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Feeling Ostomistic
Monday, January 08 2018

I know there has been a lot of posts around social media this past week (well, more so New Years Day) about the whole 'non resolutions' or how people were dropping the making resolutions as they either never stick or it makes people feel overwhelmed and anxious. This has something to do with the pressure placed on how it is a "new year new me" and that you internalise this pressure for the need to change yourself.... so it gets pretty depressing when it is the end of the year and you are yet to do one thing you set out to do.

amiright?


This was a snapshot of my best memories of 2017 - read my year in review post here

Well, I know for me I get horribly depressed each December when I realise that none of my unrealistic/unattainable goals weren't met, and I feel like a bit of a failure and get pretty hard on myself.

So this year I plan on doing something a little different... I give up on each year setting myself the task of finding that million dollar idea (maybe if I don't try so hard I will find it), or to feel bad that I didn't finish my uni degree, or that I haven't got a hot bod (#sorrynotsorry).

I am choosing 18 ACHIEVABLE things I want to accomplish in 2018.

#1. Self Care:
This is something I have been gradually introducing into my life since being sick, which feels like forever, but gradually over these 5 years I have been trying to focus more on putting my own needs first and focus on me more. So in preparation of this I have been reading "The Self-Care Project" written by Jayne Hardy who is the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation. I love the self care subscription boxes they offer through The Blurt Foundation and was how I first learned about their company when I was researching "pick me up gifts" for issue 1 of The Ostomistic Life.

I purchased the ebook version off Amazon and by a quarter of the way into the book I was astonished, I could have sworn it was me who had written this book as it was just so incredibly relatable. It definitely has me hooked! 

Self care isn't necassarily just candle lit bubble baths with a glass of bubbly and reading a book, it can be a whole range of things. It could be doing things that make you happy, here is a post I wrote back in 2016 about 5 things to do each to add happiness or meaning to my day. You could choose to meditate or do yoga, could do a course or learn a new skill, could do something on your bucket list, could volunteer, do a random act of kindness, buy yourself flowers, get pampered, get your hair done or watch a movie or show. 

#2. To read more:
I used to be a bit of a book worm back in the day, I often would be found skipping classes just to read books in the quad. I used to be able to read so quick and loved binge-reading a series. I felt so proud when my sister loved reading as much as I used to and had quite the impressive collection.

So I have been so focussed on micro managing every part of my day/life that I would say I was too busy to read or I didn't have the time, but I vow this year to make time to read more. Whether it be the ebooks I have stored on my ipad or tablet, or going old fashioned and reading the amassed pile of books I have acculumated over the past few years. So starting with reading "The Self-care project" I am setting myself the challenge of either reading 1 book a month or 18 books this year.

Let's do this!


Just some of the books sitting on my bedside on my "to read list" (pic from Jan last year)

#3. To say No more:
I am a people pleaser, I am notorious for putting the needs of others before myself and sacrificing myself in the process. I am struggling to recognise myself and part of the reason behind doing this self care and focussing on myself is to help me try and find or recognise myself again... so part of my self care is saying no to things that will cause me stress or anxiety or bring me misery and saying yes more to things that will bring me joy. Will see how I go, because it will be one of my biggest challenges yet.

In saying this though, there will be times where I say no simply because I am physically unable to do something due to pain or health, so I am sure this will cause more stress as some might think my health is an excuse? As I said, a challenge... but I am not putting my health at risk for a ridiculous deadline anymore.

#4. Reducing waste:
I watched the ABC series "War on Waste" (also on ABC iView) and it left me feeling sad and concerned for the world in 50 years. I have seen those dystopian movies and TV shows such as 100, Travellers, The Handmaid's Tale and the like, where the world decades or hundreds of years from now is in absolute ruin due to us humans, so watching this TV series about the impact we have on the environment definitely stops you in your tracks and makes you realise the need for change.

One of my favourite quotes from Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Change is hard and takes patience and a lot of baby steps, but you can't expect the world to be better or changed if you don't play a part yourself. 

