Luckily, my first experience with an ostomy leak was small. It happened in my apartment and I had all the necessary supplies at my disposal to fix it. No problem. After that, I read up on tips for adhering the bag and developed my own foolproof application technique. Or so I thought.
My first major leak happened during class. I was taking an evening MCAT prep course and had rushed home from work to make the session on time. That day, I deviated from my normal “meh” routine and decided I would try to be a presentable human. So I changed out of my scrubs and kicked the yoga pants to the side. Instead I grabbed my favorite pair of jeans. I hadn’t worn these babies since surgery, and honestly I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work out. But hey, what could go wrong? After I put on my jeans I realized the ostomy didn’t quite fit. The base of the wafer sat just above the waistband. But I was too tired to change, so I opted to leave the bag outside the waistband and throw on a sweatshirt. Without much more thought, I ran out the door and headed to class.
The lecture was on PCR. This was my jam. I love the topic and was extremely focused on the lecture. So much so that I didn’t realize I was developing an issue. About an hour into the class I felt a small droplet roll down the side of my stomach. I dropped my pencil, and placed my hand over my ostomy. Crap. Suddenly the lecture just sounded like a bad Charlie Brown episode, “Waah wah waahhh.” I must have been a little dramatic, because my friend leaned over and asked if everything was okay. I brushed it off and said I was fine. I quickly got up and headed for the restroom down the hall.
Mistake #1. I left my bag with all my supplies in the classroom (good job Kate). I suppose I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad. When I finally made it into the stall I lifted up my shirt to find a disaster.
My first thought wasn’t, how are you going to fix this… it was more along the lines of, how in the… did you not notice this. But what happened next takes the cake. I stared in disbelief at the bag oozing from the bottom of the compromised wafer. As I went for a tissue the bag and wafer completely disconnected and fell onto the floor. SPLAT.
Bravo, you’ve unlocked a level 2 disaster.
“IS THIS REAL LIFE?!?” Just as I threw my question out into the universe, someone walked into the restroom. Cool. I totally wanted company. I actually started chuckling at this point, because well, it was kind of funny. I placed the bag and wafer on some tissues and proceeded to clean up the stoma and my pants. I realized the waistband of my jeans had pushed upon the wafer while I was sitting in class. So much so that it dislodged the bag. After I had everything nearly in order I grabbed the bag, cleaned it as much as possible and well, stuck it back on. YES, I can hear you *eww*-ing, but I didn’t have any other options. Without supplies and a phone I was pretty much out SOL (no pun intended). I held my hand over the bag, walked very carefully back to class, grabbed my stuff and went home an hour early. So much for PCR…
And if you’re wondering, the sweatshirt was thick enough that the leak didn’t show, and long enough to cover the disaster on my pants. I knew I loved sweats for a reason…
My next challenge: getting home. I felt like I was on a bad reality TV show. My apartment was a little over a mile away, and I wasn’t about to try and walk home. At first I tried calling my roommate, unfortunately he was still at work. Next up, Uber.
Uber I am sorry, that was an awkward ride home.
In the end I survived. And honestly, looking back it was pretty hilarious. I’ve been a little more wary about jeans since the incident, but it hasn’t prevented me from rocking a pair from time to time. Now I go for that high-waisted mom-jean look. Which, thanks to strange fashion trends, is back in style (please don’t break my mom-jean dream). Not to mention pretty comfortable over the stoma.
In the grand scheme of things a leak is not the end of the world. Sure it’s an inconvenience, but it’s just a leak. Life happens. Pick up; keep going (and rock them mom-jeans). Good times.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk some practical solutions. Since this lovely incident, I now carry a “bare minimum stoma kit” around with me. My everyday bag is already pretty packed, so I don’t to add a lot of excess. Instead I keep the following items in a small ziplock bag:
- 1 spare ostomy bag
- 1 wafer
- 2 adhesive remover wipes
- pocket sized scissors
- 1 moldable ring
- optional *compact mirror*
Now if you’re a girl this is no big deal –just toss the supplies into your purse. I know it sounds like a lot, but I’ve managed to fit this kit into my smallest bag. If you’re a guy and you don’t carry a backpack this can be a little more challenging. I would just suggest taking the bag and precut wafer, folding them up and sticking them in your back pocket or jacket. Most of the time you can remedy a leak without changing the whole system. Moldable rings or stoma paste is awesome for this… but if you’re like me and you somehow let the situation go “code brown” then you might want to have a little more on hand. If you drive, or have a desk at work you can just keep the kit in an accessible location (that way you’re not forced to lug it around with you… is that a stoma kit in your pants or you just happy to see me? I swear that’s the last terrible line I’ve got for this post).
I’ll follow this post up with some pictures on the ostomy supplies I keep in my bag (a bag-ception of sorts).
Thanks for reading!
Have you experienced leaks? How did you deal with the situation? Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with small leaks?
I would love to hear from you all!