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since May 2004

My wife and I returned home from a holiday trip to U.K., Republic of Ireland, Europe and Calgary Canada at the end of June in 2004 and I used irrigation every 48 hours during this two month long holiday. There were some problems! Many of the hotel buildings are hundreds of years old! Certainly they have been re-modelled inside many times but there is no escaping that the bathrooms are tiny and are not ideal for irrigating. Rome had the most difficult bathroom, there was simply nowhere convenient to hang the apparatus.

An important fact to remember for colostomate travellers. I arranged with the airline via my travel agent to take a second "carry on bag" for medical products in which I carried my Colostomy appliances and irrigation apparatus. Should my luggage have been delayed or lost I would have been in a terrible fix so I carried it with me despite the inconvenience of yet another handful.

Prior to leaving for the trip, I thought about the possible problems a great deal. I made up a 500 mm long soft poly rope eye spliced at each end, and each with a stainless steel closed hook. This gave me an adjustable hanging device, needed, because the height of the bottom of the apparatus should be about 100 mm above the shoulder when sitting in the infusion position. In Hotels one is faced with high shower rails or high mounted door hooks down to absolutely nothing at all. In retrospect, a "door hook" preferably a metal one of the type used on bathroom and bedroom doors for coat hangers would be a useful addition to the "rope kit" when travelling. (My new hook is plastic and is quite thick. Metal being thinner fits over most doors and allows them to be closed with the hook in place.)

Water temperature is important too probably more so than any other consideration. I have found from experience that the apparatus should be filled at 41 degrees C from the tap and by the time it reaches the Stoma the temperature of the water will be 37 degrees C .I use a stainless steel cookery thermometer to be sure that the temperature is correct. I also carried with me a small clamp (sold in aquariums for adjusting fish tank aerators). Because the apparatus thumb control on the handle seems to be either on or off with no adjustment in between, I use the clamp on the tube to adjust the water flow when the apparatus had to be hung higher than is required for a nice steady flow rate.
I found that sitting on the toilet itself was unsatisfactory for me so I now set a chair in front of the toilet bowl with the irrigation sleeve in the bowl. This enables me to slide into a 45 degree angle to facilitate infusion because it will not start if I sit upright. The air is first dispelled from the apparatus tube by operating the hand held controller and then the soft rubber cone inserted into the Stoma and the controller turned on. When the one to one and a half litres of water has been infused, the cone is removed and the top of the irrigation sleeve is quickly closed. Expulsion of the water and faeces begins almost immediately. In my case, following the initial activity there is a period of about ten to twenty minutes when nothing happens, then a final movement occurs and the procedure has finished.

Occasionally the infusion is reluctant to start. I find that by pumping the thumb trigger on the hand controller several times or a shake of the control handle usually gets it up and running. The process takes from 40 minutes to an hour so I arm myself with my cordless headphones and with the CD player /changer running in the next room plus a good book for after the infusion has finished and relax and let it happen! In an effort to be "regular" I choose to do the irrigation procedure at 1600 hrs (4.0pm) every second day. Over time this hour has proved to be the most convenient for me.

To facilitate clean up on completion, I leave about 500 ml of water in the apparatus and "hose down" the Stoma and inside the sleeve prior to removal to make disposal of the sleeve less messy. Nappy disposal bags are perfect for disposal of the sleeves and appliances, simply add the items to the bag, tie a knot in the handle end and place them in the bin.

Please note: The process as I have described it, is how it works for me. We are all different in how our bodies accept or reject any procedure so before you do anything please discuss the procedure with your Stomal Therapy Nurse.

Well, there it is. As a colostomate of only one year and 2004 racing to close, I have covered a lot of territory, both physically and emotionally. As you will have gathered from my story " I've Got a What?" my emotions have taken quite a caning but with the support I have been blessed with, I made it!

Douglas Rees

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