How to deal with a bowel cancer patient

20 06 2014

This post is about an emergency, not a life threatening one, but it is an emergency for the person who is in this situation, here you will find out what is going on, and how to respond to it.

Thousands of people have what is often just called a “bag”, it’s a bit more complicated than a simple plastic bag, which is what I think most people imagine, but it’s good enough for most of us.

A person may get a bag after an operation for bowel cancer or another intestinal disease, or even because of a car accident.

I will speak about it from my perspective as I had bowel cancer and have been in this position myself, I was very thankful to the people who responded in the right way.

You may be be a member of the public, a taxi driver, a restaurant owner and find yourself with a person who looks worried and asks if there’s a private bathroom they can use, for example, one which has a toilet and a handbasin.

They will sometimes have a brown stain on the front of their body as though they have spilt gravy over themselves.

What has happened, is their bag has detached from their body and is leaking.

At this moment they feel embarrassed, but they are also uncomfortable because they are wet, and the fluid is mildly acidic and burns.

The fluid is not poo, they have not crapped themselves, The fluid is partly digested food from the stomach. (May also be urine, there are bags for that too)

The fluid came from a hole, called a Stoma, in the small intestine, imagine a hole in a water pipe before it reaches the tap, while the tap can be turned off, the leak in the pipe can’t be (discounting the mains, which we don’t have in our body), so we wear a bag over the hole to “patch” it.

It’s just that the adhesive on the bag, isn’t always as reliable as we’d like it to be.

Anyway, the right thing to do, is to ask them if they have their kit with them, they will understand what you mean, a kit generally contains more bags, and cleaning gear, sometimes a change of clothing too.

If they do, just lead them to a public toilet, most people can handle the situation themselves once they’re settled.

If they don’t, it’s awkward, as they will need help… it may be best to give them a whole toilet roll and get them to an ER where they might get a bag from the hospital. A person in this situation should always have their kit, but sometimes we forget, we usually don’t forget twice.

Not long ago, a friend sent me a photo of a man running a marathon, apparently it was amusing because he’d crapped himself, but it people apparently didn’t stop to think that it was strange, because the stain was on the front of his body. The runner had clearly decided that a leaking bag wasn’t going to stop him completing a race.

Anyway, that’s it, it might look bad, but it’s not a problem.












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