Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stoma: There is someone who understands my condition. (Story #2 out of 2)

Nurse Saori Oami distributed these fliers at the evacuation center to let the staffs know about the patients who use stoma.

A woman (44) of Watari, Miyagi Prefecture, who has a stoma on the abdomen, thought she should be washed away by tsunami for a moment right after the earthquake struck on March 11. But on second thought, she ran to the second floor of her house along with her mother (74). The two spent the night there.

They were rescued by a self-defense force helicopter on the afternoon of the next day. They reunited with the woman’s father who had evacuated earlier and their evacuee life began at a local school’s gymnasium.

The woman could not take extra colostomy bags for fecal collection with her this time again. The town employees at the evacuation center provided her with colostomy bags but the problem was that it took her at least 40 minutes to change bags.

She waited until other evacuees at the center were fast asleep and told the evacuation center staff that she would need a bathroom for a longer time due to her stoma. “What is a stoma?” was some of their replies. “That’s life,” she thought.

People with a stoma have no control with bowel movements or gas. Many of them worry about odor and noise and they hesitate to go out. The woman was no exception. In fact, she felt stressed at the center where she had to share space with strangers. To make matters worse for her, the colostomy bags provided to her were different from what she normally used and she felt apprehensive that the bags might leak.

Then Ms. Saori Oami (38) from Miyagi Shakai Hoken Hospital (Sendai City) visited the woman. Ms. Oami is a nurse specializing in supporting and teaching stoma care for people with an artificial opening, such as an artificial anus or an artificial urinary bladder.

The woman told Ms. Oami that she wanted to be washed away by tsunami and that the evacuation center staff’s response to her special needs had hurt her. The two talked in a private room for about two hours. Ms. Oami taught the woman how to cope with odor and skin irritation around a stoma due to the appliances the woman had to wear. Knowing that there was someone who understands her condition made her feel better. She came to be able to use a private room for changing colostomy bags at the evacuation center.

Ms. Oami realized that the dignity of the people with an artificial anus or an artificial urinary bladder was left behind even though excretions directly affect human dignity.

Ms. Oami visited the evacuation center again a week later. “We can talk right here,” said the woman. And she started talking about her current condition in her own space where there were some other evacuees around. Ms. Oami felt that the woman had a more relaxing look than last time.

In April, the woman moved to other evacuation center. She has no idea when she could move into temporary housing. She is hoping that there would be no one who would have to go through what she had experienced if another disaster should happen.

The Asahi Shimbun, April 29, 2011

Translated by Mikiko Yamashita

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