Ostomy Travel: Hello, Regina!

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May 11th, 2018 – I visited Saskatchewan for the time first in my life last week!

The reason for my trip was because I had been invited to speak during the “Power of You” ostomy education event sponsored by the Regina Ostomy Chapter.

Trip Prep

Having just come back from Chicago the weekend before, there wasn’t much planning to do, apart from ironing a few shirts and making sure I had another supply of Clif Bars and Mr. Noodles packages handy for the hotel.

Luggage for regina VeganOstomy
Carry on only makes life so much easier.

Because this would be a short trip (approx. 48 hours), I didn’t worry too much about bringing a ton of ostomy supplies with me, although I did make sure to have two sets of supplies (one in my backpack and the other in my carry on luggage).

May 4th, 2018 (Leaving for Regina)

My flight was scheduled for around noon, which means that I skipped breakfast so I wouldn’t have to empty my ostomy bag until after I got there.

This is a strategy I tend to use when traveling, but that doesn’t mean it’s foolproof! I was still emptying my bag that morning and at the airport.

Curiously, I went through Toronto Pearson Airport without being asked to see my boarding pass or ID until just before I was about to board the plane. Not even a question about my ostomy or anything like that… maybe I was just lucky?

The plane for the flight there was a small to mid-sized Embraer ERJ-190, which has two seats on either side. Despite what Seatguru says about the last row, I was able to pick my seat and chose the last row window seat! Glad I did!

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I would never pass up the chance for a view like this!

We departed from Pearson a few minutes late, and the fog was intense that morning!

Flight 1115 Toronto to Regina May 4, 2018

A good part of the flight was over water the great lakes, but I did get to see much of Ontario’s vastness, as well as Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan along the way.

Despite being the capital of Saskatchewan, Regina is a relatively small city and is home to approx. 240,000 people.

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My first glimpse of Regina.

My flight arrived at around 1:30 pm (local time) and I spent around 3 hours in the air.

I was picked up from the Regina airport (which is the perfect size for an airport, in my opinion!) by a kind gentleman (thanks, Gerry!) and was taken to the hotel where the event was being held.

At the hotel, I met Debra Carpentier and Patty Gianoli (the masterminds behind the event) who were busy getting things ready.

I unwinded in my hotel room before having a quick bite to eat with not only Deb and Patty but also Sheryl Walker (stoma nurse extraordinaire!) and Dr. Ryan Suri (General Surgeon). I was to be presenting with Dr. Suri and Sheryl, so it was great to have a chance to meet them ahead of time.

My presentation took place at 7 pm, and it was sort of an introduction to the event – an ice-breaker, so to speak!

VeganOstomy regina Dr Ryan suri Sheryl Walker Eric Polsinelli 2018-sm-IMG_7051
Left to right: Dr. Ryan Suri, Sheryl Walker, and me!

(I will have a video(s) of the presentation to share soon! Please subscribe to my YouTube channel or the VeganOstomy Newsletter to know when it can be seen!)

I told my Crohn’s Disease story, talked about how my ostomy changed my life, and discussed how everyone can (and should) become their own advocate!

The presentation ended with questions from the audience, and I got to meet and speak with some of the attendees after the presentation was over.

It was so amazing to talk to a room full of patients (both soon-to-be and veteran ostomates), their support people, and healthcare professionals who were there to share and learn!

May 5th

Much of the day was spent listening to the educational sessions during the event.

The morning started with breakfast followed by a rather invigorating opening by Joy Sluser!

VeganOstomy regina Joy Sluser 2018-sm-20180505104443 (2)
Joy Sluser

Joy spoke about the benefits of exercise on pain and gave an overview of the some of the Chronic Illness and pain management programs available to patients in Saskatchewan.

Jo Hoeflok, an ET nurse who used to practice at St. Michael’s Hospital here in Toronto, gave a really great presentation on the “Identification and Management of Peristomal Skin Complications”.

Despite the name of the presentation, the information she gave was easy to understand and I think gave some valuable tips to new and veteran ostomy patients alike.

VeganOstomy regina Jo Hoeflok2018-sm-20180505113934 (2)
Jo Hoeflok gave a wonderful presentation.
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Some of the tips among many that Jo gave in her presentation!

Dr. Sanchit Bhasin, a Gastroenterologist practicing in Regina, gave a presentation about “Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The Gastroenterologist Perspective”.

His presentation was a great overview of IBD and the various treatments, including alternative and complementary medicine used by patients.

He offered a lot of insight into both the disease, but also what it’s like being a doctor who treats it, and it left me with a lot to think about.

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Dr. Bhasin was both funny and informative!

Angie Schickerowski, an ostomate, author of the book The Healing Compass: Find Your Roadmap to a Healthy, Happy Life, and world traveler, gave a really great presentation on “Using Life’s Lemons to Live Your Life to the Fullest”.

