Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 06: Something you hope you never have to do

I hope I never have a colostomy bag. No, that's not the WORST thing I can imagine. This topic is a slippery slope of awfulness. Of course I don't want my family or anyone I love to be hurt or sick or broken or abused or frightened or lost or or or or or or. Of course I'm a nurse/in NP school so I can list very specifically a litany of conditions I hope never to have. Or course I can think of a million little or big things I hope and wish and pray that I never have to do.

But colostomy bags have been on my mind recently what with all my special Tummy Issues that have been going on AND the fact that coincidentally this week in one of my classes we are talking about IBS, IBD, and gah, colon cancer and the like.

I understand the reasoning behind colostomy bags: in certain situations part of the intestine is so infected or inflamed or traumatized or blocked that it can't do its thang. So the patient has surgery and the intestine is resected and a stoma is created on the abdomen with a little bag attached to it. Now, instead of using the toilet, the person's poop just goes into the bag. It makes sense. I get it. But I remember the first lecture wherein I heard that these are sometimes permanent. That thanks to cancer or a horrible fistula or whatever, the patient's colon is so wrecked that he or she must now wear that bag for good.

I was surprised during that lecture because the professor seemed to act like a permanent colostomy bag was no big deal-- the intestine is such a complicated organ that we sometimes aren't able to fix the problem and that's just how it is. And I feel like I've run into that attitude since then-- "What's the big deal? It's a handy solution that patients prefer." Well, of course the patients prefer to have a colostomy bag WHEN THE OTHER OPTION IS DYING. I'm not saying everyone has that attitude, but I worked on an abdominal surgery floor for my med-surge rotation during nursing school and some of the patients were just so sad and disheartened. Of course they were happy to be alive and of course they were making the best of their situations, but those bags aren't perfect-- they can leak or smell or make noises or irritate the surrounding skin. They take some getting used to and people do get used to them. Because they have to.

I'm sorry, but I've tried to understand the reasoning, and I just can help thinking that this is baloney. Because, seriously? That's the best we can do? Maybe I need to do more research about the digestive tract so I can really truly understand how wondrously complicated it is but I also just think about all the amazing technology we have in the medical community and the rest of the world. We can give people new heart valves. We can perform complicated surgeries by just making a couple tiny incisions. We put a man on the moon. We created a machine for playing music that fits in the palm of your hand. We made ATMs, the internet, birth control pills, hybrid cars, and velcro. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHEREIN A PERSON MUST CARRY AROUND A BAG OF THEIR OWN SHIT.