So I have ordered some produce reusable bags from my Sister-In Law's business which will mean no longer using single use plastic bags for produce. We also plan on using environment friendly bags in replace of plastic bags and I hope to get a compost happening too.... as I said it will be hard, but I do hope it will help the environment.

I feel guilty sometimes being an ostomate, because my base plate and bags aren't biodegradable (that I'm aware of) so even if I used bio degradable garbage bags and buried it, it still wouldn't break down and would be just the same as putting it in the bin. So I hate having a bag that leaks multiple times a day as it means a lot of ostomy products are used and thrown away, and I feel guilty that I am impacting the environment.... but it can't be helped.

So if I can make changes in other areas of my life, it hopefully makes up for it somehow?

#5. See the snow:
I went to the snow years ago and loved skiing even though I was incredibly unco and fell over far too many times because I couldn't work out how to stop quickly enough... honestly, the stories are hilarious. It was the end of September and there was hardly any snow. But something I have always dreamed of was to see the snow, like think snow failing white Christmas.

I had always hoped to get to the US or Canada and see this in person myself, but while that dream won't happen, I am happy to settle for somewhere in Australia where it snows, there is a romantic log cabin with a fire and somewhere Russ and I can unwind and relax.

I have heard him say almost daily the past month that he truly wants to experience this with me. Watching all the romantic Christmas movies helped I think, but it has had him rather upset realising too all the things he wants to experience with me but not sure if we will.

It is hard sometimes trying to squeeze 80 years of experiences into as much time as we have left.

If you have suggestions, do let me know, I can't fly so anywhere that is easily train accessible or short driving trips in NSW will be best.

#6. Learn something new:
I am still undecided on what that NEW thing is yet to be, whether it is learn a craft or skill, or more complex like learn something I have thought about for a while like learning to feel confident again, learn how to be fashionable, learn how to edit videos, learn how to podcast or learn an instrument or learn to surf. HA okay, so the latter won't happen, but you get the drift.

I am doing a course right now cert 4 in screen and media and learning at the moment how to write children's stories.

#7. Write that damn book:
I have said for as long as I can remember that I wanted to write a book, I often thought about writing a children's book which who knows could happen if I can manage to do well in my course. I'll see where my writing takes me.

#8. Write a blog post a week:
This suggestion actually came from my wonderful GP last year, he told me to write more often and if not daily to write weekly. I guess this will be post #1 for the year? If you have a question or topic you want covered do reach out and let me know.

#9. Write a journal:
It has been a while since I have written a daily journal, but my GP thinks writing daily could be good. But I never really do ANYTHING lately that is worth jotting down. But it is 8 days in to this year I have already failed at this, I was given a diary for Xmas but Russ doesn't know where it is. I know I haven't done anything too exciting yet, but my GP thinks it could be beneficial.

All of these writing cues would be kind of life self care I guess, since it is cathartic and all.

#10. Regularly meet with a counsellor:
I have spoken openly on social media and on here about my mental health issues but in case you forgot I have depression, high functioning anxiety, borderline personality disorder, self diagnosed Excoriation Disorder and I think that mostly covers it. Anyway, I have been naughty and haven't seen anyone in a while and I know I need to. I have bottled so much up that I don't know how to contain it anymore and I have complex issues I am trying to work through and it is a little overwhelming at times. I don't feel like a repeat of my breakdown in June, it took months to recover.... I just need to make time and prioritise my mental health. Russ' roster has been changing and been hard to plan ahead of time for appointments, so I am really hoping this year to try harder to prioritise this.

I guess this would come under self care and taking time for my needs too.


My swimmers kindly gifted from Yours Clothing - LOVE them

#11. Go Swimming:
I haven't been to the beach in years, I know it sounds strange since I live minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, but it is hard when the beaches require long walks and not very accessible. It is something I miss and haven't been swimming in years, so I am hoping now that there is an accessible ramp installed at Back Creek South West Rocks that swimming could happen. I got gifted this beautiful pair of swimmers back in July that I am yet to wear swimming, so between trying to find a day where my pain is managable, where my stoma is behaving, that it lines up on a day Russ has off or that the weather was good has been tricky. Since it is school holidays everywhere is probably packed anyway, so I might wait until it is over. I don't want to spoil my first swim in years by my anxiety and fear over if I am being judged or laughed at. I am determined to make it happen - stay tuned!

