The second of two posts for today.
This afternoon I had another scheduled appointment at the stoma clinic. I had spoken briefly on the phone last Tuesday with one of the specialist colo-rectal nurses about my problems with one of the HCAs and asked that I didn’t see her again, so I was a bit alarmed that she appeared to be on duty at the clinic today. I asked the receptionist who I was due to see, and he told me it was one of the CNS’s (Clinical Nurse Specialists) so I was relieved. The receptionist knew me by name, which was nice – but it does indicate just how much time I am spending in that place!!
While I was waiting, Dr. Johnston, the gastro-enterologist came through, and I had a nice chat with him, and while we were talking, my surgeon, Mr. Pullan, also turned up, wearing his scrubs! We all had a nice chat, and he said how well I was looking after my operation. I told them both about the six months of chemotherapy that I am facing and they both wished me well, and agreed that I have to look on it as a positive thing, making sure that all the cancer is gone for good. Nice to see my two favourite consultants!
My hubby was still parking the car when I was called in for my appointment. I was able to have a more detailed conversation with the nurse about the problems I had experienced with the HCA and she said she was sorry this had happened. I told her that I did not like to complain, but I felt it was important to let her know how things were, in case someone else was also affected, and I also had the opportunity to give her some specific examples. I repeated my request that I did not see that HCA again. I was glad my hubby was not there because this sort of thing makes him very uncomfortable (not that I enjoy it much either!) and he would much rather I left things alone and put up with it, but as I said to him, this is too important, and I need to have confidence in those who are caring for me, and sometimes things need dealing with, however unpleasant it might be at the time; in the long run, the benefits outweigh the temporary discomfiture. I feel very much better for having done it now, anyway, and the nurse was very understanding.
I then told her about the problems I’d had over the past few days. She took the bag off and said I still needed a convex bag. I told her how much I would like to go back to a flat one, because I so much liked the Coloplast SenSura Mio which is not yet available in the convex version, and she said that some people are able to use a flat bag again eventually, because after a period of time using the convex bag, the stoma gets pushed forward more, but it doesn’t happen with everybody. I said I didn’t mind, as long as I could have a decent convex bag, and I would certainly want to use the SenSura Mio convex if and when it was available.
She had another HCA helping her, who was also lovely and not at all like the other one! She made several trips to the cupboard for supplies for me, and the first convex bag they produced (can’t remember the name) I rejected almost at once, because the tail was horrible and it was a fiddle to undo, and like the OakMed one, it only had one rigid plastic strip so I could see myself getting output all over my hands again. The nurse suggested the Coloplast SenSura Convex Light bag – this is the convex version of my original bag, and I jumped at that one.
The tail is identical, and I really like this. It has the two rigid plastic strips, and when you press their edges together, the bag springs open beautifully, and I like the Velcro fastening wings too. This bag has a good viewing window, with the outer cover being divided so that you can lift it, and the top half of the bag under the cover is transparent. This is better than the Salts bag which was only transparent over the stoma itself. Another thing I like about the SenSura bags (flat and convex) is the fact that the edge of the flange is transparent, so you can see if a leak is advancing towards the edge, and deal with it in time.
The convexity is softer, and less pronounced than on my previous bags, and this is a good compromise between the rather hard and rigid deeper convex flanges and the flat bag.
One slight disadvantage is the paucity of measuring rings on the flange, which makes cutting it to size a bit more difficult, but the nurse gave me the backing sheet from the bag she put on me, to use as a template. She cut the hole circular, not worrying about the slight bulge on one side of Kermit, and said that it shouldn’t be too tight a fit, or the stoma might develop granulomas (small nodules which form as a result of friction from the bag) and these can bleed a lot. She cut the bag to around 28 mm.
I told her I was running out of some of my supplies, so in addition to supplying me with plenty of the new bags, she gave me a new pack of Conti wipes (these are the dry wipes that you can use either dry, or with water, and they are larger than a lot of the wipes supplied by the manufacturers of stoma care products, and you can cut them in half and get double the amount!), and plenty of barrier wipes (which the previous HCA had considered unnecessary!!).
I haven’t tried these Pelican barrier wipes, but my first adhesive remover spray was by Pelican and I liked that very much.
Finally, she gave me some more banana flanges to replace the few OstoMart ones I had left. I said I didn’t like those much because they made my skin itch (there are some small red spots where they had been) and she said she didn’t like them much either – a lot of patients had experienced skin irritation from them because they are far too sticky (even with adhesive remover spray they are very hard to remove) and do not allow the skin to breathe. She produced some by Salts instead.
These are thinner and more flexible, and although they look rather opaque when you first apply them, with the warmth of your body they become more transparent and adhere better than initially. They contain aloe vera and are a lot more skin-friendly than the OstoMart ones. Eventually I would like to get the Trio silicone ones through my supplier because these are a dream to use, but the nurse said they don’t deal much with Trio, because they only do accessories and the GPs are apparently pressing them to cut down on prescribing too many accessories. (The other HCA was just dismissive of Trio products and said, “We can’t stock everything…” and “I saw them at a trade fair and wasn’t impressed…”)
These banana flanges have backing papers on both sides. You remove the first one and apply the banana flange as normal, and then remove the top backing sheet, exposing a wafer-thin transparent strip which flexes with your skin and is breathable. I love these!
When the nurse removed my bag, she used plenty of adhesive remover spray without my having to ask her, and she peeled it off slowly and gradually, and I felt quite relaxed about it. She had no problem using barrier wipes either, but said the powder should only be used if the skin irritation was so bad that the surface of the skin was broken and moist, because otherwise the powder would not stick.
She said that we should now be thinking about getting a prescription set up for me, so that I can start receiving supplies via a home delivery service. I quite agreed, but said that things were still constantly changing, which was getting pretty boring! She said there was no point in setting up a prescription if the next week it had to be changed again! She has made another appointment to come in three weeks’ time, which will be on the same day as my follow-up appointment with Mr. Pullan, my surgeon, and hopefully by then, things will finally have settled down.
She warned me that the chemotherapy might affect the stoma – not necessarily its size or shape, but quite likely the output, which can increase in quantity and become much more liquid. She said I may need loperamide (Immodium) to help with this, but I said if I could correct the problem with jelly babies, that was preferable! (How I wish jelly babies were available on prescription!!) For the moment, the output is quite thick, which she was pleased to hear – although I did say I thought my blow-out this morning was partly due to pancaking because it was so thick!
As we left, both the nurse and the HCA were very sweet, and the HCA said, “Nice to see you again.” I said to my hubby on the way down, “What a great appointment! That’s how it is supposed to be!” I certainly didn’t feel like that on the previous two occasions! Coming out this time, I felt I had had a very positive experience, my questions and observations had been listened to carefully and responded to in a considered way; the atmosphere was friendly, and there was decent dialogue. Should be expect anything less?