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Ostomy bags! How are you emptying yours?

Ostomy bags! How are you emptying yours?

A little bit of fun today! If you’ve read my previous blogs you know that I’ve had an ileostomy on three different occasions. I have always emptied my bag in the same way. I tuck my top into my bra so it’s out of the way (sorry boys). Then, I sit on the toilet and aim in-between my legs. I usually aim for the front of the bowl to prevent splashback. I’m fortunate that my toilet has a good flush – I have been to toilets which required multiple flushes. I thought everyone was doing the same as me until someone mentioned online that kneeling to empty their bag hurt their knees.

I couldn’t even understand what was being said at first, so I had to check for confirmation that my understanding had been correct. Yes, someone was kneeling in front of the loo to empty their bag. They thought it was weird that I was sitting!

You’re doing it wrong!

I began to wonder if I’d been doing it wrong all this time? Did the stoma nurse tell me to do it “my way”, or did I just assume? It wasn’t mentioned after my second or third stoma surgery because they knew I’d had one before… Maybe I had just been overwhelmed by information and what was going on the first time, but I really couldn’t remember if that’s what I was told to do!

Of course, this prompted a poll on my Twitter and in the #IBDSuperHeroes Facebook group! 126 people voted on Twitter, and 48% said they sat down, 34% stand up, and 18% kneel, (percentages are rounded up).

In the Facebook group, 77 people voted. 36 people sit, 26 stand and 13 kneel. People also added their own poll options, so there was also one that said “any way I can do it”, and one that said lying down.

Lying down is one that I still can’t get my head around. It conjures images of someone doing the superman with their bag hanging in the toilet bowl, for me!  

Some said that they mix it up, depending on where they are. For example, if they’re using a public toilet, they may sit on it because the floors may be dirty or more uncomfortable on their knees! The fact that some people stand to empty theirs still blows my mind. I imagine huge splashback issues in this scenario!

It also never occurred to me that men may find it more difficult to empty whilst sitting due to additional “obstacles”. This was kindly pointed out to me on Twitter. There is no right or wrong way to empty your ostomy bag – there is simply the way that best suits you!

Some of my favourite social media replies:

“I used to kneel… Until I realised I could sit”

“I face the loo so I look like a bloke having a wee” – posted by a female.

“I stand, but if it’s watery I tend to bend my knees so less distance to the bowl! Oh and to avoid splash back I always put some loo roll in the bowl first.”

“Standing. I found it difficult to aim sitting. I’m 6ft 5 so often have to kneel/crouch a little to avoid splash back if my output is more watery than usual.”

“Sitting if I need a wee at the same time, kneeling otherwise though.”

“Since receiving my ostomy, I have vowed to never spend another second sitting on a toilet seat.”

How about you?

I would be interested to know whether you tried different methods, or whether you just stick to what you know?

Let me know! Don’t forget to tag Fittleworth too – @FittleworthMed.

Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, Picture of author - Saharaafter just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate. 

Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.

She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.