A young woman has credited the stoma bag she dreaded getting for giving her back her life.
Veterinary surgeon Emma Huntley underwent the medical procedure in May 2022 after battling ulcerative colitis. She was diagnosed with the condition in July 2018, which causes inflammation of the lower end of the digestive system including the large bowel and rectum, led to debilitating symptoms including passing blood and vomiting. This eventually led to part of her bowel being perforated.
Prior to getting the operation, she feared that wearing a stoma bag on the outside of her tummy to collect faeces would change the way she looked forever. Emma’s stoma bag works by bypassing her waste away from her damaged colon.
Now the 25-year-old, who lives in Carmarthen, Wales, with her partner Will, 24, a mechanical engineer, is keen to raise awareness about how stoma bags can positively transform people’s lives.
“I knew a stoma bag was something I would likely have to face eventually but I never expected to be so young,” she explained.
“I had thought I would be in my 30s or 40s by the time I had the procedure, so to be 25 was a shock. I dreaded the surgery.”
Emma is now proud to share how the stoma has made her feel liberated.
“The stoma changed my life for the better and gave me a completely new lease of life.
“Before, I was going to the loo up to 16 times a day, experienced severe abdominal pain and started passing blood."
She added: “I was so limited and scared to leave the house in case I needed to go to the loo. Now, I’m back at work and feel like I have my normal life back again. It’s incredible.”
While Emma received her diagnosis in 2018, she believes she has experienced symptoms since she was 12.
“For a long time, I passed off the symptoms as nothing serious, just a bit of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), but as the years went on and I got older, the effects got worse.
“I was running to the toilet up to 16 times a day which led to weight loss and nausea.”
As the symptoms progressed, Emma says that it began to restrict her life. “I’ve always been really into fitness and I love running but I found that I couldn’t risk venturing out for a run in case I realised I suddenly needed the toilet while being five miles from home.
“It meant I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed any longer.”
She is now training for the 2023 Brighton marathon in aid of the charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK, after undergoing the six-hour stoma surgery. “I was sore from the actual procedure but I just remember waking up and feeling so much better internally.”
“I can fully embrace my job, I am not in pain, I have loads more energy, and can get back into my fitness and running without the fear of having a toilet emergency.
“I feel as if I’ve taken my life back, which is so empowering.”
“My life really has changed thanks to the stoma – it’s saved my life.”
For more information on Crohn’s or Colitis, visit crohnsandcolitis.org.uk
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