Don't worry I plan on being sun safe and have my SPF50+ rashie from SunSoaked and my Sunbella parasol to help me too.

#12. Go Glamping:
I have wanted to go glamping for years, Russ loves camping but with my health issues I prefer the glamping idea. For 5 years I have had this on my bucket list, every year I say "this is the year" but something always comes up or we can't afford it. There is this place not far from here that do beach tents, it is at Red Rock (one of my fave spots) so I'd like to manage a couple of days away in March for our birthdays - since I was in hospital for Russ' I really wanted to make up for it this year. So maybe this could be when I manage my much awaited swim.

#13. Have a holiday:
This could be the past 2 cues, but it has been a while since we have had a proper holiday where the one thing on our to do list is to relax. Our last proper holiday was March 2015, was just after being in hospital for months and learning of a couple of new cancer diagnosis and I booked this place in Kingcliff for a week. I have always wanted to go back, they had the most wonderful pool and it was so relaxing. I really would like to do something this year, Russ needs a holiday.

#14. Explore the Coast:
For years we have said we wanted to see more of the coast. If only Russ could legally tow a caravan a friend offered up their brand new luxe caravan and land rover anytime we wanted it. Russ is only on his green provisionals so will be another 18 months before he can drive it, but it definitely would help make our bucket listing adventures more affordable. But until then, we hope to do day trips exploring different parts of the coast such as seeing the Jacaranda festival in Grafton, visiting Yamba and Maclean, Visiting Wooli, Laurieten and Bonny Hills, go on the ferry at Port Macquarie, Visit Foster and Tuncurry, go on a picnic to Yarrahappini and so forth.

We still have bucket listing adventures for Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and beyond. I am just wanting to see so much!

I am just really hoping to see/experience new places this year.


Red Rock, NSW - where we had our wedding anniversary - a favourite place of mine

#15. Renew our vows:
I really wanted to do this for our 7th wedding anniversary last year, but spent the next few months in bed with pain and didn't manage to find time to do what I had hoped... I had this epic idea I wanted to do, so I do hope to do it in pieces throughout this year and reveal my big plan.

I had always said when we get to 10 years we would renew somewhere fun and overseas, but not sure that dream of international travel is managable or if I could make it to our 10 wedding anniversary.

#16. Get back on our feet financially:
It has been really hard to feel like we aren't drowning at times in our finances. Our bank is the worst, you may recall how they no longer are letting me do my own banking because I have cancer and they believe I no longer am of sound mind - all because I asked for the 1.5% less advertised rate... so because I knew it would save us money doing so they then questioned my judgement... so I am not allowed to do my own banking unless a lawyer is present. I can't afford a lawyer so I am backed into a corner and feel trapped. It has been many months of stress and worry.

We tried to apply to several other banks who all declined us because we didn't have savings (everything went into our house) and so we had hoped to even consolidate everything into one loan to make repayments easier and more affordable but were declined. Despite having equity in the property. It is hard to have savings when every cent is going into the house, our debt, living expenses, medical expenses and the list goes on.

I am just hoping this year we have better luck and if we can't at least consolidate everything that we can find a new bank for our home loan. I just want out of their grip, just like Britain wanted out of the EU. If we can get a new bank and debt consolidation everything will be more easier, we might even afford a mini holiday.

Part of this is finding a new bank too. I just want and need everything to be tidied up and managable ready for Russ to take over when I die.

#17. See a waterfall:
I have long dreamed of seeing a waterfall. We hope to get out to Dorrigo. I know there is a beautiful one in Woolgoolga but the wheelchair isn't designed for offroad 4x4.

#18. Try to get my pain under control:

I spent the better part of last year struggling with my pain. I know my doctors are doing their best to manage it, but it really is hard and affects so many aspects of my life. It is debilitating, exhausting, it makes me frustrated and irritable, it messes with my mental health and it just sucks. It is hard to manage getting out of bed most days let alone manage an hour of getting out and about. I missed out on a lot last year and I don't want to miss out on life this year because of pain.

