March/April 2002
Page 4


Ask An Et Nurse

by Claire Westendorp, ET, RN, CERNS

Question? Q. Our 17-year old son had emergency bowel surgery for Crohns disease. The surgeon has advised a rest period of at least one year before considering closure of his ileostomy. He is feeling very discouraged by this. What can we say or do to help him?

A. Your son may feel very isolated in this situation. These feelings are only natural. The truth is, though, thousands of people have had ostomy surgery and many of them are teenagers. So, your son is not alone, although he may feel this way.

Nevertheless, your son's feelings about his ileostomy and himself should not be dismissed. Research shows that the biggest single problem for most people with new ostomies is coming to grips with their feelings about their new condition. The best way to handle this is to realize that having an ileostomy is not very limiting. In fact, if your son suffered from fatigue, cramps, diarrhea and other symptoms before the surgery, he will feel immeasurably better once he has recovered from the surgery. And, once he has mastered his ileostomy care, he will be able, with very few exceptions, to return to his usual activities. As for social rejection because of the ileostomy, it will only be a problem if he allows it to happen. Today's ileostomy equipment is lightweight, odor-proof, inconspicuous and very secure. Unless he chooses to tell someone about his ileostomy, very few people will know of its presence.

The biggest problems for your son are going to be the same ones that most teenagers face as they are growing up: rapid physical change, establishing their identity and values, learning to relate to the opposite sex, and laying the foundations for a career. An ostomy isn't going to make these tasks easier, but having an ileostomy for a year isn't an insurmountable problem. Many teenagers have dealt with ostomies and your son, with your support, can too!

It may be helpful to contact the local chapter of the United Ostomy Association of Canada so that your son speaks to and meets some teenage members. Also, remember that his ET nurse is available to meet his needs.

Via Kingston Ostomy Newsletter and Regina Ostomy News, May 2001, via Inside Out On-line Mar/Apr 2002.


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