Tag Archives: colostomy

In response to negative press about ostomies…

Here I go playing devil’s advocate again…
Much Facebook drama has been stirred up over the Cincinnati police using pictures of colostomies as a “scare tactic” to try and set teens and young adults on the straight and narrow. I posted my reply in an earlier status and you can go back & read it if you like.
As a result of the “outrage” several organizations have launched positive awareness “campaigns” encouraging people to write to the Cincinatti police with their positive portrayal of an ostomy, and encouraging ostomates to post pictures of themselves, many with their pouches hanging out, to prove that they are still attractive and sexy.

Let me be the first to say that I am ALL FOR THIS! I’ve spent the greater part of my life since the age of 17 involved in organizations that support ostomates, and work to promote positive portrayal of ostomy surgery.

But what strikes me about all of this is WHY does it take something negative like this to prompt people to be “loud and proud” about their ostomy? Shouldn’t we all be positive, loud & proud every day? I’d venture to say that our every day actions and positivity, shown to our friends, family, and strangers alike would go a long way in negating the stigma that many associate with ostomy surgery. If we were just matter-of-fact about our medical challenge, sharing it openly and honestly in a positive light to those around us, perhaps the public at large wouldn’t have such a skewed perception of our reality. Unfortunately, far too many hide their ostomy, hide the reality of it’s life saving ability, and only bring it out when it’s in response to something negative like the recent events in Cincinnati. Why? Why not be proud EVERY day?

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Spreading the Hope of Youth Rally!

Remember your teenage years? Wanting the right hair and clothes, having a crush on that special someone – who didn’t know you existed? Recall feeling awkward and out of place…all alone? Remember trying to fit in? Now imagine that you had a chronic illness that required surgery to save your life. What if on top of all the “normal” adolescent issues, you used the bathroom through a pouch on your side, because your diseased intes­tine had to be removed. How’d you like to miss your birthday party, the big game, even prom, because you were in the hospital- AGAIN! Sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it?

For thousands of teens across the nation, THIS IS REALITY.

A reality that I was all too familiar with. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 9, I spent much of my childhood in the hospital. When I was 15, I had my diseased large intestine removed, leaving me with a condition called an ileostomy. The ileostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdomen through which doctors bring a portion of the small intestine. I now wear a prosthetic (called a pouch) on my abdomen that my waste is collected in. There are other types of ostomies,too, depending upon the type of bowel or bladder diversion the person is in need of.

When I was 17, I attended my first Youth Rally. It was there that I met young people from all over the country who shared my very same experiences. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone, and the support and camaraderie I received through Youth Rally shaped my life’s work.

I’ve gone on to be a Rally counselor over 12 times, helped to start a support network for young adults with ostomies and diversions, and have  led the ostomy community in the U.S as the president of United Ostomy Associations of America. I now work for an amazing company that makes undergarments for people that have had ostomy surgery, helping them regain their confidence and active lifestyle.

My passion is to let others know that no matter the trauma a person has been through, there is always a purpose for the suffering, and a light at the end of the darkness. I want others to recognize that they too can rise from the ashes of disease and live life to it’s fullest, something I have been doing since 1993 when I first attended Youth Rally as a camper. Rally taught me that I was not alone, and that is what made all the difference.

By returning to Youth Rally as a counselor, I have the opportunity to use my experiences (with Crohn’s Disease and 14 subsequent surgeries and as a leader in the ostomy community) to bring a message of hope to other young ostomates who may not see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Would you consider making a donation to help me share the hope of Youth Rally with teens from across the country?

Thank you in advance for your support!

*** To make a donation, you can click on the Sponsor Me link on the right side of this page, or navigate to my Youth Rally Fundraising page ***

For more information about Youth Rally, see their website located here

Me & former camper turned CIT counselor Kristen K. Two KK's = twice the shenanigans!

When a Curse Becomes a Blessing

A couple weeks ago, I was asked if I would consider being the editor for the newsletter published by our women’s ministry at church. It was a no-brainer to say yes. I enjoy writing, I’m a stickler about grammar and spelling, and I’m pretty computer proficient. Sounds like a good fit right?

