Published on February 22, 2019

Ostomy support group alleviates fears and stigma

By Jessica Brewer, LMH Health

Candice Lewis, wound and ostomy care coordinator at LMH Health, has talked with many people about their fears about having ostomy surgery. She’s seen patients who worry about what their lives will look like following surgery. And often, they have no one to talk with who truly understands what they’re facing.

So Lewis founded an Ostomy Support Group at LMH Health to help patients and their families learn more about ostomies – by talking with experts and with people who have had ostomy surgery.

Candice Lewis

“When caring for people with ostomy and the emotions they live with, a current or previous ostomy patient with experience is beneficial for the healing process,” Lewis said.

An ostomy, which is a surgical procedure during which an opening is created in a person’s body for the discharge of body wastes, can be permanent or temporary. The waste is collected in a pouch that must be drained or changed. People need ostomies for many reasons, including injuries to their colon, colon cancer, infection in their abdomen, blockage in their lower bowel, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis.

There can be a stigma around ostomies. Many think an ostomy pouch will smell bad, leak or that they will be embarrassed because everyone will see it. Lewis assures patients that these fears are not founded. An ostomy is completely hidden under clothing and ostomy bags are constructed so they block odors and don’t leak. Topics such as these will be discussed at support group meetings.

“I want this group to be an open space for anyone to come who has an ostomy, is debating getting an ostomy or is a caregiver,” Lewis said.

Lewis knows it takes time to adjust to the idea of having an ostomy, as well as to life after an ostomy. So she has created this group to bring patients and their caregivers together with other people who know first-hand about having an ostomy. The meetings also will feature guest speakers, including surgeons, therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, ostomy care representatives and nurses. Topics will include dehydration, hernias and ostomy accessories.

“I want people to come and look positively on life after an ostomy,” Lewis said. “I want to make sure the mind, body and soul of the patient are safe and satisfied. I am just excited to offer encouragement to those who attend the ostomy group and to let them know that life doesn’t stop after getting an ostomy.”

Jessica Brewer is an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at LMH Health.   

Join the Ostomy Support Group on the second Thursday of each month. The group’s first meeting will be at 5:30-7 p.m. March 14 in Conference Room D-North, which is on the lower level of LMH Health. Please enter the hospital through the Arkansas Street doors off the circle drive.

Ostomy support group alleviates fears and stigma

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