I have often described the rectum as the 5-inch deodorizer of the colon. Once that little section is removed, there is no comparison to the odor that comes out through an ostomy. I guess I can be thankful that I live in a house dominated by toilet humor!
The first time I emptied my colostomy in the hospital I asked the nurse if it would always smell so awful. She laughed a little, but didn’t really answer me. That may have been one of the top reasons that I have such a high regard for my wound care nurses (WOCN). One look at my stoma and my WOCN said – Oh! It’s so cute! They are like the output cheerleaders. While I was shocked at the stench coming out of the bag, she was there to swoop in with uplifting ostomy spirit! I think it takes a very special person to be an WOCN. If they have a negative attitude, it could easily impact the person with the new ostomy. These nurses must be screened pretty thoroughly, because I have yet to meet a WOCN that I didn’t like.
I don’t think I ever got over the shock of the smell, but maybe just a little less sensitive to it. Knowing that I can tolerate the smell, I tease that it would be hilarious to “burp the bag” (open it slightly to let out the gas) in a full elevator. I imagine I would be the only person walking out of the elevator that day with a trail of innocent passengers clinging to the walls and gasping for air as they crawled to the exit. Yep – I’ve thought about that a little too much. Oh! It would just be hilarious!
The smell of an ostomy bag is just unmistakable. It’s like a small bomb in a bag. It’s like going to get your toddler out of bed, but the smell of a sour diaper warns you that there is a blow-out waiting within those cute zip up pajamas – another smell that is unmistakable.
This morning I came downstairs, walked into the kitchen, poured my coffee, set the cup on the table and walked into the bathroom. Same morning routine as every other day, but with one foot in the door I knew there was a problem. I was greeted by the faint smell of an open colostomy bag. (A little ostomy knowledge here – when I have to change a colostomy bag, they get discarded in an opaque plastic bag. I think it’s to be discreet in public. People might be totally disgusted to see a transparent bag of poop sitting on the top of the garbage can in a public restroom.) Side note…dogs love ostomy bags and we have three dogs.
Like a police dog on a scent trail, I just followed the stench. Bathroom cabinet door open – that’s a problem. Trashcan turned over – bigger problem. No bag in sight – sirens are now going off in my head. The stench only starts in the bathroom. I turned around and followed the still lingering odor. The dogs ran for cover as I entered the living room. Living room?! NOOOOOO!!! In my head, it was like yelling NO into a mountainous valley with the echo repeating and repeating. NO! NO! NO!
Thankfully, I must have caught the guilty party within just a few seconds of the trashcan robbery. No huge mess. Just a Clorox wipe to be sure. No carpet scrubbing. No ostomy trash taken from one room to the next. Just a bag with a tiny chewed through opening.
Life with an ostomy is never dull! As a twenty-something dreaming of my future, cleaning up an ostomy mess at 5:00 a.m. never entered the picture!