6am on a Monday morning. I wake up in a haze, ballooned pouch at my side, but something was wrong…
Leaks. One of those things that happen to ostomates at one point or another, it’s just a matter of when and whether or not you’re prepared for it. This morning it happened to me, and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons in the process.
Since my rectal surgery in November, I’ve been fighting a battle with the skin between my abdominal incision and my wafer. It’s either dry and flaky (so my wafer won’t stick) or red and weepy (again, causing the wafer to have adhesion problems). I’ve thrown everything at it, from powders, to barrier wipes/sprays, to protective sheets, to calamine lotion and moisturizers, but nothing seems to work as well as cutting my wafer short so that area isn’t covered. My progress in tackling this issue was nearing the end and my skin was getting back on track, but a leak this morning slapped me in face.
Here’s a photo of how I cut my last wafer.
That dark yellow disc going around the center of the wafer is the first line of defense from leaks – prior to cutting my wafer this way, I would always cut just outside this dark yellow area. The white “gum” is the Coloplast Brava Moldable Ring, which I was trying for the first time. The leak occurred on the edge of that yellow area and the reason was two-fold: a) there wasn’t enough surface area keeping the wafer in contact with skin in that spot. b) that area is where my skin folds when I sit or bend.
I think in most cases, I would have been safe to use my wafer this way for the three days before my next change, but yesterday was quite a busy day for me, and I went go-karting with my 9-year old. The seats in the go-kart were quite awkward and my ostomy appliance was getting in the way of the seat belt, so I think the whole system weakened at some point during the ride.
When we got home, I checked to make sure the wafer was still holding, and it looked fine from the outside, but it wasn’t until this morning, with a ballooned pouch, that this weak spot gave way.
I kept my cool, assessed the “damage” (no clothes were ruined!) and calmly cleaned up and changed my wafer. This time, I went bare bones and only used a full wafer without the moldable ring or skin prep, so we’ll see how my skin holds up in the next 3-4 days.
A few lessons that I learned:
- Never downplay “burning” around your stoma. I had been complaining about some burning early yesterday morning, but ignored it, since I had just changed my appliance the day before. This should have clued me in that something was about to go wrong.
- If you’re going to cut your wafer short, make sure it has some skin to hold onto. I’ll admit that I was playing Russian-roulette by using such a compromised wafer, but I had such an aversion to putting any adhesive over my damaged skin (including tape) until it was fully healed, that it ultimately created this situation.
- Always keep your supplies ready and at hand in case of an emergency. I know that some people like to gather their supplies before a planned appliance change, but I always keep enough supplies in a small travel bag in my bathroom to do two full changes without needing anything but water. I couldn’t imaging running around the house looking for supplies with a leak like this.
- Keep you cool, even when things don’t go as planned. The worst thing I could have done was freak out, wake up the entire family and cuss my ostomy for the rest of the morning. Had my family not been asleep at the time this happened, I would have likely put on some Crowd-Pleasing Dance Pop (thanks Songza!) while I changed my appliance, since it elevates my mood without fail.