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How I learned to love my ostomy bag

Student, 19, begged doctors to remove it because she felt ashamed - but surgery complications forced her to get it back

When Sofia Ali started experiencing intense stomach pain in summer 2016, she initially assumed it was just a stomach bug.

But after she started to lose control of her bowels, she went to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.

When her condition worsened, the then-16-year-old, from Toronto, Canada, was forced to undergo surgery to have her intestine rerouted and she was fitted with an ostomy bag.

However, she longed for reversal surgery and had it performed one year later but, when her intestines began leaking, she had to have the bag refitted.

Sofia, now 19, say her bag is no longer her most hated feature and she said she wants to break the stigma surrounding the medical device.

Sofia said that when her symptoms first began, she using the bathroom more than 20 times a day and her bowel movements were often bloody.

‘My stomach pain was almost constant, and it got worse every time I ate anything. It only got better with pain medication,’ she said.

‘It wasn’t until I began to lose control of my bowel movements and was too weak to leave the house. Then I knew it was more than a stomach bug, so I went to the hospital.’

Staff performed ultrasounds and X-rays, but didn’t see anything wrong with Sofia, so they sent her home with laxatives.

However, Sofia’s condition quickly worsened so she decided to visit a different hospital.

She spent a week on IV fluids and had a colonoscopy done before being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

In October 2016, Sofia was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and low heart rate.

Doctors discovered her colon was perforated and feared it would become septic if they didn’t operate, so she was fitted with an ostomy bag.

‘As much as I was happy to be alive, I hated my ostomy,’ Sofia said. ‘I was so ashamed of the bag on my stomach. I thought that if people knew about it, they’d think I was gross and that no boys would ever want to be with me.’

Finally, in June 2018, Sofia had an MRI and CT scan performed, which revealed the leak in her intestines.

n July 2018, Sofia had to have her ostomy bag refitted. But she said her perspective on it changed.

‘Those months with my failed j-pouch showed me that my ostomy gave me my life back, and I am so grateful for that,’ she said.

She says she hopes that other people who are in the same situation as her can gain the same confidence.

‘Having an ostomy doesn’t put a stop to your life, it gives you your life back,’ Sofia said. ‘Ostomies aren’t gross, smelly or for old people – they are life-saving devices.’

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Posted on: April 5 2019

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