Then, once I’d committed, Kristen – the director of the women’s ministry said, “One of the things I’d like to implement is an article in each newsletter that highlights one of the ladies in our church. We all see each other, week in and week out, but never really get to know things about each other that are below the surface. Since you’re putting together the newsletter, why don’t you be the first woman we feature? “.  How could I say no? So I agreed. Simple enough.

Except that I hate writing that kind of thing. Or maybe it’s not that I hate it, but really that I don’t want to sound boastful when writing about my successes and accomplishments. I don’t think I’m one to toot my own horn, and I struggle to share about all I’ve been through in my short 35 years because the glory is all God’s. When I share with anyone about where my life has come from, how it’s been changed, and why I hold the hope that I do, I never want people to think that it’s at all because I think I’m such a strong, talented person. Truth is my past (and even some moments in the present) is littered with hardships that without the love and grace of Jesus Christ, I never would have overcome.

I’ve been incredibly blessed that He’s taken what at the time seemed to be a curse, and turned it around into the greatest blessing imaginable. From my sickness and suffering, I’ve been able to find my ultimate purpose.

 

Anyway – many people have asked if I ever finished the article. I did – and here it is in it’s entirety. Maybe I’ll write my memoir one day afterall…

 

Remember your teenage years? Wanting the right hair and clothes, having a crush on that special someone – who didn’t know you existed? Recall feeling awkward and out of place…all alone? Remember trying to fit in? Now imagine that you had a chronic illness that required surgery to save your life. What if on top of all the “normal” adolescent issues, you used the bathroom through a pouch on your side, because your diseased intes­tine had to be removed. How’d you like to miss your birthday party, the big game, even prom, because you were in the hospital- AGAIN! Sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately for Kristin Knipp, this was a reality. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 9, Kristin spent much of her childhood in the hospital. When she was 15, she had her diseased large intestine removed, leaving her with a condition called an ostomy. The ostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdomen through which doctors bring a portion of the bowel and the person then wears  a prosthetic ( called a pouch) that waste is collected in.

“My teenage years were trying, for sure. There’s a certain stigma attached to going to the bathroom ‘differently’, and when you’re a young person, that stigma seems magnified. It’s very isolating”, says Kristin. “For many years I asked ‘why me?’. I didn’t know Jesus back then, so no real answer ever came. In fact, the lack of answers, coupled with recurrent surgeries and medical trials, led to one very bitter young lady. I was mad- mad at my body, mad at my circumstances, and mad at God for allowing it. It wasn’t until I was 17 that things slowly began to fall into place.”

At 17, Kristin attended a summer camp for teens that had ostomies and other bowel and bladder diversions. For the first time, she met other kids that had experienced illness, surgery, and the same struggles she’d been facing. Finally, she didn’t feel alone. This camp, called Youth Rally, was ultimately the vehicle through which Kristin was introduced to Jesus.

“My second year as a camper, I met a young man who was also a Crohn’s patient and an ostomate. We were drawn to each other – initially because of teenage hormones and young love, but after camp ended and we returned to our respective homes, we maintained our friendship and I began to realize that we had a special relationship. Every time we talked, he offered me hope regarding whatever circumstances I was facing, and assured me after every conversation we had that he was praying for me. It wasn’t long before I realized that the thing that drew me to him most was his relationship with the Lord. In 1997, I visited him and his family in Tennesse, and it was there that I attended my first ever church service, and gave my heart to Jesus.”

It didn’t take long after welcoming Jesus into her life for Kristin to recognize how God had placed His hand on her  long before that moment, and had been weaving a tapestry that on the under side appeared messy and disheveled. But now that she could see it clearly, through spiritual eyes from God’s perspective, she began to see the answer to her “why me?” questions.

Kristin has returned to Youth Rally for the past 12 years to volunteer as a counselor and offer hope to teens facing life with an ostomy.  Volunteering with Youth Rally brought to Kristin’s attention the lack of support and resources for young people living with ostomy surgery, especially young adults, and in 2005 she founded YODAA (Young Ostomate & Diversion Alliance of America) a national network for young adults living with ostomy or diversionary surgery. Eventually the organization joined the United Ostomy Associations of America(UOAA) as an affiliated support group, and YODAA is still growing strong today.

In 2006, serving while serving UOAA as National Conference Planning Chair, Kristin was approached by the organization’s president about running for a national board of directors position. Kristin knew that it was something she was called to do.

