CANSA Service Spotlight – Sr Vlooi Venter and Stoma Department on World Ostomy Day
Sr Vlooi Venter is CANSA’s Clinical Support and Stoma Manager. She says,”It can take a while to adapt to living with a stoma, this is not an easy process, so it is important to seek guidance and educate yourself and loved ones.”
What is a stoma?
Some patients who undergo cancer treatment may need to have a stoma, which is an opening or artificial passageway from the body, which is created to eliminate waste products like urine or faeces.
Certain stomas are temporary until the body is sufficiently healed to restore bodily function, but in other cases the stoma is permanent.
Common ostomies are:
- Colostomy – elimination of faeces from body
- Illeostomoy – elimination of substances from the small bowel
- Urostomy – elimination of urine from the body
Ostomates are dependent on their stoma supplies – without their ostomy supplies they are stranded in a world that does not cater to their needs.
It is important for ostomates to receive proper training and the correct supplies for their particular ostomy.
Products will include baseplates, stoma bags, skin care products and products that maintain seals and prevent leakage.
How does the stoma department assist ostomates?
We provide a daily walk-in service to ostomates at our Stoma Clinic in Athlone and Pretoria, helping clients to use the stoma products best suited to their needs. Furthermore, a stoma clinic with stoma therapists takes place at the clinics during the week. Advice is given on lifestyle adaptation, skin care needs and practical application of stoma products.
A CANSA Tele Stoma service is available to ostomates where clinical counselling may be received online, so it is not necessary to come in to a CANSA Care Centre. An appointment may be made on 0800 22 66 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Emotional support is also important as it is a huge adjustment to lifestyle and often hard on family members as well when a loved one becomes an ostomate. We have a WhatsApp support group for ostomates and make use of a mentoring or buddy system to help ostomates adjust to life with a stoma.
We motivate and obtain authorisation on behalf of ostomates from their medical aids for ostomy supplies and package individual ostomy supply parcels for ostomates. We also arrange for courier services which deliver stoma products to ostomates.
Where does CANSA get its stock of stoma supplies?
We get our stock from main suppliers: Coloplast, Convatec, Hollister, BBraun and Ligamed. When we receive stock from these suppliers each item needs to be checked and captured on our data system. They are then stored in a stock room and any donated stoma stock is stored in special container.
What are some of the challenges ostomates face?
The life of an ostomate can be extremely overwhelming, as after a single surgical procedure nothing physiologically or anatomically functions as it did before. Things that may have been taken for granted are suddenly gone, and a new way of living day to day is mandatory.
The emotional effects can be devastating and it is very important that ostomates understand that they need not face this life change alone. It is important to join a supportive community of ostomates that can relate and share their experiences. Ostomates may want to isolate themselves due to a lack of confidence, and because they feel a loss of independence. This can lead to depression.
Other challenges are related to products, for example when stock runs out at hospitals or clinics; the price of products and challenges related to products leaking, bursting, skin care around the stoma and lifestyle changes, such as how to travel with a stoma, which foods will prevent gas, issues around intimacy with a loved one or how to manage a stoma in the workplace or during physical activities or sport.
How old was your youngest and oldest ostomate?
Our youngest patient was a 3 month old, and a five year old and our oldest patient 96 years old.
Where do ostomates that make use of CANSA’s services come from?
All over the country – our Stoma Clinics in Pretoria and Athlone liaise with local CANSA Care Centres across the country and courier stoma products to clients. Our Tele Stoma Counselling service means that we can counsel clients anywhere and in the comfort of their own home.
We have also assisted ostomates in neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Namibia.
There are sometimes shortages of stoma products at government clinics or hospitals. Can CANSA assist?
Ostomates should report this to myself at email@example.com and to our Head of Advocacy Zodwa Sithole firstname.lastname@example.org – in this way we can work with local health authorities to resolve the situation speedily and assist patients.
What keeps you and the stoma staff motivated to do your job?
Simply being able to see the difference you can make in someone’s quality of life and the gratitude and relief you see the ostomate and their loved ones experience is very rewarding. They arrive at our clinics as patients, but leave as friends. We love to support the whole family and put them and the ostomate at ease.
Taking a new ostomate’s hand, who is about to give up on life, and easing their anxiety by walking alongside them teaching them about life with a stoma and stoma products, until they feel they have regained their independence and will to live is immensely satisfying.