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I know it was a long post, but I thought 18 made sense since you know it is 2018 and all. I feel good that it is all written down but now overwhelmed, which is ironic, but I will do seperate posts throughout the year both here and on social media documenting how I go... it means I can hold myself accountable now since I have told you all about this.

My list honestly could have continued such as "yet to finish unpacking", "yet to manage that room makeover" and so on. I just decided to choose things that will either improve my life, bring me joy or are somewhat achievable for this year.... and if I win the lotto that is a bonus!

Russ asked me what I have been writing/working on the past couple of days, he then rattled off a list of 18 things he *felt* I should do instead which all involved him and were very much Russ focussed or specific. I laughed and said, your list kind of defeats the purpose of several things on my list like taking time for me and saying no and putting me first.

To be fair, his list was most of what I do anyway which was:
1. give Russ head scratches
2. Give him foot rubs and massages
3. Run a bubble bath for Russ
4. To go fishing
5. To go camping
6. To get roof racks and go canoeing
and so on..... but I was kind of proud that he is taking initiative when it comes to his own self care and recognising what he needs to do for his own mental health too.


One of the best moments of last year, my first tattoo drawn by Jubly-Umph

Here's hoping 2018 is a good year and that I can do some of these things if not all. Despite spending over 80% of the year in bed last year, the times I did bucket list stuff or was out and about are some of my most cherished memories looking back, those memories I remember on my bad days.

I wish you a HNY2018 and wishing you health, love, success, happiness and clarity this year.

Thank you for reading, feel free to share something you hope to do this year in the comments below:

Posted by: Talya AT 11:23 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 14 2017

If you have just read part 1, You will have learned: how heat can affect those who are vulnerable or sick or with an ostomy; what are the different heat related illnesses to look out for; what are the symptoms of the heat illnesses; and lastly, how/what to do under each situation.

NB: It is important to remember that this is just an informative guide only and I am not a nurse or doctor, and any individual circumstances or advisement is based on each person's own circumstances. If you have questions to follow it up with your team.

So in this Part 2, I will be sharing tips to help you be more prepared for the weekend

But just in case you haven't read part 1 yet, basically here in Australia we are preparing for an extreme heat wave which will occur over the weekend and most of Australia will be experiencing temps of 35'c-45'c+.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

I have an ostomy, ileostomy to be exact, I also have other chronic co-morbid health issues/illnesses and take various medications which put me at higher risk of sun related illnesses.

I started writing this post a couple of years ago but never finished it in time for it to be relevant, so I am finishing it ahead of this weekend, I only hope it might help someone to be more informed of their own circumstances and to know what to do.

To read part 1, click here:

Also keep in mind anyone you know who might be at a higher risk of suffering with the heat, it could be a neighbour who is elderly and lives alone, or it could be checking in on a friend, just to make sure they are doing okay - as the heat can affect many in different ways.

Part 2: Being prepared and tips to surviving the heatwave

I thought it might just be helpful to share different tips to help you get through the heatwave, if you have your own be sure to comment.

Tip #1: Never leave kids or pets alone in a car
I know this hopefully is common knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many times I have been at the shops and found pets or kids sitting in the car while their parents or owners shopped. Even with the windows down or leaving the car running with the air conditioning going, the car is still going to be hot.

Even on a "cool day" this is a no-no. While the temp outside might only be 25'c the temps inside that car can be 55-70'c! It can rise 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so imagine how hot it would be on a day during a heatwave.... scary to think. The damage it can do is increase a child's body temperature, which could lead to brain damage... not to mention what it does to pets too. 

I have seen videos and experiements where a chef has cooked a lamb while inside a car, to a vet documenting what it is like in a car. I do not suggest trying it out yourself, there are plenty of videos and information out on the interwebs about the consequences to leaving pets or kids in cars, which can be deadly.

