Ostomy or Otherwise, Don’t Let Surgery Stop You From Moving
By Linda Verde
Sarah Russell wears many hats. This 43-year-old marathon runner, wife, mother of teenage boys, fitness coach and trainer of more than 25 years and now a clinical exercise specialist, is also a ostomate.
Nine years ago, she thought her career was over when perforated diverticulitis caused acute peritonitis requiring ileostomy surgery. Worse, the surgery didn’t take and during the next two years complications instigated another five operations. With reversal surgery not working, Sarah pleaded with her doctor to put her stoma back. Determined to improve her quality of life and reclaim her health and well being, Sarah developed an exercise program for pre- and post-surgery that has garnered such success it was adopted by the National Health System in Great Britain. Not just stoma patients, but anyone needing surgery can benefit from her program.
Are patients getting the right advice?
Sarah asks this question in her ground-breaking article about physical activity mitigating the risks of parastomal hernia. Parastomal hernia occurs when a loop of the bowel presses against the abdominal wall, near the stoma, causing a bulge, and often creating serious complications. Looking for ways to lessen the risk of parastomal hernia, three things were considered: advice about how and what to lift; having strong core muscles; and, using a support garment. The garment was not as successful as lifting advice and core exercising. Some misconceptions exist about core exercises. Post surgery, this does not mean doing planks or sit-ups/crunches; it’s more like Pilates-type moves that can be done lying in bed.
Hernia aside, whether you have had an ostomy or other kind of abdominal surgery, physical activity helps with disease prevention, improves your self esteem and benefits your mental health. As a surgery patient, you will be encouraged to be active – make sure you learn what you can do, instead of what you can’t. Sarah’s recovery program does just that, the only proviso being that no two people are exactly the same, so you must listen to your body and let how you feel guide what you do.
In her handbook, sponsored by Convatec™, Sarah suggests activities you can do while waiting for surgery – general activities like walking or biking – and what to do after your operation. She believes even a small bit of activity with your recovery exercises can give you confidence and positively impact your well-being and recovery. There is more advice about lifting and moving safely. Early in your recovery it might be difficult to vacuum the floor – enjoy the break and let someone else do it for awhile. Sarah brings other considerations to her readers: simple breathing techniques can help you relax and improve healing; walking helps you get back on your feet, literally, and gets you out and about; pelvic floor exercises are important for men and women to build core muscles that support your internal organs; and, if your stoma is from cancer, keeping active is still important during treatment and after.
Surgery takes enough of a toll without adding the health risks of becoming sedentary. Sarah is a living testament to the success of her recovery program. She lives an active, healthy, happy, and fulfilled life, eats normally and can once again run up mountains. Maybe running up mountains isn’t your style, but your stoma or surgery doesn’t need to keep you down.
Check out one or more of these links for more information:
- Sarah Russell, Clinical Exercise Specialist - https://www.sarah-russell.co.uk/
- ConvaTec’s me+ Recovery Programme - https://meplus.convatec.com/articles/about-meplus-recovery-series/
- me+ Recovery Handbook – by Sarah Russell https://meplus.convatec.com/media/1576/meplusrecoveryhandbook_final_lores_stickerdisclaimer.pdf
- Parastomal Hernia and Physical Activity: Are Patients Getting the Right Advice? – bjon.2017.26.17.s12.SRussell.Stomaexercise.pdf
- Sarah Russell, ConvaTec’s Well-Being Advocate - https://www.convatec.co.uk/stoma-care/meplus-community/sarah-russell/
- Exercises and Advice Following Abdominal Surgery, The Christie, NHS (National Health Services) Foundation, – https://www.christie.nhs.uk/media/5573/979.pdf