.

        I think it’s really difficult to understand based on theory. Let me put it this way, the other solutions offered by the Colostomy Support group and nurse include:

        a) Eat stuff that gives you diarrhoea, all the time. No solid poo, no problem.
        b) Put baby oil in the bag. Lubricated poo, no problem. Only I found, when I tried this, that the baby oil somehow transmitted smell through the bag. Science that for me.
        c) Put a dab of vaseline in the bag. I might try this but I suspect it would have the same effect as above. Also, any sort of lubricant interferes with the adhesive.

        I’ve found, after five years taking shits in a bag basically 24/7, that having some air in the bag is the best and only solution. I stopped pancaking when I started taping up the vents. It takes me about 5 minutes a night to do this before my shower, so it was a sort of “I’ll see if there are other options when I get a chance” sort of thing.

        And this week I got a chance.

        I’m glad the new bag seems to have better adhesive with it! Good luck solving this mystery…those pancakes do not sound fun.

        It’s not a mystery, really. What is a mystery is why they stopped making bags without vents. I bet they make them in Africa. The nurse admitted they were considerably cheaper.

        Maybe my man Patrick can start sending ventless bags my way, in exchange for the premium bags that cause pancaking.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        “And you, in turn, mean well and want to help me through this, which is why you will never know the effort I went to, to answer this with the courtesy it absolutely did not deserve.”

        Yes it did, so thanks for doing that, and also yes I do know the effort you went to. I know you well enough to read it loud and clear in your reply. So, wow. OK, man. I read too much into your saying you didn’t know what the vent was for until yesterday. Went overboard based on one thing.

        So to sum up your position, which makes a lot of sense to me, the more full bag actually pushes on the tape and makes it stick better, and the empty bag (vented) also allows clothes to create the very backpressure I thought air would create?

        All right, that makes sense to me.

      • stchucky says:

        …and did you just attribute that whole thing you just said to the fact that I’d poorly phrased my statement about which aspect of colostomy bags I’d just learned about? An attribution which, incidentally, required you to assume I’d spent five years not knowing what the air vent was for?

        Fuck me.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Hey, no one likes people who make excuses, so I figured if I make poor enough excuses I can squeak by.

        *makes poor excuse to excuse poor excuse*

      • stchucky says:

        So meta.

        Fun note: I typoed that as “so mets”, and almost left it. Because that’s a sports thing, right? The mets?

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        “So meta.

        Fun note: I typoed that as “so mets”, and almost left it. Because that’s a sports thing, right? The mets?”

        I am not a fan of sport.

        However I believe a MET is MET Life insurance. I think. Maybe.

        No but seriously yes that’s a NYC baseball team.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        I need to add, it seems it is easy for me to appear to forget how much it truly sucks to be in your situation here…all aspects, not just the pancaking. I want you to know I am aware, no matter how I sometimes don’t show the level of empathy/sympathy desired. It’s still there, even if it’s not visible.

        As the physics dreameling and I mentioned, and the benefits of the venting, are real, I’m just hoping there will be some happy medium where you get all those benefits of having it vented AND avoid the pancaking. I wish you luck finding that place. I won’t insult you by offering more advice on the matter.

      • stchucky says:

        It’s all good, thanks bro.

        I’m actually a step closer with these new bags, although I could probably tape up the vent better. I’m having to open it up to vent air in as often as I needed to vent it out of the old bags. But so far, no disasters. And they are softer and more comfy.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Now you have to vent air IN? That is so wild! But I’m glad they’re working better, and soft and comfy is good, too! My older kitten is soft and comfy lounging on my legs with his tummy in the air, every morning. Hard to get on the road to work.

        But I mean, I wish you didn’t have to fiddle with the vent at all, neither having to cover it at first NOR uncovering it later to vent it off (or…vent it on? LOL). Shows that more research is needed. Maybe the vent should be designed to operate off of a certain amount of pressure, not to vent everything immediately.

      • stchucky says:

        No no, the vent I leave alone after covering. It’s really way more complicated than that and I’m hoping to still have the spoons to write tonight … in this case, the new bag vent is improperly covered with the tape I put on, meaning it wasn’t retaining air. So, as with a correctly-sealed bag that does hold air, but in reverse, I have to peel open the bag to let air in manually.