Her presentation was inspiring and I had a chance to speak with her that afternoon to ask about her travel experiences (which was awesome!)

VeganOstomy regina Angie Schickerowski2018-sm-20180505150840 (2)
Angie gave so many life tips and her travel stories were so nice to listen to!

The “Drink Up! Research Shows…” session was led by Jane Wilmot and Roseann Nasser.

Their presentation gave some good information about both diets and hydration for ostomates. I’m glad they also touched on medication and how it can affect someone with an ostomy.

VeganOstomy regina Roseann Nasser and Jane Wilmot 2018-sm-20180505163140 (2)
Roseann Nasser and Jane Wilmot offered some helpful dietary advice!

Patricia Whitteker presented on “The “ME” in Ostomy”, and she brought up some much-needed conversation about mental health and living with a chronic illness or ostomy.

Several of the attendees opened up about their struggles with mental health and even suicide, which I’m sure isn’t uncommon among the population of patients who have a long-standing or life-altering illness.

VeganOstomy regina Patricia Whitteker2018-sm-20180505171451 (2)
I’m so glad that Patricia presented on mental health. It’s such an undiscussed topic normally.

After Patricia’s session, we had dinner!

I was fortunate enough to sit with some pretty amazing people and a soon-to-be ostomate who was there to learn more about living with an ostomy.

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Dinner! Mushrooms? Olives? Broccoli? No problem if you chew well enough :)

The final guest of the event was Zarqa Nawaz, who among other things, is the creator of the Canadian show, “Little Mosque on the Prarie”.

Zarqa told some really entertaining stories about growing up in a Muslim family, her work with CBC Radio, and her entrance into making films.

She’s such a strong role model, and I’m glad to have had an opportunity to see her present in person.

VeganOstomy regina Zarqa Nawaz 2018-sm-20180505214323 (2)
Canada should be proud of Zarqa!

The evening didn’t end too late, but since I was on a two-hour time zone difference it felt much later than it actually was. I ended up crashing in my hotel room pretty early that night.

May 6th (Last day in Regina)

Sunday morning was spent packing for my flight.

I did have the opportunity to have breakfast with Deb, Patti, and Angie, at this wonderful place called Fresh and Sweet in downtown Regina!

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Fresh and Sweet on 2500 Victoria Ave in Regina!

My breakfast was their “vegan bowl”, which consisted of hash browns covered in deliciously cooked veg! My goodness was it every good!

The “vegan bowl”!

After breakfast, Deb gave us a small tour of the city where we got to see quite a few of Regina’s landmarks, points of interest, and their new stadium!

I would have loved to have stayed longer, but my flight was scheduled to leave at 2 pm that day :(

VeganOstomy regina Deb Carpentier 2018-sm-20180506_120210
Saying bye to Deb at the airport.

My time in Regina was brief, but I had such a blast and I’m grateful to have had the chance to speak in front of so many ostomates!

I want to give a special thanks to both Deb and Patti of the Regina Ostomy Chapter. It was their work, planning, and dedication that made this event possible.

For more about the Regina Ostomy Chapter, please visit their official website at http://www.reginaostomy.ca/

Photos from the trip

Biographies of Speakers (borrowed from The Power of You seminar booklet)

Eric Polsinelli – Having been diagnosed with an aggressive form of Crohn’s Disease in 2008, Eric has had a permanent ileostomy since 2013. He founded the multi-award winning website, Veganostomy. ca, with aims to share his experience as an ostomate, and offer support and advice to other people living with IBD or an ostomy. Eric’s articles have been republished in several North American ostomy chapter newsletters, and his story has been featured in the ostomy Canada magazine as well as the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada website. He’s been a public speaker at several patient events across North America and has presented for healthcare providers abroad.

Dr. Ryan Suri– Dr. Suri worked towards his Bachelor of Science Honours Pharmacology m Edmonton m 2001, received his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in 2005 and did his General Surgery Residency at McMaster University m Hamilton which he completed in 2011. He began his medical career in the Department of General Surgery at the Regina Pasqua Hospital in 2011
where he continues to practice. He is employed as well at Nu Image Medical Esthetics and is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He has received many awards and scholarships including research awards from McMaster University General Surgery Research Days as well as a published article in the Canadian Journal of Surgery.

Sheryl Walker– Sheryl graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in the Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan in October 2004. Sheryl s initial nursing experience began with experiences in gynecology surgery, general surgery, and family medicine. Sheryl joined the ostomy and Wound Care team in June 2009 and completed her Enterostomal Therapy Nursing program with the Canadian Association of Enterostomal Therapy in October 2010. She also completed the Canadian Nurses Association certification in April 2011. Sheryl has volunteered on numerous projects in conjunction with the Regina ostomy Chapter which includes the volunteer visiting program and ostomy Canada Stoma Stro[[.

