Sam has been a Registered Nurse since 2006. Working on a colorectal/ surgical unit caring for patients after surgery. Mainly newly formed stomas. After becoming an ostomate herself, she realised how important the community is in offering hope that things will get better. Here is her story.
I enjoyed caring for ostomates but I never imagined I would need a stoma myself one day. In 2017 that day came. After almost 5 years of battling with Ulcerative Colitis and trying every medical treatment available without remission, I was as ready as I’d ever be.
I was fortunate enough to have some insight already, with a wonderful colleague and stoma nurse to guide me through the process. However, it was connecting with another younger ostomate online, Lauren. Who helped me by answering all those other questions only a person with a stoma would know. Connecting with someone who had been through all of this and came out the other side was priceless. She gave me the most valuable thing someone can when you’re venturing into the unknown: Hope.
I always thought I had a pretty good understanding of stomas as a surgical ward nurse. However, after my subtotal colectomy and ileostomy surgery, I realised there was so much more to learn. I was encouraged by my family and friends to study Stomal Therapy. I completed the Postgraduate degree in 2018 and started working part time as a stoma nurse. I continue working today as a Stoma nurse and still work on the same ward.
I absolutely love my job! I always have. But my passion and drive has totally shifted since having a stoma myself. It’s helped me see the big picture. Not just the clinical aspects of what’s happening to patients, but the psychological challenges stoma surgery involves. For them and their support network too. I love sharing my story with nurses and patients. I can see the look of relief and calm it brings to patients, seeing me working and living with a stoma… Giving them the same hope Lauren gave to me right before my operation and showing them they can’t tell to look at me! (It’s sitting snuggly under my supportwear and uniform). Once I share it with patients it brings out a bucket load of other ‘living with a stoma’ questions, just like the questions I had for Lauren 3 years ago before my surgery. It’s so great to be able to offer them some insight and put their worries at ease.
My diagnosis changed from Ulcerative Colitis to Crohn’s Colitis, aka Crohn’s of the colon. So I made the decision to keep my stoma and not try for reversal/ J-pouch surgery. I’m so grateful for my stoma that it made the decision much easier to make.
It’s made me a better nurse, wife, mum, friend and daughter. I’m no longer shackled to the toilet, in an endless spiral of agonising pains and lethargy. While I still have the odd bad day, as with most chronic conditions like Crohn’s, my experience has helped me appreciate the little things in life and to live, at least my good days, to the fullest.
Follow Sam and her journey as both an ostomate and stoma care specialist.