A child left in a parked car under those conditions for even a few minutes can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and can die from organ failure. If you see anything, you need to act quickly. If you wait, it can be too late.

What to do if you see a child or pet in the car?
The NRMA advises: You must make a judgment call as to whether it is a life and death situation and you would need to break a window yourself and call an ambulance, or whether you should call 000 and ask for police, who will get there as urgently as they can (and will break the window themselves) and they will call an ambulance.

If the child is clearly distressed, do not wait for help. Instead, break a window and remove the child from the vehicle until help arrives. If you break a window, and the child is simply asleep and it turns out not to be an emergency, it is possible that you could be required to pay for the window.

You don't have to be an NRMA member to call for roadside assistance if it is in less urgent circumstances. Because of the grave danger involved, the NRMA drops everything to respond immediately to calls where a child is locked in a car.

For pets: Visit Just 6 minutes, a site by the RSPCA which outlines that it takes only 6 minutes of a dog left in a car to die. Here is a factsheet of pet first aid if you can rescue the pet from the car and can wait until the owner arrives. Call 000 immediately and ask what you're legalities are if you can smash the window. But some states you can receive a $200k fine and imprisonment for leaving a pet in the car.

Tip #2: Have plenty of water
Water is important for helping you to stay rehydrated, make sure you have plenty to drink. Consider taking a bottle of water to someone who is experiencing homlessness, they might not have adequate access to water, it might not be a lot but it is a nice gesuture to look out for someone who is at high risk of heat related illnesses.

You should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty. 

Tip #3: Have electrolyte replacement on hand
If you're like me and have an ostomy and need to replenish lost electrolytes, make sure you have enough to get you through the weekend. I try and have a 1L bottle of sports drinks, I get the powder and mix in the water, and have a few of these made up in my fridge ready. You can consult with your Nurse or dietician over what is the best option for you to replace your lost electrolytes. Due to having no large bowel I am at risk of dehydration, which is worse in Summer and extreme heat. Salts and minerals are vital for your body's functionality.

Also important if you don't have an ostomy but have gastro or vomiting bugs during a heatwave too. Hydrolyte is an electrolyte drink which also comes in the form of icypoles too and can be found from most supermarkets or chemists.

Tip #4: Stay cool
This is important, especially if you struggle with body regulation, you need to find somewhere cool. Air conditioned is preferable, if your home isn't air conditioned maybe ask a neighbour or friend if you could join them, otherwise hit the shops and enjoy their air condiitioning too. If you don't have air conditioning find somewhere cool in your house and put on a fan. You could go to the library, cinema, art galleries, cafes too.

If you are outdoors try and find a nice shaded tree and be sure to keep hydrated.

You could also use one of those battery operated hand held mist fans Kmart have them for $5-$10, or a spray bottle with water in it to help.

A cool tip, get it (lol) I have one of my heatpacks in a zip lock bag and in my freezer. This turns into a cold pack and means I have a cool option too. I get my heatpack/cold packs from Chatterbox City.

Tip #5: Keep plenty of drinks in the fridge prepared
Fill as many bottles as possible and put in the fridge, some could be cordials or soft drinks, but limit the alcohol. Plenty of cool drinks will help keep you cool

Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Firstly, ice blocks or icypoles are a great way to keeping cool and hydrated in Summer. You could also freeze water bottles so they last cooler for longer, if you are going to the beach. Ice packs are good to keep on hand in case of first aid and if you need to aid in cooling someone down. See part 1 for how this works.

Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
This will help keep your house cooler, even if you have air conditioning going, keeping the blinds drawn will help your system to not have to work overtime too. But if you don't have air conditioning it will still help if you have a fan too.

Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Avoid wearing lots of layers and wear something light and breathable, this will not only help in keeping your body cool but will aid in your body trying to regulate it's temperature. Avoid wearing dark or black coloured clothing. Clothing light in colour reflects the light better.

Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe
Slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, a hat, sunnies and a shirt are not only safe ways of being out in the sun but also help in preventing melanoma. If you must be out in the sun keep out of the sun as much as possible - during a heatwave you should be minimising your sun exposure. Seek out shade.

Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Even if it is overcast, you can still get burnt and when you're swimming sunscreen washes or rubs off after time, so everytime you come out of the water or as often as indicated on the bottle: reapply. Also if you do happen to get burnt, have some cooling after sun gel in the fridge to help your skin cool down, aloe vera fresh from the garden helps too.

Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
If you're planning on laying on the beach and reading a book, chances are you could fall asleep and get sun stroke. A heatwave isn't the right time to do this, seek out shelter or shade or plan your trip to the beach on a day where the weather isn't as hot.

Tip #12: in case of a blackout
It is important having items such as a torch, a battery operated fan, extra batteries, bottled water and first aid kit on hand in case of a power outage. Also, wrap medications that need to be refrigerated (such as insulin pens) in foil or place in an heat repellent container with some ice in case of power failure.

Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
This is self explanatory, but this might help to keep the house cool of a night or the next day if air gets circulating around, remember to draw the blinds early in the morning to keep the heat out and the cool in.

Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Pets can be particularly vulnerable to the heat. Make sure they have shade and plenty of cool water to last the day. If you live near the bush, consider leaving a bowl or bucket of water out for any Koalas, kangaroos, dogs or cats or other animals that might want water.

Fill a kids clam pool sand pit thing with water and put in the shade and let your dog cool down when he needs to.

Tip #15: Keep your body cool but not freezing
It is important to remember that while you want to cool your body down that you aren't changing your temperature too quickly or suddenly. You could go swimming or lay in a bath if you run the cool water before the hot to cool down. You could set the sprinkler up or a water slide, brings back good memories being a kid and having a tarp and sprinkler on the yard and having a good old time. Just remember to be sun smart too!

Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Keep a close eye on those most at risk, like the sick, the elderly and the young (a full list of vulnerable at risk perspns is in part 1). Do this at an arranged time at least twice a day. The heat affects everyone differently and adversely, be sure to make sure they have plenty to eat.

Tip #17: Watermelon
Would it be an Aussie summer without watermelon? I love watermelon, it is full of water plus it is a good source of electrolytes too! Make it fun by using cookie cutters to make fun shapes too. If you get sick of water, maybe have some watermelon to help replenish you. Your body will thank you too, it is oozing with benefits too. 

Tip #18: Foods
Enjoy delicious salads and cold meats for dinner, while a hot meal is delicious, it will only make you sweat and feel hot cooking away in the kitchen. But with the heatwave foods like strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, celery, tomatoes and broccoli and lettuce contain water, which can be benefitial towards your water intake.

Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
I get rashes on my stomach under where my bag sits against my skin, especially when it is hot. I found last year if I wore an ostomy pouch bag cover it helped to relieve the rash as it wasn't plastic on my skin and it worked as a barrier between my skin and bag. If you find you get rashes too maybe speak to your nurse as she might have some bag covers or be able to point you in the right direction to where online you can find them. I had a friend make me some. Theres heaps of options if you google too.


My cover a friend made for me

Tip #20: Mashmallows
I find when I am dehydrated or in Summer my output is more watery. It is hard sometimes to keep my hydration up when this happens, but I have some marshmallows and immodium to help thicken my output. Sometimes a watery output is a sign of a blockage too, be mindful of this as you may need medical attention.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

I hope that you have found these 2 posts helpful on how to prepare for a heatwave with an ostomy, I know they have been long posts but there was a lot of information I needed to share with you. These posts do not replace the information of that of your nurse or doctors, it is a guide to help inform you of the risks and tips on getting through the heatwave safely.

Please be sure to seek medical attention if you require it and don't delay, heat related illnesses are deadly serious.

More Links through my research:
- On how medication/heat affects you:
- Heat related illnesses and what to do: NSW health
- SES heatwave fact sheet
- SES heatwave tips
- ABC heatwave tips
- Know your risk
- Heat and children: NSW health
- Cancer Council Australia slip slop slap seek
- Just 6 minutes pet first aid
- NRMA children in a hot car

If you have another tip, be sure to let me know in the comments below. To read part 1, click here

Posted by: Talya AT 10:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 14 2017

NB: I am not a doctor or nurse, I am sharing information through my own experiences and also that of various credible sites online. The heat and how it may affect you can differ based on personal health issues, so please do speak to a professional regarding how to be safe in Summer based on your own needs. I am sharing the advice I have found and learned in the hopes it may help you to have a better awareness of how to prepare and endure the heatwave.

