Things Ostomates Are Tired of Hearing, by Catriona Gallagher

Things Ostomates Are Tired of Hearing, by Catriona Gallagher

Hi, I’m Catriona. I am 27 years old and engaged to get married in 2025. I’m a dog mom to 2 incredible fur-babies. I have multiple auto-immune diseases, including Crohn’s Colitis, Arthritis and Psoriasis. I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s Colitis for 5.5 years, but have been battling with the symptoms since the age of 6.

I have a defunctioning loop Ileostomy due to my Crohn’s disease spreading to my perianal area and causing complex fistulas which wouldn’t heal. After 6 hospital admissions and surgeries, changing of seton suture each time, myself, surgeons and gastro team decided it was time for a stoma as the fistulas were refusing to heal and my colon & rectum needed to be bypassed to give it extra help. Even after my stoma formation, I still required multiple surgeries for my fistulas & I am still waiting for the day where I am told it has finally gone, almost 2 years later. Due to my Crohn’s disease, I was constantly running to the loo 30+ times a day, this was also another reason for my stoma to be formed. 

After being an inpatient in hospital due to a massive flare of my Crohn’s, my surgeon had thought it was best to do an emergency stoma surgery, but thankfully steroids were able to calm everything down for a few days & we were then able to plan my surgery for the following week. After my stoma surgery, I spent a further 5 weeks in hospital. My stoma had retracted and separated from the skin. My surgeon and stoma care nurses had thought I may have needed to go back down to theatre for refashioning, but thankfully we started to see some improvement. A few days after surgery, my bowel fell asleep, causing an Ileus, therefore I needed to have a catheter inserted into my stoma and an NG tube was placed into my stomach. 8 months post op, I am still having some hiccups with my stoma, but my stoma saved my life in more ways than one and for that, i will always be extremely grateful.

One common misconception is that stoma bags have a constant foul odour or that stomas are only for elderly people. People could better educate themselves on life with a stoma by asking questions to people you know that have a stoma and listening to any videos you come across of Ostomates sharing their stories and experiences. There is a reason Ostomates share their journeys, to educate others & make it more “normal” (whatever normal is) to have a stoma.

Social media can absolutely help bring awareness about stoma life into the mainstream. Without social media, I would have struggled a lot more than I did when I got my stoma. To know there are other people out there, experiencing similar, if not the same, things as I am. The Ostomy community makes me feel like I’m not alone, that having a stoma is different, but it helps me live my life and not be tied down to the loo or to a hospital bed. The community shows how “normal” it is to have a stoma and the importance they have in saving people’s lives.

To my younger self I would have said: ‘Always get a second opinion’ - I had been experiencing symptoms of my Crohn’s for 15 years before I was diagnosed - it started in my mouth, spread to my bowel at 21, when I was diagnosed & then perianal within the last 2 years. I was tested for allergies and had biopsies done on my lips and inside my mouth. I only found out within the last few months that Crohn’s had been queried back then, but I suppose with such little awareness and very little info on it back then, it never got diagnosed & this is where I am today.

To any new ostomates I would say: ‘Always trust your body’ - you know your body more than anyone. Your stoma may be new, but if you feel that something isn’t right, then let someone know. You are not alone, we have all been where you are - it can be tough and you may feel like giving up, but don’t - it will get better & you will soon see how much your life can change, for the better!

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