Conquering the 4 Elements With an Ostomy - Uncover Ostomy
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Conquering the 4 Elements With an Ostomy

When I found out that I was headed for ostomy surgery after suffering with the terrible symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, I immediately started to think about the abilities I would lose.

I asked both my surgeon and my GI what my restrictions would be and I was shocked to hear that I wouldn’t have any. 

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure if I believed them. I was weary about whether or not I’d be able to get back into the Fire Service (as I had been a volunteer), and I even wondered if I’d even be able to do simple things like swim.

To me, how could I still do the same things I could do before? I thought it weird that a person with a pouch could do the same things as everyone else. But that’s what the doctors were telling me, and with the state of my health, I had no choice, anyway. Surgery it was.

It turns out that the doctors were right and It wasn’t long before, you could say, I found myself conquering the 4 elements with an ostomy:

WATER: “Can you swim with an ostomy?”

I’ll admit… after surgery over 10 years ago, I avoided water. I had loved going out on the lake and tubing or swimming. If there was a pool I could get into, I would, without a doubt! I even worked as a lifeguard in my teens. However, after surgery, my desire to swim had been overshadowed by fear. I thought to myself, “what if it comes off?” or “what if people see it?”

Now, when I get asked if I can swim with an ostomy, I laugh and say, “yes, but I could swim without it, too!”

Based on the number of times I’ve been asked this question, by folks with and without an ostomy, I feel like I need to speak up. So, let me tell you straight out: yes, you can swim with an ostomy. 

My wife and I own our own kayaks and you can often find us on the lake or rivers nearby. It’s an amazing feeling to be sliding along the water to find a quiet spot for a picnic lunch! While I always recommend that you wear a life jacket while kayaking, I joke with my wife that I have my own personal flotation device!

FIRE: “Are you afraid your bag will melt?”

As you read above, and if you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that I am a firefighter and paramedic, which means that I often have to full “gear up” and perform structural firefighting… Yup, I often have to go into burning buildings!

If my pouch was anywhere near melting point, we’d be in for a lot more trouble! Our fire gear is made so that it keeps the heat out. 

Either way, I always keep a set of spare supplies at the firehouse and in my truck – just in case.

Fire? Yup – I battle it for a living!

Air: “Wait, air?”

Yes, air.

Skydiving was a bucket list item of mine for a long time and I’ve known that my wife had actually gone skydiving prior to our meeting. Well, one afternoon, (which happened to be exactly one week before our wedding), we were sitting around trying to figure out our plans for the day. Tongue-in-cheek, I jokingly said, “Let’s go skydiving!”

Let me tell you, her eyes lit up…and my stomach dropped! I knew I had done it, and off we went.

Next thing I know, we are in the car… at the airfield… in the plane… and wooooooosh! Out of a plane!

It was amazing.

No pouch flapping in the wind, no leaks, nadda. In fact, I’d during that time, the thought of having an ostomy wasn’t even in my mind.

Air? Check.

EARTH: “You’re gonna sleep there?”

As you’ve probably learned by now, my wife and I love to adventure outdoors.

While we aren’t extreme hikers, she and I enjoy some of the trails at the state parks here in Indiana. We’ve trekked up streams, over small hills (Indiana is very flat land) and around lakes.

Along with our hiking, we’ve also set up our own tent camps and stayed the night! We’ve even made our own food!

…Well, my wife prepares the food and I cook it…

Anyway, besides bringing extra supplies, my ostomy is the last thing on my mind.

Before surgery, I was worried that I would never be able to do the things I loved to do. It was after surgery, however, that I realized surgery was what allowed me to do those things again. It was because of my Crohn’s Disease that I chose to stay home, living in pain, and hoping to remain close to a bathroom instead of being out on the water in a kayak. I was so sick and weak that there would be no way that I could have functioned as a firefighter or paramedic.

Now, thanks to ostomy surgery, I can conquer it all. 

Brandon Wilch
brandon@uncoverostomy.org
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