Think about things that could make your life easier when you return to work after stoma surgery
Have you started to think about going back to work after your stoma surgery? Or perhaps you are just starting back at work? It’s well worth thinking about things that you may need to make your job easier. Let’s be honest, though, sometimes it’s hard to know what you will actually need until you have gone back. Hopefully this blog will provide some inspiration.
I certainly wasn’t sure at first what I might need, other than wearing support wear. I work with autistic adults so there is a lot of bending down and using my core muscles - support wear was a definite necessity. There are plenty of different companies and types of support wear to suit your personal needs so it’s just a case of trying what’s out there. I like Comfizz vests for work best as they are lightweight. If you also work with heavy lifting, training might be required around lifting techniques (although please don’t rush into this – I’d hate to think people are just going straight back to work and lifting things as they would before surgery as it’s a huge hernia risk!)
Full change of clothes
I only realised about the next thing I needed when I unfortunately leaked quite badly three days in a row whilst at work. After the first leak, I made sure I always had a full change of clothes rather than just a top. I also had to make a point of putting my foot down about my supplies being kept easily accessible in the house I work at (we don’t have lockers in our workplace) so that I always had them to hand. Due to health and safety they really needed to be close by, as walking through a kitchen with leaking faeces is not going to go down well with anyone! My colleagues didn’t bat an eyelid at my keeping supplies in the house because, thankfully, they understood.
Phased return to work
I was lucky that I didn’t need to change my hours on account of my surgery but everyone’s recovery is different and you may need to go back to work with a phased return. I definitely think that keeping your employer in the loop is the best way. Keep copies of all sick notes and correspondence just to safeguard yourself in case you need it - there is always one colleague or manager who doesn’t understand about ostomies and who could potentially cause trouble. You may feel like you aren’t ready to go back to lone working just yet or that you need extra support. My company is pretty good at sorting refresher training or having a trainer willing to find solutions which is a bonus.
Find somebody to confide in
I was very open about my stoma surgery and what I was having done but it was easier as I had worked with my colleagues for a long time and I class them as friends so they knew I was really sick. Not everyone wants people to know and that is fine too but I do suggest that you choose one close colleague or someone in management you can trust if possible to let know. Make sure you tell them that you aren’t going public about it. It is so important to have someone to confide in, who can offer a break when things get hectic.
Understand your limits
Understanding your limits is especially important whilst you are learning what your essentially new body is capable of. I used to sometimes do 4 12 hour nightshifts in a row but soon learnt that, following surgery, it was far too much for me so I had to tell my employers. Let’s face it, your employer would rather that you are well and working so they are likely to try and help you be the most productive that you can be.
Work is such a big thing for many people - it can help give them a sense of worth and confidence or it can break them down. Going to work after stoma surgery armed with as much information as possible to help you with your job is always a good start.
Of course, we all have different jobs so some things in this blog may not apply perfectly to you - if you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.