Here in Australia, we are 14 days into our Summer. We had a fairly non-existent Winter where we live near in northern NSW, and it honestly felt like a mild Summer. I don't recall having to wear a jumper at all and some nights we needed the air conditioning on. But temps were always around 30'c, it was so dry and warm that our grass and plants were rather dead looking - thankfully, after a lot of water and work, the lawn and garden are thriving.

But it did make me worry about the sort of heats and Summer to prepare for, and if going off the predictions for this weekend - I had a right to worry.

So this weekend, particularly Sunday and Monday, most of Australia will be experiencing temperatures ranging between 35'c to over 45'c, we are told this could be the first of many extreme heatwaves we'll need to prepare for this Summer.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

..... 14 days in to December, this is going to be a long hot Summer!

Part 1: Knowing your risk and what to do

I know you're probably thinking, "big deal just go to the beach, no biggie" - well it actually is a big deal, especially to those vulnerable in the community which includes:
The homeless
The elderly
Children
Pregnant women or breastfeeding women
Those who are sick, including those who have health conditions such as Diabetes, lung disease, breathing issues, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure or who take medications that make them vulnerable
☀ Those with conditions that affect sweating
☀ People with cancer
Those with an ostomy
Those who work outdoors or in factories or hot working environments
Athletes or people who exercise vigorously in the heat
Those who are obese, overweight or aren't very mobile
☀ Those with an acute illness such as an infection, fever, or gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and/or vomiting)
☀ Those who live alone or don't have much social support
☀ Those who enjoy the outdoors including gardening
☀ Those with Mental health issues or dementia
☀ Those who drink alcohol or use drugs
Not to forget our furry friends too!

During heatwaves you can be at risk of heat related illnesses such as heat stroke, dehydration, overheating or hyperthermia, heat cramps. Heat can also worsen health conditions too. During this time the extreme heatwaves can attribute to bushfires or power outages (blackouts) too, so it is important to be prepared.

Summer and heat realated health issues and illnesses need to be taken seriously as it can lead to deaths, heart attacks, strokes and more.

How does having an ostomy put me at risk during a heatwave?
If you're like me and have an ostomy (or have had bowel surgeries before) you could be at a higher risk of dehydration and feeling vulnerable to heat related illnesses. This is to do with the loss of bowel and without your large bowel your body might not be reabsorbing essential vitamins and minerals such as electrolytes. This is why doctors and stoma nurses suggest replenishing your electolytes to avoid dehydration. So it is essential at the best of times to monitor and replenish your minerals and stay hydrated.

Then add in sweating and extreme heat to the mix and you're more susceptible to becoming dehydrated and suffering due to the heat. Aside from drinking plenty of fluids, also drink electrolyte drinks such as sports drinks or even icypoles filled with all of your delicious minerals and vitamins. Be sure to ask your stoma nurse or dietician what else you can do to help.

With the dehydration issues aside (I will share signs to look out for below) heat can also affect your stoma, such as: by your bag not adhering to your skin properly, using tapes/boomerangs these can help to secure your bags; you might get a heat rash, I know in Summer I get a heat rash where my bag sits against my stomach, I find wearing stoma covers helps with the irritation; Your output might be more watery due to dehydration, so have some marshmallows or gastro stop/immodium to thicken your output. Just remember your spare stoma kit and supplies if you do go out, just incase you happen to have a leak.

It is important to also keep in mind (during the heatwave) that if you are outdoors, doing any strenuous activities such as sports or gardening with an ostomy, you are at risk of heat cramps too. I will explain more about heat cramps below, but essentially due to excessive sweating the body loses water and salts (electrolytes) and when the salts in the muscles get really low these cause cramps. If your electrolyte levels are at risk of being low consider avoiding activities that might put you at risk of heat cramps, at least until you are rehydrated and the weather is as normal as it will be during Summer.