“My life had come full circle”, she says. “At 15, receiving an ostomy had felt like a life sentence. Now, I was in a position to share my experience with an ostomy with others and let them know that it is indeed a LIFE sentence. Life is the key word. An ostomy gave me back my life, and this was my opportunity to use my experiences to change the course for others facing the same road. This was a significant answer to my WHY from so many years ago.”

 

Kristin threw her hat in the ring for the election, and was installed as the President-elect of UOAA in 2007. She served in that capacity for 3 years, and in January 2010, began her term as President of the organization.

“ While serving UOAA as president, I had the opportunity to travel the United States and abroad and use my God-given talents to work to improve the lives of ostomates around the world.  I’ve lobbied on Capitol Hill for legislation important to those living with an ostomy, I’ve been to Mexico and seen the plight of ostomates in foreign countries who have little or no access to specialized care and ostomy supplies. I’ve been honored to serve on a selection committee that extends scholarships and awards to people who’ve made a ‘great comeback’ from ostomy surgery, and have been blessed to be a spokesperson for several campaigns aimed at eliminating the stigma that is attached to ostomy surgery. God has granted me the influence to affect change and the responsibility to help others along their journey”.

Kristin now works for a company that makes specialized undergarments for people that have had ostomy surgery, and feels incredibly lucky to be able to combine her vocation with her avocation.

“Every day, I have the opportunity to minister to someone who’s in need of a little hope. It’s not traditional ministry – I don’t work at a church and I don’t have a title, but I have the love and grace of Jesus Christ in my heart, and I’m able to share it every day in the form of knowledge and encouragement to help others along their journey. My WHY has been answered, and no longer is Crohn’s disease or an ostomy a curse. It’s been my biggest blessing.”

Whether misinformed or underinformed, I’m still angry…

I had (and still have) the  most amazingly wonderful WOCN in the world (don’t argue with me – I know most of us ostomates feel that way about our “special” nurse – but Paula IS the bomb!) Let me tell you why.

Back in 1991, some 20 years ago, when I had my first of 14 surgeries, Paula was THE NURSE that changed my life. Literally EVERYTHING I knew about ostomies was due to Paula educating me. There was no internet for me to Google ostomy and get freaked out by all the images that appeared, no online dicussion board to post my questions to, and no Facebook to “connect” with other ostomates. No one told me about the UOAA. My parents had never even HEARD of an ostomy, and certainly we’d never met someone who had one. So what I knew, I learned from Paula.

She helped me find the right type of pouching system. She showed me how to clean my skin, prepare the pouch, and complete all the steps to attach the pouch correctly to my abdomen. She told me what to look for as far as excoriated skin and a fungal infection. She showed me how to empty the pouch, how to fold it up and tuck it in my underwear to keep it secure. She told me it was perfectly fine to get the pouch wet – in a shower, bath, swimming pool, hot tub, ocean or lake. She told me I could wear anything I wanted, eventually have a normal diet, and live a perfectly normal life.

I never knew the extent to which I was blessed to have her until I started volunteering in the ostomy community. Not everyone even gets a WOCN, let alone a spectacular one like Paula. Not everyone comes home from the hospital and finds their first box of ostomy supplies waiting for them on their front porch. Not everyone gets told that getting the pouch wet is ok,  and that wearing it sideways is probably going to breakdown the wafer and cause skin irritation. Not everyone knows they can wear regular clothing, go out to eat and lo and behold, still have sex.

Whether others were misinformed or underinformed, I don’t know. All I know is that through all the work I did with UOAA, and with my job at Ostomy Secrets now, EVERYDAY I hear from someone who doesn’t have the basic information needed to live with an ostomy. Even with the wealth of information and support available online, even with 300+ support groups nation-wide, even with 3 major ostomy supply manufacturers that  all offer patient education materials,  and even with hundreds of professionally-trained, certified Wound Ostomy & Continence nurses working in our hospitals and clinics, people are STILL not getting basic information that is critical to a good quality of life with an ostomy.

And it makes me angry.

 

United Ostomy Associations of America PSA

So excited about this! The UOAA PSA will begin airing shortly on public television, as well as channels such as FOX News, CNN and Discovery Health.

Cleveland Clinic performs small bowel transplant

Thought all my Crohnies may be interested in this link:

http://www.cleveland.com/health/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/1216369870243350.xml&coll=2