Ostomate Kevin tells about getting back to work

Kevin: Returning to work with an ostomy

"With my ostomy the sky is the limit, I can now do whatever I want to do."

Kevin received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person’s situation is unique so your experience may not be the same.

It was time to take back my life

Hi my name is Kevin. For me not returning to work was not an option. I am a career firefighter and love my job as well as being the main income for the house hold. My beautiful wife Trudy and I married in 1997. We have 2 boys, aged 19 and 15.

After dealing with Ulcerative Colitis for 20 years and several medications, as well as all the frequent washroom trips, I decided it was time to take back my life and have my ileostomy surgery performed. I joined an IBD support group. I was paired up with three group buddies and from my first several talks before surgery, I was prepared mentally.

Establishing a routine & being prepared

After the surgery, I had to first establish a routine for looking after my ostomy. Finding out what works for you is key, not only in the changing your appliance, but also the products you use. I tried all the companies and found that the Coloplast SenSura Mio flat works best for me. Getting comfortable with your new body and accepting the new life that you live is key to a successful return to work. I found that it helped to be open about my ostomy and tell everyone that will listen not only what my life was like before and but now, with my ostomy. Educating people that don’t understand helped to mentally accept and get on with enjoying life. With my ostomy the sky is the limit, I can now do whatever I want to do. I can still travel, eat whatever I did before and get back to doing what I enjoy. When others know and understand that and see you getting on and enjoying life, they become more aware and accept not only you, but your ostomy. I had an emergency go-to bag made up using old bucker gear. In it I keep 2 complete ostomy changes and a change of clothes with snack bars. I have had several people comment on it and want one of their own.

Before going back to work it all starts with getting yourself into a good mental frame of mind and having a good routine. For me, I joined two ostomy support groups as well as talking with my family and coworkers. Most didn’t know what my life was like beforehand and what it was like now that I can get on and enjoy life. I took three months off from work to make sure my body had healed enough. I would then start back at work on modified duties, working 4 hours a day and increased 2 hours every week until I was back at full days. I was running training sessions and gathering information on solar panel locations, for the safety of every firefighter I work along with. After a month of doing that, I would start back by taking part in training drills and spending some hours on the truck every week increasing the hours. After a month, I started back on the truck full time again. I would drive for the first couple of months then start riding in the back again. The key thing to remember is start out slow and listen to your body.

I found that being open and making jokes about my ostomy, the more people are accepting of my ostomy. Also, when they see that nothing can hold me back from doing what I enjoy, in my personal life, at work and socially, they all open up and treat you better then when I first told them about what was going to have done and what the rest of my life was going to be like. After seeing what I have done and how my life is now after my ostomy surgery, everyone is now more open to accepting me and my ostomy

Keving at work

I am alive and doing great, with everyone around me getting an education on life with an ostomy. They all see that you can live life and get back to work again. Only you have the power to get yourself back to work again. It takes getting yourself mentally prepared and having a good routine. Also, educating your coworkers that there is life after an ostomy and nothing can hold you back. Get back out and to work like I did.

Photographs courtesy of @snapscenephoto

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