So what is dehydration and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, when the weather is very hot, the body has to work very hard and produce a lot of sweat to keep itself cool. During extreme heatwaves, our bodies sweat a lot, which can lead to dehydration if we aren't careful. Mild to moderate dehydration makes the heart work faster and leads to reduced fluid available for sweating.

NSW health says the symptoms/signs of dehydration to look out for are:
Dizziness and tiredness
Irritability
Thirst
Bright or dark yellow urine
Loss of appetite
Fainting

So what should you do if you or a loved one are dehydrated? NSW health offers this advice:
☀ Drink plenty of water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water) and avoid tea, coffee or alcohol
☀ Move somewhere cool, ideally air-conditioned
☀ If possible use a spray bottle with water to cool yourself down
☀ If you start to feel unwell, seek medical advice

So what are heat cramps and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity (e.g. sport or gardening). The sweating causes the body to lose salt and water. The low salt levels in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps and they can be a symptom of heat exhaustion".

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Muscle Pains
Muscle Spasms

So what should you do if you or a loved one are suffering with heat cramps? NSW health offers this advice: 
☀ Stop all activity and lie in a cool space, legs slightly raised
☀ Drink water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water)
☀ Have a cool shower or bath
☀ Massage your limbs to ease spasms, apply cool packs
☀ Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside (exertion may lead to heat exhaustion/heat stroke)
☀ Seek medical advice if there is no improvement

So what is heat exhaustion and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke."

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Heavy sweating (cool and moist skin)
☀ Pale skin
☀ Fast and weak pulse rate
☀ Shallow and fast breathing
☀ Muscle weakness or cramps
☀ Tiredness and dizziness
☀ Headache
☀ Nausea or vomiting
☀ Fainting

What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
 Move to a cool place, ideally air-conditioned and lie down
☀ Remove excess clothing
☀ Take small sips of cool fluids
☀ Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
☀ Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat
☀ If symptoms worsen or if there is no improvement, seek urgent medical advice and call an ambulance if necessary

So what is heat stroke and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and occurs when the body temperature rises above 40.5°C. Immediate first aid is very important, aim to lower body temperature as quickly as possible."

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Heavy sweating (cool and moist skin)
☀ Sudden rise in body temperature
☀ Red, hot and dry skin (sweating has stopped)
☀ Dry swollen tongue
☀ Rapid pulse
☀ Rapid shallow breathing
☀ Intense thirst
☀ Headache
☀ Nausea or vomiting
☀ Dizziness or confusion
☀ Poor coordination or slurred speech
☀ Aggressive or bizarre behaviour
☀ Loss of consciousness, seizures or coma

What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
 Immediately call 000 and ask for an ambulance
☀ Get the person into the shade, lay them down, and keep them as still as possible
☀ Give small sips of cool fluids if conscious and able to drink
☀ Bring their temperature down using any method available (sponging with cool water, cool shower, spraying with cool water from a garden hose or soaking clothes with cool water)
☀ Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat
☀ Do not give aspirin or paracetamol; they do not help and may be harmful
☀ If unconscious, lay the person on their side (recovery position) and check they can breathe properly
☀ Perform CPR if needed

I know that this is a long and comprehensive guide on the signs and symptoms pertaining to heat related illnesses and what to do in terms of First Aid, in the next post (part 2) I will talk about being prepared and tips for enduring the heatwave.

Again, I am no health professional, I have only done 2 years of Nursing, but I just wanted to put as much information out there from reliable sources to help you be more informed when it comes to the heat and Summer... especially with an ostomy or any health issue, which can make your risk heightened. Please seek medical attention and don't delay, also remember to slip slop slap!

Please be safe and be mindful of how your medications can affect you with the heat, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are worried.

To read Part 2, click here

 

Posted by: Talya AT 08:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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~  Living with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - Effects of FAP  ~

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Talya Goding - Feeling Ostomistic   talya@feelingostomistic.com.au  |  0447 426 860

Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.

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