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Ginny Hamisch

Ileostomy - United States

Spending a year in children's hospital and ending up with an ileostomy wasn't how I expected my life to be.

When I was ten years old, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and suffered for two years. I spent another year at Stanford Children's Convalescent Home and continued to go downhill until I weighed only 56 pounds. At that time, the doctors told my parents about an ileostomy, a fairly new surgery. They were out of options and it was a last effort to save my life.

Back then, they didn't have ostomy appliances. If they did, they didn’t tell us about it. I woke up with a turkey-roasting bag taped to my abdomen.

In September 1955, at age 13, I had the surgery. Back then, they didn't have ostomy appliances. If they did, they didn’t tell us about it. I woke up with a turkey-roasting bag with a hole poked in it taped to my abdomen. My mom and I began making our own appliances from quart freezer bags, which were new on the market at that time. We cut down toilet paper tubes wrapped in plastic wrap. We adapted new things and threw out the ones that didn't work. Even at that age, I knew there had to be a better way.

Even though figuring out the appliance was rough, physically it was like being born again. I could eat things I hadn't eaten for years. I gained weight, started to develop naturally and became healthy once again. I graduated from high school and went away to college. In 1963, I met and married my wonderful husband. We’ve been married for 53 years. Together, we have traveled the world-- from Europe, Africa, South America and heli-hiking in Alaska and beyond. I am very active, and I staying healthy by power-walking several times a week and attending reformer Pilates classes.

I just want people to know that they can have a very long and active life with an ostomy. I did, and I’m glad I never gave up.

I just want people to know that they can have a very long and active life with an ostomy. I did, and I’m glad I never gave up.

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