Joy Sluser– Joy works for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, located in Regina. She has over 20 years’ experience as an Exercise Therapist and as a Senior Health Educator. She has a Bachelor degree in Physical Activity Studies. She is also a Certified Exercise Physiologist, with the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. Joy is devoted to the promotion of healthy, active living across the lifespan. She works to increase physical activity opportunities, reduce barriers to participation and build awareness about the health benefits of regular physical activity in partnership with communities and groups. Joy is also the Regional Livewell Coordinator of Livewell with Chronic Conditions and Livewell with Chronic Pain Programs. These are provincial programs that provide workshops to help people take charge of their life and get the support they need to find practical ways to deal with pain and chronic conditions. If you are looking to promote Active Living in your community by bridging research, practice and decision making or interested in learning more about the Livewell workshops please contact her at 306-766-7158.

Jo Hoeflok– Jo has been nursing for over 35 years, primarily in Gastroenterology and General Surgery settings. Jo received her BSN from the University of British Columbia, her WOCN Certificate from Emory University in Atlanta, a Masters of Arts from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and her Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Degree from the University of Toronto. Jo has participated on many national and international boards including the Canadian Society for Intestinal Research, and Hollister’s ostomy Advisory Board, Global Panel on Convexity and the Peristomal Skin Working Group. Jo was a Reviewer for the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario Best Practices Recommendations for Ostomy Care. In 2014, she received RNAO’s Award of Merit in 2014 for her commitment to professional development. She recently retired from her role as Nurse
Practitioner for the Gastroenterology and General Surgery Program at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and has relocated to Campbell River in BC.

Dr. Sanchit Bhasin– Dr. Bhasm is a Gastroenterologist in the Saskatchewan Health Authority and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. He completed his Internal Medicine Training at the University of Saskatchewan and his Gl Fellowship as well as his Advanced
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Fellowship at the University of Manitoba. He currently teaches at the College of Medicine while maintaining a busy IBD and General Gastroenterology practice in Regina. He is also a speaker, educator, and advisor for Jannsen, Abbvie, and Takeda for their IBD patient programs.

Angie Schickerowski– Angie is a teacher, speaker, and writer who masquerades as a stay-at-home mom by day. She loves traveling around the world on grand adventures and hibernating at home with a good book. The perfect day involves hot coffee, fine wine, and sharing both with friends and family (preferably with 90’s music playing in the background). A small-town girl at heart, she spends her spare time gardening, camping, and volunteering in her community. The Healing Compass is her first book, and you can connect with her on Instagram (findingdandelions) or in her Facebook Group (The Healing Compass). She loves helping others find their way to a life filled with health and happiness.

Jane Wilmot– Jane has worked as a Registered Nurse for over 40 years in a variety of acute and community care settings. She is a graduate of the Canadian Association of Enterostomal Therapy (CAET) Nursing Education Program. Jane worked at the Regina ostomy and Wound Care department from 2000 until her retirement in January 2018. Jane became a student advisor with the University of Saskatchewan’s Nutrition student research project led by Roseann Nasser in 2015 and participated in 3 years of interdisciplinary management of patients with an ileostomy.

Roseann Nasser– Roseann Nasser is a research dietitian at the Pasqua Hospital in the Saskatchewan Health Authority. She has helped develop new education handouts and an order set for patients with ileostomies to improve care.

Patricia Whitteker– Pat is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse with a Certificate in Health Care Administration with the College of Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan. With over 35 years of varied nursing experience in Acute Psychiatry Rehab Medicine, Long Term Ventilation Unit and Long Term Care. The last 15 years has been on Mental Health. As a Group Coordinator offered inpatient teaching to patients on the Adult Inpatient Mental Health Unit. Pat established the role of the Psychiatric Liaison Nurse that assesses patients in acute care for Psychiatric support. Currently Pat is working with a Community group of Psychiatrists in a role of Mental Health therapy.

Zarqa Nawaz– Zarqa Nawaz created the world’s first sitcom about a Muslim community living in the west. Little Mosque on the Prairie premiered to record ratings on the CBC in 2007. The show demystified Islam for millions of people around the world by explaining how practicing Muslims live their lives from dating to marriage to burying their dead. Zarqa Nawaz has written her best selling comedic memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, about growing up as a Canadian of Muslim faith. Zarqa has a BSc from the University of Toronto and she also has a B.A.A in journalism from Ryerson University. She lives with her husband and four children in Regina. She is currently the interim host of the Morning Edition on CBC Radio.

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2 Comments on "Ostomy Travel: Hello, Regina!"

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Thanks Eric for sharing this, Looked like the type of trip which has added to your knowledge.