Managing Stoma Care While in The Field

I have gone hunting and fishing on numerous occasions since having my permanent ileostomy, and haven’t had any trouble yet with my appliance in action.  However, I always, always bring my “bug-out bag” into the field (or anywhere for that matter).  I have been on active stalk hunts, used climbing tree-stands, sat in ground blinds and managed a bass boat all while sporting my little sidekick.  (yep, appliance attached in this photo!!)10733996_4717824120398_4838532185554720243_n

What I have found is that I always apply a new wafer and pouch before going on any excursion, especially if it is a weekend trip.  Knowing that I have a fresh appliance that I should get at least 3 days of wear out of is comforting.  Most of the time I am riding ATV’s or UTV’s to get to different locations, and you would think that all that bumping around and movement would cause issues but it hasn’t yet.  I have noticed that you need to be extra careful around sharp limbs and stickups, especially when brushing in a blind as these can jam your pouch and potentially damage the filter (I did have this occur once, but quickly changed the pouch as the wafer was fine).

The only time I am more concerned with potential leaks (which has yet to happen!) is when I am decked out in full winter gear, multiple layers, bibs, etc.  That is when I recommend buying clothes a little bigger around the waste-line (or wherever you appliance sits) if needed, and trying to allow room for the pouch and wafer to move a bit, and not keep it tightly constricted.  I have hunted with my appliance numerous times, and taken deer out of a tree stand, hunched over with 3 layers of clothes on so it shouldn’t cause problems as long as you periodically check it to make sure it is in a comfortable spot.  As for scent, as strong as a deer’s nose is…I have never, ever had a problem with it (that will also be another topic all by itself)!

So what else do you all recommend for proper preparation and stoma care when you are away from home and deep in the elements?  Do you bring everything with you in your hunting bag or tackle box (or leave it at a nearby cabin, in your vehicle, or..,?), do you always carry an extra backpack…?  Let’s hear some other tips and tricks in the Comments section below!!

Welcome to Ostomy Life Outdoors

striperA Little Bit about Me and How This Site Came to Be:

My name is Jake, and I hail from the great state of Kentucky.  Living here all of my life has afforded me countless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and all of the enjoyment that comes along with these treasured pastimes of hunting, fishing, hiking and just being outside!

At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with a debilitating gastrointestinal disease, called Ulcerative Colitis. I am now 28 years old and I have no colon and a permanent (yes a “bag” for the rest of my life) ileostomy. How I got to this point still amazes me, but that is how the disease works; it crushes you when you are up and once you are down it stomps on you. Ulcerative Colitis (UC) causes severe inflammation of the colon which leads to intense pain, frequent and bloody bowel movements, weight-loss, a substantial increase in your risk for cancer and eventually death if it is not treated. I started close to eight years ago battling UC without really knowing (or caring for that matter) about the severity of it all…for the love of Pete, I am in my 20’s and I was diagnosed in college, who wants to think about some kind of disease that causes you to go to the bathroom 20 times a day or more; you want some medicine to fix it and move on to the next party!! For those eight years I tried every single conventional and non-conventional medication available in Western Medicine; each one of these pills or chemical-based infusions either failed, caused severe and dangerous side effects or lead me to even more destructive outcomes, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of your pancreas, which also can quickly lead to death). In 2013, I went into the hospital with a flare of my UC (where the bowel movements increase in blood-loss and frequency, you can’t eat and essentially start to lose all nutrients your body needs to survive), developed another substantial infection which put me in an isolation room and another round of pancreatitis. I was given a colonoscopy where the doctor wrote on my medical chart, “This type of inflammation will lead to death.” Ok…I figured at that point, maybe I should take this more seriously; I had recently gotten married, working at a successful job, trying to close on my first house and here I am being told that if I don’t do something substantial I might as well check-out, permanently. Needless to say, I, with the aid of my wife and family, made the decision to address this. My option: remove my colon and live with an ileostomy bag for the rest of my life. Pretty tough right? Not for me, I had been living in pain and misery for years and I had blocked it out of my mind until I was told bluntly (which no doctor had ever done, and his approach, I know, saved my life) that I was going to die. Ok, surgery scheduled…let’s get it done.siteostomy

In March of 2014 I had my first of three surgeries, performed by a world-renowned surgeon in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was out of the hospital, from a surgery where a doctor cut into my stomach laparoscopically, took out my entire colon, with the exception of a small portion of the lower bowel, and sewed me back up with a piece of my bowel exposed on my stomach and my trusty “bag” (appliance or pouch=correct terminology), in three days. I recovered, generally speaking, very quickly; and I specifically remember going on small weekend fishing trips and working out within just a few weeks of this life-changing and life-saving surgical procedure.  The intent, at the time, was to internally reconnect the remaining bowel to the tissue serving as my stoma (external pouch) so that I no longer would have to wear my appliance (a j-pouch procedure).  However, for months I continued to suffer with severe cramping, bleeding and other disabling symptoms, so the decision was made to remove the remainder of my bowel causing these troubles, hence leaving me with a permanent ileostomy (the “bag”).  Honestly, again, I didn’t think twice about it…I had dealt with so much pain for over seven years and the months between surgeries was enough to make me realize that a permanent solution was needed , and I could learn to live with my appliance…and that is what I am doing!  It has not been easy, in fact, it hasn’t even been hard…it goes beyond that; the difficulty is immense, but I am making it literally one day at a time and since my last surgery about two months ago I have gone fishing (on a boat) over 10 times, hunted numerous times for different types of game and plan to continue these activities for the rest of my life.

Living with this pain and facing death, I have grown to appreciate and love the outdoors more than ever.  There is a sense of calm and peace you can only find on the water or back in the thickest part of the woods.  There is a much greater appreciation for life when you take an animal, and a thrill unlike any other when you hook a monster bass and pull him out of the lily-pads or grab hold of a down-rigged rod and fight in a major striper.  These adventures just taste better when you’ve been through the ringer with your health, and make it out on the other side to live to tell about it.

ostomy boat

I want to share these experiences with you, because as tough as living with IBD or an ostomy can be, it should never change your life (unless it is for the better); and I am going to tell you and SHOW you that living the outdoor lifestyle is possible with an appliance.  No, it is not always easy readying your blind, tree-stand or boat; sometimes you feel you may have to work doubly hard than the people around you, but the reward and the relaxation you earn is so much sweeter!!  Every blog that I publish on here, and every video or picture you will see, I am and will be using an ostomy appliance.  I cannot wait to bring you along on my adventures, and even more importantly…(insert the drumroll here)…I WANT TO HEAR AND SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING OUTDOORS WITH YOUR OSTOMY “RIGHT ALONG SIDE” OF YOU!!

Be safe, have fun and I hope you enjoy the site!  I cannot wait to share my experiences, and see what you all have been doing in the great outdoors, without your colons!