        So there’s air. To prevent pancaking.

      • stchucky says:

        And here’s the real kicker:

        Sooner or later, a bag with a vent will clog up with poo and retain air anyway! It usually happens too late, and the poo, given no alternative, has already begun to work under the adhesive so that’s where least-resistance and poo-sticks-to-poo sends it thereafter, but that means a vent bag has all the drawbacks of a vent bag and a ventless bag, with none of the advantages of a ventless bag or a vent bag!

        It really is a mystery why they went with vents. My personal theory is that people are too squeamish about manually venting, and would rather pancake than do so (or walk around with a bag of fart on their stomachs). Coupled with this, people don’t care about the waste, so they put on a new bag when they pancake, instead of preventing the pancake. I read about people changing 2, 3, 6 times a day, and of course many of them have to … but some maybe don’t.

        Just my take on it though.

      • stchucky says:

        I definitely have it easier than a lot of people. I can afford to mess around and tweak my system.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Hmm, the more I think about this and the more shitty details you add, the clearer the possible solution gets to me. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

        What about a manually-initiated vent? Not something you jury-rig, as you have been for 5 years, but something you can easily and surreptitiously trigger?

        Talk about triggered…I hope everyone else is enjoying this discussion!

      • stchucky says:

        Oh yeah, a manually adjustable vent would be cool. One of the first uses I thought of for it was venting around smokers.

        But there’s no bag with one, it’d be too expensive to produce. There are emptyable bags for when you have the runs, but they’re a bit of work. Assembling and installing a manual air vent each time, also a lot of work.

        Some reusable bag with a vent, maybe. Washable. I don’t know, it’d be nasty.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        LOL about the smokers, you give it to those fuckers!

        But, expensive? I dunno about that…I’d have to see how the vents are constructed now. But I mean, if the actual top part of the vent was able to be squeezed to vent, like a beachball or whatever, that wouldn’t be too costly. Just one idea, like I said, I don’t know how the vents are constructed. But just…push/squeeze to vent. It can’t be that costly!

      • stchucky says:

        It’s just a little permeable panel, no moving parts. I know what you mean re: a squeeze vent of some sort, but these things are disposable, one-use … could still be cost ineffective. But hey, drop Dansac and Hollister a design tip, make a fortune!

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Well that’s completely unsatisfactory! It at least has to have a dongle!

        …no, that’s it. I just wanted to write “dongle”.

  2. stchucky says:

    It’s also important for me to mention that I went for a visit with the nurse, and all I really needed was to sit there, explain my bag changing process, mention the need for air, and ask her if there were vent-free options. And we did that, and she made a bunch of calls and gave me a box of samples and promised to have other ones sent to me by post.

    And then she said (translating from Finnish naturally) “Since you’re here, let’s change your bag to one of these new ones.”

    And then she got me on the table, took off my some-hours-old bag, cleaned and disinfected and shaved the belly-hair around the stoma (which I hardly ever bother to do), cleaned away the excess adhesive, treated a couple of little incidental intestinal bleeds that were caused by exposed blood vessels, and prepared and placed a new bag for me. Basically without even being asked to.

    Talk about a calling. I don’t know, maybe I’m paying the same base amount for a consultation no matter what services she throws in, so she decided to give me my money’s worth.

    Is this the most graphic post-and-comment set on the Hatstand yet?

  3. brknwntr says:

    I was gonna comment, then I was gonna reply to comments, then I decided all of those options were dangerous.

  4. thelinza says:

    So, I didn’t read the six pages of comments, but do they make an adapter ring that props the bag open? You said there’s a silicon adapter for swimming, maybe something like an o-ring.

    • stchucky says:

      Well, a solid ring would get a bit messy and would catch on stuff, but I guess the same can be said of a bag with some air in.

      There are little bags for swimming, but the problem is, they’re little. I could wear one for a normal day, but sometimes I crap a lot. So.

      Now the nurse has sent me boxes and boxes of different stuff to try, along with tips from some of the other patients, so that’s nice. Let’s see if any of that works. So far, the first trial – some bags with the filter built into the cover so you just need to tape it – didn’t hold air so well. But work in progress.

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