An Insight Into Life as a
Teenage Ostomate in the 1940s
In 1949, aged seventeen, I had a temporary stoma for nine months due to ulcerative colitis.
So what was it like to be a young ostomate during this time?
In a word, "dreadful"!
There were no ostomy associations, as the first one was formed in 1957. It was known as QT Victoria, now the Ileostomy Association of Victoria. Hospital treatment was free, but appliances cost you. There was only one appliance available and it came from America and cost the earth. It was called a "Davol Colostomy Pouch" and was made of gum rubber with an inflatable ring that fitted around the stoma. It was one size fits all, so if you were unfortunate enough to have a small stoma then you inevitably suffered from excoriated skin. The appliance was held in place with a belt as the appliance had no adhesives and, as skin care products were not in existence, a wrong turn in bed literally resulted in you "swimming in it"!
If you bent or twisted the wrong way with a bit of gas in the pouch, oops! ... out came the gas. I mean to say, you could only blame the dog so many times! The only odour control was Dettol or disinfectant, so you tended to sit on your own or in the middle of a group you knew, that is, with family and friends.
The number of ostomates at this time was low I suspect, as I knew of only two others. One was a nineteen year old chap I spent time with in hospital and the other was a lady I heard about at the Royal Melbourne Hospital but never met.
You can appreciate my apprehension when told twenty three years later that I was to have a permanent stoma. However, after coming to grips with the new appliances I quickly settled back into life, resuming sailing catamarans and doing much of whatever I liked.
One bonus is that grotty public toilets no longer bother me as I don't have to sit on them!
Comparing appliances today to the one appliance then, is much like comparing a Rolls Royce to a Mini Minor.
Reprinted from "Just for YOU" (Volume 4 - October 1995). This article was based on a talk that Terry gave at a YOU meeting and was compiled by the then Journal Editor, Susan.