Charles and I have good news to share — the article that we’ve written about my hospital experience in January has been accepted and will be published in the summer edition of The Phoenix Magazine! Titled “Enteritis and the Ileostomate”, it describes my symptoms and complications while I was in the hospital, and Charles explains the medical issues that were going on during that time. Enteritis is a state of severe dehydration that can be due to a number of causes, and in my case was caused by a simple stomach virus. At our April meeting we’ll discuss what happened, what to look for, and how to advocate for yourself when doctors have no idea how to treat patients with ostomies. We’ll have copies of the article available, and will also have a taste testing of a variety of ORS solutions. We feel this is an important topic that hasn’t received a lot of attention, and we’re pleased it will now get noticed within the ostomy community. Our meeting will be at LUH, April 4, 1:00 pm at the Gauguin Room.
More good news! Charles has been nominated as WOCN of the Year for the UOAA National Conference, August 6-10 in Philadelphia. This is certainly an honor he’s worked hard for. Consideration is being given for his education within the nursing community at LUH, and also his outreach in training high-school CNA students about ostomies. A decision will be made in early May. Fingers crossed! (Of course, he’s ALWAYS our WOCN of the Year!)
And speaking of the UOAA National Conference, discount rates are still available at the conference hotel, the Philadelphia 201 Hotel. The conference price, for the week and all sessions, is $150. There are new sessions planned for this year, as well as several social functions. This is a fun, educational event for all ostomates and caregivers.
Since my surgery, it seems much harder to have blood drawn for lab work. Before, my veins were easy. In fact, I have one vein in the crook of my right elbow that was my “emergency” vein. If they couldn’t make a stick anywhere else, I’d offer it up, and it was always good to go. But now I don’t seem to have any available veins anywhere. Even my emergency vein is hard to access. I’ve thought this was due to aging, but after some discussions I’m now thinking it’s more due to hydration.
Last week on vacation I had the opportunity to talk with a friend who is a pre-op nurse at a large medical center in Kansas City. From her perspective, age has nothing to do with drawing blood. However, how much weight you have can make a difference in accessibility and pain. If you have more fat on your arms, that can make finding a vein more difficult (that makes sense), and if you’re very thin the veins are easier to find, but drawing blood may be much more painful. Her best suggestion for all was HYDRATE. Even when they tell you not to eat before lab work, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink water. And for us ostomates with hydration issues, we need to be even more aware of this. Maybe even drink throughout the night when you get up to empty your pouch. She also suggested heating your veins before the blood draw – try taking a hand warmer with you to the lab. This helps to raise your veins, making them easier to find and less painful if you’re thinner. If you’re having blood drawn in a hospital setting, ask if they have a vein finder. All hospitals have them just for this purpose. And don’t be shy about asking for someone more experienced to draw your blood. If you suspect a recent graduate with a shaking needle coming at you, be assertive. Remember, you’re the one that will be bruised.
Although I’d worked in hospitals, and studied anatomy for years, I never appreciated the value-add of a colon in hydration. In fact, when you have a colon, almost all of your body’s fluid intake comes through that. So….without a colon, we have to be extra careful to make sure we get the fluids we need. It took me a couple of months to realize that. After surgery I was feeling so great, but one week I was suddenly tired again and had trouble concentrating. I wasn’t getting enough fluids! Water is great, if you can drink it plain or mixed with something like Crystal Light, but there’s an argument to be made for getting extra electrolytes. I read somewhere that it’s good to supplement 50% of our water intake with an electrolyte-infused drink. Gatorade is often used as an example, but it’s not my favorite. You can drink something like Propel (which they even use for colonoscopy preps now) or SmartWater (which I prefer). I also really like iced tea, which is full of potassium, but no sodium. That being said, one member of my CCFA support group has an eight-year-old daughter that had her colon removed at age six. To have her get the sodium she needed they over-salted all of her dishes, and then encouraged her to drink almost anything she wanted. I’m never without my water bottle now. There’s many ways to get the nutrition we need, but getting enough fluids is the most important of all.