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By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC
Even after all these years, 86-year-old Ellen Boldt keeps on trucking as an advocate for Americans that have had an ostomy (i.e., colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy), which is an artificial opening in the body created during a surgical operation.
When living in Tonawanda, New York, in 1976 at age 45, Boldt began feeling an uncomfortable pressure around her bladder and eventually a doctor discovered there a large tumor. The only solution was to remove her bladder. In a telephone interview, and now living in Brooksville, Florida, Boldt said, “When first getting the news about the tumor, I was more nervous about having to wear a bag (to collect urine) than actually having cancer. But my husband was supportive. It didn't bother him I would have this bag on my abdomen. He was very accepting.”
She said in the 1970s the appliances used for ostomies “weren't very good at all.” For example, one time out with friends and, while waiting for a table at a restaurant, she suddenly felt a warm stream go down her leg. Her bag was leaking. Boldt had to get a ride back to her workplace, drive 15 miles home, change her clothing, and return to work. It was embarrassing. The appliances used for ostomies have improved exponentially since the '70s, she said, so much that even a San Diego Chargers placekicker last decade used to wear one while kicking game-winning field goals.
Her experiences prompted her to become involved in ostomy support groups in New York and Florida. She said, “In New York, we had over a 100 people show up for meetings and here we have about 30. They usually involve a speaker, such as an ostomy nurse or someone displaying ostomy supplies. We have people ask questions. You make friends there, and I have made a lot of good ones.” The meetings are affiliated with United Ostomy Associations of America, an association of nonprofit support groups.
She still visits many new ostomy patients, mostly in local hospitals and homes, and trains others to do the same. She has visited well over 100 people in 40 years. She said, “I try convincing them that you can do just about anything you did before the surgery. I tell them it's also great to have a support group in order for them to know that life goes on after what could seem like the end of the world.”
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