By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Local residents who live with an ostomy are no longer alone.
Thanks to the efforts of Katherine Verrall and registered nurse Lori Zozzolotto, the Chatham Ostomy Support Group has been formed to help those who live with the condition.
Verrall, who acquired an ileostomy due to ulcerative colitis 25 years ago, said it’s always been a dream of hers to create a safe space for people to share about living with an ostomy.
After undergoing the surgery in London and receiving an ileostomy, Verrall said she returned to Chatham feeling scared and “completely alone.”
She said she felt isolated after the surgery, with no supports except for her husband.
Verrall hopes the group will change that for others.
An ostomy is a medical term for an opening in the body – usually in the stomach wall – that’s created during an operation such as a colostomy, ileostomy or gastrostomy. The surgical procedure, which sometimes includes the total removal of the large colon, and is performed due to trauma or a disease such as cancer.
Those who have had the procedure wear a pouch under their clothing that collects waste exiting the body. This requires specific care. However, Verrall said that with the right approach, ostomy care is clean and discreet.
Verrall said the feeling to create a support group never left her, and, following her retirement, a series of events transpired that led her to create the group with Zozzolotto, who has specific training in wound and ostomy care.
Verrall said the having the group is key because the ostomy topic isn’t something people usually talk about.
“Whatever the situation, we don’t care, we just want to be able to provide a safe place for people to share,” Verrall explained. “Whatever the case, I want people to know this group is here, and there are others out there living their best life now.”
The group is open to those who have had the surgery or who may be facing it in the future.
Meetings of the group will take place at Christ Anglican Church in downtown Chatham, the second Wednesday of the month. Those who want to attend must pre-register by joining the Chatham Ostomy Support Group Facebook page that operates under the Ostomy Canada Society, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Privacy and confidentiality are important, Verrall noted, so members feel free to attend the group and share.
At the group’s March 8 meeting, a medical representative from ConvaTec was to speak about ostomy supplies, and at the April 12 gathering, a registered dietician will speak on the topic of nutrition.
Verrall said that she and Zozzolotto are extremely grateful to Christ Church for providing the meeting space free of charge.
She added she’s “thrilled” with the response to the group so far, as close to 30 people have joined the Facebook page since the first meeting was held last December.
Christ Church is located at 80 Wellington St. The group meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.