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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chasing nurses down the ward: Life after ostomy surgery

Jim Mielke lives a unique and varied life as an expert in international public health. Like most of us, he is also a patient. Here is the first of an occasional series of his stories:

I can still recall feeling like a new man almost immediately upon waking up with my ileostomy (a surgically created opening in the abdominal wall, with an external abdominal pouch to collect intestinal [fecal] output). Suddenly, I was free from years of pain and misery lasting from age 14 to 19. When I finally got my bag at age 19, I recall thinking, why did they wait so long? For the next three years, I was in and out of several different hospitals for 11 major ostomy-related surgeries, including total removal of the large intestine and rectum, while also struggling to withdraw from the addictive medications prescribed to me over the years. During these hospital stays, I was sometimes called upon to informally counsel those facing ostomy surgery or recovering from surgery. One of the common concerns of the men I counseled related to sex, and like any normal young male, I was pretty juiced up – chasing nurses down the ward with my red and white striped baggie flapping in the breeze. So I suppose the hospital staff felt that I could at least be a positive boost to these other guys.

Following the ostomy surgeries, life simply took off with my fully recovered and excellent health…

Advice to those with serious intestinal problems: Actively look into the options you have, and the quality of life you’ll likely have with each one.

Stay tuned for more of Jim’s stories. Read another of our stories about an intestinal problem.

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