Do You Believe in Angels?

by Ruth Kenney
(from Ostomy Canada Magazine – Winter 2010: Volume 18, Number 2)

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

Bette Yetman and I have been cruising for many years now and our bond goes beyond friendship into the sisterhood of ostomy living. So when we went on a cruise (shortly after 9/11) in the Caribbean, I lost my equipment between Halifax and Orlando, Florida (possibly when going through numerous checkpoints in Montreal). Foolish me had put all my supplies in my carry-on and I had no extra supplies in my checked luggage. About four or five days into our cruise, I decided it was time for a pouch change. Bette was up in the piano bar with our newfound friend who happened to have a urostomy and I was in a panic in our room. I tried to calm myself by doing deep breathing problem solving, and by directing my scheming mind toward how I could adapt a urostomy pouch to a fecal one.

I told Bette of my dilemma and her reaction was “What are we going to do?” I told her that I was going to approach Vince, our newfound friend, in the morning and ask him what type of pouch he wore. The following morning, Vince informed me that he had a backup for a backup and what he had he would generously share.

Now let me backtrack for a moment. We shared a table with a few very interesting people – a retired psychiatrist, a foreign dignitary, two ladies from Canada, one of whom had also divulged to me that she had a colostomy. So I had her in mind also as I was grappling with my dilemma.

I was almost certain that the infirmary would have nothing on board for me, and indeed I checked into this and my fears were confirmed. They had absolutely nothing on board but said that we might find something in the U.S Virgin Islands on our next port of call.

Vince gave me some of his pouches as well as some skin prep and I proceeded to cut the opening as much as I could (he had a one inch stoma and I have an inch and one-eighth stoma). He wore Active Life with convexity and I wore Coloplast one-piece with convexity. So not too far off except he had a urostomy pouch. So I released the anti-reflux valve in his pouch and proceeded to cut an opening down on the corner of the bottom of his pouch. I tried the Coloplast clamp and it slipped off. The lady from Edmonton had also given me a pouch, wafer and clamp so I tried the Hollister clamp and voila, it remained secure.

So with the help of two ostomates sitting at our table I was able to survive the cruise and not appear to be in great distress.

Do You Believe in Angels 04Do you believe in angels? Well I do. Vince became a dear friend and sent me a poem after the cruise (see poem below).

This is not the end of my story. A few years later, Bette and I went on another cruise. This time I was prepared. As Vince so aptly put it, I had a backup for a backup! I had a carry on (without scissors) and another kit in my suitcase. We embarked on the boat and went to the cafeteria for lunch, as we were famished. Immediately after lunch we proceeded to our cabin, and I being in a hurry going nowhere tripped over a threshold and fell flat on my face, bending my glasses. The only part that really hurt was my ego, as I knew I would wind up with two black eyes for most of the cruise (I had fallen before).

The following morning I decided to go and report my fall at the infirmary and while I was there waiting my turn, a young man with braces on his legs was pacing the floor. He was there before me and he went to the desk and announced that he has an ostomy and that he had a can of Skin Bond cement which the baggage handlers had removed from his luggage (it was a metal can) as they were afraid it was a bomb or something and threw it away. He now needed to replace it. Naturally the nurse told him that she had nothing on board to help him. He then stated that he might have to fly home at the next port of call.

I approached him and offered my services telling him that I may be able to help him and gave him my room number and my name.

The following day there was a note in the slot of our door. I offered him what I wear and explained to him how to apply it and empty it and he managed to stay on board and not need to go home until the cruise was over. However, I strongly recommended that he go see an Enterostomal Therapist and inform himself of the new products on the market as he had been wearing the same equipment since birth.

So do you believe in fate? I was meant to fall and go to the infirmary on that particular morning to help the young man; thus returning my good fortune from a past cruise to another ostomate.

We need not divulge to each person we meet that we have an ostomy however we should not be secretive about it either. Had Vince not divulged to me that he had a urostomy and the other lady not told me that she had a colostomy, the results would have been disastrous.

It is so important for us to share with others our good fortune and indeed it makes us stronger and more prepared to face each day.

This little old knight, while cruising one night
Became involved in an ostomy plight…
A lady so fair, was one of a pair, in deep and dire despair;
For she needed to share a pouch with a flare,
To match her existing stoma—.
Then along came a spare and with only a stare,
It prevented the proverbial coma!
Her adjustments were few, the pouch worked like new
And all of us loved her aroma.

Ruth Kenney is a member of Ostomy Halifax and of the UOAC Board.

“Do You Believe in Angels?” first appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of Ostomy Canada. You can become a subscriber to our glossy, full-colour publication of Ostomy Canada by joining Ostomy Canada Society. Find out more here.

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