It is estimated that more than 13,500 people in the UK have stoma surgery every year and while this is vital operation it can cause some embarrassment having it on display. For some people this leads to a loss of self confidence and a reluctance to socialise or even leave the house.
However a remarkable lady from West Yorkshire has a plan to help. Kimberley Swales, 44, from Yeadon, West Yorkshire, had an Ostomy last year. (An Ostomy is where part of the bowel is poked through an opening in the abdomen to remove waste straight into a bag.)
“As soon as I woke up from the operation I thought, I don’t want people seeing that,” she said. “I now want to give other people the confidence that its given me.”
Mrs Swales, who has five children, has sewn the bags to give out to people with an ostomy since having her operation in December 2017. and has made more than 2000 stoma bag covers, “For a lot of people it is very hard to deal with and if it makes someone smile, then its good for me.” She explained.
A few weeks after her operation she began making a few bag covers from cotton fabric for her own personal use, then started to sell them for £5.99 to cover the cost of the fabric and postage. It was her nine-year-old daughter who suggested she make the bags for free, by asking for donations of fabric and distributing them with the help of her stoma nurse.
So far she has made hundreds of bag covers for patients at St James’ Hospital, the Children’s Hospital at Leeds General Infirmary and for Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds.
Mrs Swales has also posted bags to people who have heard about her in the United States and Canada through her Facebook page. “I can make 50 in a single day, 20 on others depending on how I feel. The bags are then distributed to hospitals and hospices.
Mrs Swales had her ostomy procedure after suffering from slow transit constipation since childhood, and was advised to have an ileostomy to improve her quality of life.
She also had nerve damage in her spinal cord, which can lead to further problems including loss of bowel and bladder control.
“I had an operation that took five hours where I had my stoma made and a hernia repaired,” she said.
Mrs Swales will soon have a second operation to remove her large bowel, repair four more hernias and create what is knows as a “Barbie Butt”, where your colon, rectum and anus are removed. “If it takes my mind off my own pain rather than what’s going on in my body, it is so worth it,” she said.
As the demand for these bag covers is so high, Mrs Swales urgently needs more material so she can continue to make them and help many more people like her regain their confidence. If you would like to help Mrs Swales buy donating material or funds, you can do so here.