Dec 9, 2015
Approximately 21,000 stoma operations are performed in the UK each year. Stoma surgery is life-changing so it is vital that recent patients are provided with all the support and information they need to adapt to living with a stoma.
The Colostomy Association’s open day volunteers provide information about our services, signpost recent patients to other charities and groups, share their experiences about living with a stoma and are able to answer any questions or concerns a new ostomates may have.
Covering open days throughout Northern Ireland is Chris Wright. Since 2011, Chris has attended hundreds of open days and helped support new patients as they come to terms with living with an ostomy.
For many patients, our open day volunteers can be the first ever ostomates they speak with. Meeting a confident and experienced volunteer living with a stoma can make a huge difference to a new patient and help them understand that they can still live a normal life with a stoma.
The work of an open day volunteer goes beyond simply manning a stall. Our volunteers must be knowledgeable about the services that the Colostomy Association and other charities provide so that they can signpost people. They must be able to work closely with local Stoma Care Nurses and be able to answer the variety of questions and concerns new patients may have.
One of the biggest challenges for Chris as an open day volunteer is being able to assist everyone who comes to his stall: “One of the difficulties I am sure all the volunteers experience is when it is particularly busy and someone wants to tell you their life story while you are looking over their shoulder at others sifting through the leaflets on the table.
“It’s something of a diplomatic exercise to wrench yourself away to attend to the others without offending the person who probably just wants someone to talk to for a short while.”
However, Chris finds the role rewarding knowing that he has helped new patients. Chris said: “It’s an absolute joy. You learn so much from the experience of others - as much as the amount of advice you give to them. Listening is very important to make them feel valued. We were once new to managing a colostomy and had to be somewhat inventive and there are lots of handy tips to be picked up at open days that can be passed on to others in relevant circumstances.”
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