Ostomy Clinic at Cherry Hill Medical Office Building: Support for Patients Adapting to Life with Stomas

April 22, 2021

Adapting to life after an ostomy – a surgery that redirects the bowel to an opening (stoma) in the abdomen for waste to exit through an external pouch (colostomy bag) – can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.

Adequate and accessible follow-up, education, and support services are key to helping patients who’ve undergone ostomies live their best lives. This is why Dr. Thaer Obaid, colorectal surgeon at Jefferson Health – New Jersey, started the Ostomy Clinic at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital’s Medical Office Building – General Surgery & Specialty Care suite.

Held the 1st Thursday of every month, Dr. Obaid and his team of certified wound, ostomy, and continence nurses provide pre- and post-op care for patients with temporary or permanent stomas.

Statistically, nearly 1 million people in the U.S. live with some type of stoma, and every year, about 100,000 new ostomy surgeries are performed, shares Dr. Obaid.

An ostomy is commonly needed after surgical resections due to cancer – colon, rectal, bladder, or cervical – or to help manage a chronic gastrointestinal complication, such as diverticulitis or Crohn’s disease, explains Gillian Reeve, MSN, RN, CWOCN. While they don’t sound “pretty,” the ultimate purpose of an ostomy is to either allow you to heal or improve your symptoms.

At the Ostomy Clinic, common complications, such as skin irritation and/or sores around the stoma and pouch leakage, are assessed. However, these physical issues – while they’re incredibly important to resolve – aren’t the only hurdles associated with ostomies and colostomy bags.

“This change in physical functionality – and the loss of control of your bowel movements – also yields significant psychological impacts,” said Dr. Obaid. In fact, studies have shown that around at least 16-25 percent of patients will experience anxiety and/or depression shortly after their surgery.

“We’ve seen patients with agoraphobic tendencies; they don’t want to go out in public anymore. They’re afraid their bag is going to make them smell (which is a common misconception). They’re afraid to socialize or pursue romantic relationships. They’re afraid to exercise,” said Reeve.

The truth is, you don’t have to be, adds Dr. Obaid. Stomas and colostomy bags are incredibly manageable, and you can still live your life the way you did prior to surgery.

The Ostomy Clinic team strives to prioritize patients’ mental well-being as much as their physical. Patients are referred to mental health professionals, when necessary, and provided with educational resources and support groups to join.

If you or a loved one has had an ostomy, Dr. Obaid reminds us, “they’re meant to improve your life – not hold you back. If you have any questions or hesitancies regarding your stoma or colostomy bag, we are always here to help.”

For more information on Colorectal Surgery and Ostomy Clinic services at Jefferson Health – New Jersey, click HERE or call 856-665-2017.