Ostomy Surgery – the Beginning by BOA member Doris Miller

In the early 1950’s, anyone who had ulcerative colitis was treated with all the new medicines developed during the WWII. I had a very caring general practitioner at the time, and he tried all the new methods available to try to stop my UC. Nothing helped. So he checked me in at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York City. There I met Dr. Crohn, who diagnosed my case as ulcerative colitis, not Crohn’s disease and referred me to Dr. John Garlock, my savior.

At that time, surgeons did not want to do ileostomy surgery since very few appliances were available and the patients had a terrible time keeping themselves clean and dry.

So they did the surgery in two or three stages; first forming the ileostomy and letting the bowel rest in the hope it would heal and they could reconnect sometime in the future.

So I had my first surgery in February 1951 – they just formed he ileostomy. I was sent home to recover. I was down to 95 pounds – and I looked like a skeleton. At home my mother-in-law fed me every fattening food available, and by May, I was ready to go back to have the colon removed. That done, I resumed my life.
Meanwhile Dr. Lyons who at the time of my surgery was a resident under Dr. John Garlock advised me of the formation of a club meeting at Mt. Sinai Hospital and so I joined in September of 1951. It should be noted that the club was called the QT, not because we wanted to keep its reason for being quiet- rather because the patients who any kind of ostomy surgery were from wards “Q” and “T”.

At that time we were mostly colostomates, and the younger people in the group were ileostomates, and therefore were much younger and took over the work load of keeping the club active. We did lots of visiting. The rules were very different. We were sure to match visitor and patient, and ostomy surgery. We then helped the patient change their appliance, recommended types of products to use, diets to follow, etc. All this only after being requested for a visit from a doctor.
At that time we were using aluminum paste on the skin, and applying a liquid paste to the face of the appliance. Both the aluminum and liquid paste had to dry (2 – 3 minutes) and all the while you prayed your rosebud would stay quiet. The rules still applied; one drop of fecal matter and you had to start all over again. We soon learned not to change until long after we had eaten.

As far as my personal history is concerned, I have lived an active life. I swim, scuba dive; lived 2 weeks at a time on an 18’ boat when my husband and I vacationed in the keys during August every year, yes with the mosquitoes. When we moved to Florida in 1955, I drove a station wagon with one child and one cat and a trailer with some of our belongings. My husband was behind me with a 1 ton truck and one child and one cat and a trailer with the rest of our belongings. When we settled in, we opened a dry cleaning and laundry business, which we ran together with a wonderful couple who were our partners. She was the bookkeeper; I was not that smart.

I ran the laundry and pressed shirts (when we couldn’t get labor to do it.) If you think it gets hot in Florida, try working in a cleaning plant where we make our own steam. But we retired and spent 15 years touring our beautiful country. We slept in all 50 states ( yes we took a boat to Hawaii) the rest of the time we were living in a motor home. We took two tours of Alaska and spent 3 months there each time.
So to anyone who is a new Ostomate. Take it from a veteran ~ the only change in your life is that your plumbing has been redirected.