By Donna Luce
I struggled with ulcerative colitis since the age of 39 and exhausted the whole gamut of emotions dealing with the disease… frustration, fear, anger… you name it, I’ve been through it. After many years of no relief and coping with never-ending symptoms, I was told by my doctor that I developed colon cancer. This diagnosis resulted in having ileostomy surgery in December, 2009 to remove my entire colon.
I wanted to return to my career as a muralist and faux painter soon after having ostomy surgery, but that seemed impossible since I couldn’t even tie my own shoes without fear that my appliance would spring a leak! How would I be able to climb ladders? Carry my tools? Wear a utility belt?
Wall pockets aren’t just for walls.
I purchased various items to protect the stoma area and tried different ways to cover the ostomy pouch, none of which worked well. One day I was in my garage, and happened to notice an old, hard plastic ‘wall pocket.’ Wall pockets and wall vases are two different terms for the same thing. These items are decorative pieces intended for hanging on a wall. The one I had was cylindrical, about six inches long, with a flat-sided back, and a nail hole at the top. It was cupped on the bottom and open at the top. When I flipped it around, it actually started to look like a resolution to my ostomy problem!
I immediately called my son who brought over his Dremel tool to cut a hole in the backside which allowed me to pull the pouch through an opening, while the cupped area covered the top section, protecting the stoma area. Although it was big and bulky, I didn’t care because it allowed me to wear jeans again, and seat belts didn’t bother me anymore, plus I slept better knowing this ‘cover’ helped prevent leaks at night. I went back to work with more confidence and less worry about injuries.
I thought about all the insecurities I went through after having ostomy surgery, and how this simple device helped me so much. I wondered if I could create an actual product that could help other ostomates. That idea was not so simple - for one, I didn’t know much about computers, in fact, I didn’t even own one! Secondly, I didn’t know anything about bringing a new product to market.
In order to do this I had to find solutions to my own obstacles.
I had to learn about product design, about patents, about materials, and business. I found a wonderful team at a local manufacturing facility that helped me reduce its size and add features that greatly improved the guard. Having just enough money to make a single model, I nicknamed the final product “Sanity” and brought the first Ostomy Resolutions Stoma Guard to market in 2014. Just recently a new lower profile guard was released which is more discreet. It's a 5/8” flat-faced model that's nicknamed “Vanity.”
When I hear how this product has helped others, I can completely relate because it did the same for me. My self-esteem was shattered after having ostomy surgery, however over time I began to heal, discovered my value, and found myself more compassionate to the needs of others. Stepping outside my comfort zone to create these products has been such a worthwhile experience.