Let me paint you a picture.
I’m sat on the 7.15am train on my way to work with a hundred other rats in the race; packed like sardines into an 8 carriage train; with poo on my stomach and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m trying not to act weird but it’s pretty difficult when you have an itch you can’t scratch. And in this case the poo on my stomach is causing both a metaphorical itch and a very real one.
This is the realities of a public bag leak.
To go to the train toilet, I will not only have to fight my way past the 50+ people standing in the isles, but I will undoubtably lose my seat. However, if I don’t get up there’s a very real chance the poo could leak through my bag and onto the sparkling white undies I proudly put on this morning; totally feeling like I’ve got my sh*t together with a matching set and ready to carpe diem the f*ck out this Monday morning. But in this case, I really do not have my sh*t together. I do believe this is the definition of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Now, you may think sorting the bag leak is much more important than a seat, but without that seat I would have to sit on the floor the whole way into London. Of course I forgot my “please give me a seat” badge and my iron levels are so unpredictable it’s unlikely I’ll be able to stand up for the full 35 minute journey. Which one is the rock and which the hard place?
So I sit and wait until the intercom relieves me of the tight stressed feeling that is building in my chest. But it’s not over, because when I get to London Euston I have another choice to make:
1. Get to work as quickly as possible to change my bag in the nice and clean toilet.
2. Creep into the disabled toilet at the station, hope it’s clean and that no one questions me when I come out.
Happy Monday morning to me.
Harrow and Wealdstone – my 15 minute mark.
I distract myself by putting on makeup and scrolling through Instagram and think, no one on the train can even see my bag; they have clue what’s racing through my mind right now. Some are laughing at memes on Twitter or watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Others are replying to emails, getting lost in a Facebook rabbit hole or reading books [but books on their phones because who reads a real book nowadays]. Bag leaks really make me sit back and think about the sh*t us ostomates have to deal with. However it’s not all doom and gloom!
I managed to get to work and get my sh*t together! It was a race against time to get to the office but I made it. If you’re in the UK, you [should] have a radar key to access all the accessible/disabled bathrooms in the UK. The key is the same size as a small child, but it means you have access to a clean environment, much more space and privacy to sort out a bag leak.
My advice is always be prepared. My emergency bag leak kit is like a safety blanket. Even when I do get a leak in public, I know I will be OK as long as I have enough supplies to get me through it. If you do a regular journey, like I do to work, try to scope out the toilet access. I know where the disabled loos are in all the tube stations on my route to work, meaning if I needed to change it ASAP, I know where to go.
And if there’s one thing a public bag leak has taught me, it’s how to be calm in a crisis.
Moments like these aren’t frequent when I get my bag change right, but you can’t always get it right. Consistent bag leaks aren’t normal but it’s likely they will happen. It will always be a tad upsetting, sometimes sore and frustrating but I know I will get through it.
Speaking to your nurse can be a good idea. Stoma’s change size and you may need to resize it. In this case, it’s easier to get someone else to size a stoma and especially someone who chose to change stoma bags for a living.
Or try and switch up the bags or accessories you use. I love my Coloplast bag and I know this particular leak was my fault. I cut the hole wrong and in a hurry, I put it on at the wrong angle; making my error the cause of this particular sh*t show. But I am scheduling an appointment with my stoma nurse to help me sort this out.
One thing is for sure – if you relate to bag leaks – you’re not alone and there’s no shame in asking for help.