Are Leaks a Regular Risk as an Ostomate?
I see things in groups all the time: I’ve had a leak!! I hate my life, this is the 3rd leak I have had today. My skin is burning, the flaming bags aren’t sticking, I am at my wit’s end.
Does this all sound too familiar? Or is this alien to you? I remember when I first started blogging, I was 3 months post operative and the first 12 weeks were a nightmare, sore skin, leaks, bags not adhering to my macerated skin. An elderly gentleman shouting at me through the disabled toilet door because I should be ashamed of myself using these facilities. At the time I was stark naked, trying to wash my clothes out with one hand and put a bag on with another whilst waiting for my mum to come back from Tesco with some new clothes.
That old git was still waiting for me to get out. I was angry and I was ashamed but knew I had to stick up for myself. I proceeded to pull out my soiled clothes, bared my stomach to show my bag and just said shame on you. He didn’t apologise but I think that was because he was ashamed of his actions and made himself look like a numpty at a packed bus station.
Is it really that bad?
For me that moment was a turning point, I phoned my stoma nurse, went and saw her and was given new samples to try. At the time these were the Pelican contour range, and basically, this bag changed my life. Leaks were scarce, life was livable; it all just clicked together.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have the odd leak, as the saying goes poop happens. It just happens to be in the case of an ileostomy it’s liquid and it’s a bit of a sod when it does happen.
There are so many mitigating circumstances as to why leaks can happen. I have written an informative blog post on weight gain & weight loss, reasons for why you’re marked for stoma placement, along with what can cause leaks. It’s a topic we all get quite into depth for, there are so many offering tips to help, reasons as to why it may be happening. This is what the groups are for.
However, what works for one, may not work for another. It is part of the reason we have stoma nurses. There are times when you may feel that they don’t understand because they don’t have a stoma but trust me, years of training and work experience does make them the best port of call for any stoma issues that you may be having.
Reasons for leaks?
There are many reasons for a leak. Some things can be as simple as going from a flat base to a convex base. Please be advised to never use convex unless your nurse has actually prescribed this for you. There are risks associated with that and that it can possibly lead to causing a prolapsed stoma.
It can be as simple as switching brands of bags, something so simple but also daunting if you have a particular taste and style.
For those of you who have a baseplate that leaks and lifts in just one place then perhaps a barrier ring will help to fill in those gaps and give you an added security to your appliance.
The way I look at things is nothing is infallible, or perfect, it’s literally the case of having a good routine and finding what works for you.
Stoma life for me at the moment
For those of you that follow my account you may have seen several posts, I had 4 leaks in the space of 10 days. For me, it was because I was on bed rest, not exercising and eating family packs of biscuits and I gained back some weight and water weight. I also knew that it was this causing my leaks so I got myself back into a routine, started watching my calorie intake and dropped back down again so my stoma site is behaving.
There is nothing worse than putting your hand down to feel your stomach and bag at 4 am and going ewwwww, then proceeds the 4 am shower. The first time I have ever had a bag free shower, it was rather liberating; clean bag on, back to bed thinking it had been contained – how wrong was I? Many girly ewwws as the sun is rising and waking Ben up to help me strip the bed.
We all need to remember leaks happen, its sods law, but it’s all washable and it’s like it never happened.
My leaks have for the most part been a consequence of me thinking it was a good idea at the time, a skin full of alcohol and a 3/4am McDonalds when I am sober, I won’t touch the chips as I know it causes my output to pancake. When drunk, this doesn’t have the same warning system, sleeping on your besties white Ikea sofa bed and waking up like you have been playing with paint isn’t ideal but at least she understands and thank god the sofa bed didn’t get damaged, a night out is expensive, but so is replacing a sofa bed…
Moral of most of my leaks, know your limits woman, that 9th bottle of Budweiser will not thank you later and you know it upsets Bertha.
Spirits, however, may cause me one hell of a hangover but Bertha likes those. It’s just beer she hates.
I am nearly 4 years in with Bertha. Leaks are an occasional hazard, mostly of my own making, there are some that have never leaked and find a post like this daunting and scary. For others, you can totally relate this post and not feel so alone in the leaks of life, bad decisions and alcohol-induced shenanigans.
When lockdown is over I will no doubt be back out, dancing on tables, drinking all the beer my lightweight body can handle and no doughnut be posting up about another leak courtesy of McDonald’s finest.
Many thanks for reading
This blog post is intended to give advice to ostomates. The information given is based on Louise’s personal experience and should not be taken as clinical advice. Each ostomates needs are unique to them and their stoma care routine. Please consult with your Stoma Care Nurse before undertaking any changes to your stoma care routine or if you are experiencing any health issues.