Dealing with shame of Stoma
FOLLOWING an incident that nearly killed him, a Soweto man is eager to remove the shame that patients feel when they make use of colostomy bags.
Branny Mthelebofu, who studied for Bachelor of Science degree, has become an "expert" at using a colostomy bag, which is a surgical bag that is attached to a patient's abdomen and is used to collect faeces.
However, using it can be complicated as patients have to deal with the smell of the bag's contents and have to constantly keep the bag attached to their stomach.
In partnership with the Gauteng department of health in 2009, Mthelebofu researched stomas at public hospitals in Ekurhuleni, which revealed a high number of people who had stoma operations.
A stoma is a surgically created opening in the body. The research also showed that there was a need for nurses who specialised in treating people with stoma operations.
"This condition seems to be a taboo subject, and many people are walking about hiding their colostomy bags out of self-pity," says Mthelebofu.
Besides the research, he is currently canvassing to have a special course on stoma for nurses made available in South Africa. He has also shot a documentary about his own experiences as a person who has lived with a colostomy bag for six months.
Mthelebofu was shot in the abdomen in 2000 and was operated on to repair damage caused by the bullet.
"It was something new and very complicated. I couldn't study or be around people because of the smelly bag. I was stressed and I had no family support because they did not understand it either. I lost friends, too," he said.
Gauteng department of health's deputy director in the epidemiology and research unit, Dr Mupata Likibi, who was the co-investigator in the research, says the government is challenged in dealing with stoma patients.
"It's a public health issue and the nurses aren't trained to specialise in this field. The government also doesn't seem to consider such training. If the colostomy is not cared for properly and the patient is not informed, it can lead to depression and infections that can cause death," says Likibi. - email@example.com