What to expect from a skydive with a stoma
This piece does not cover my terror of flying and heights – there is another blog piece here (https://www.stomachameleon.com/post/free-falling-into-terror ) which gives the story about my skydive…entitled “Freefalling into terror”…make of that what you will…
Instead I want to briefly explain what to expect if you would like to sky dive with a stoma.
Firstly, you have to fill in a medical form, which is no different from all other participants, ticking the relevant boxes as you go through the form. At the end there is a section for your colo-rectal (or whichever specialist you are currently under) consultant to sign. How do you get them to sign? I called my consultant’s secretary and explained what I needed him to do, she gave me her email address and I sent across my form. It is vital that they also stamp the form with their medical stamp. If you have any concerns about the medical aspect of sky diving with a stoma, now is the time to make an appointment with your specialist – or send them an email with your queries.
The fact that your consultant is prepared to sign your form is of course an indication that your stoma will be fine during the sky dive, otherwise they wouldn’t sign it!
Remember to take your medical form with you on the day of the sky dive, as no form = no sky dive!
One of my worries, apart from obviously falling out of a plane at 15,000ft, was that the harness would damage my stoma, pull at my bag, or be too uncomfortable to bear. I contacted the sky dive academy before I booked my sky dive, to have a chat about my concerns. It turns out that they had never done sky diving with a client who had a stoma so mine would be the first they had dealt with. We agreed that the best idea would be for me to go to the centre and put on the harness, to hopefully alleviate my concerns (and theirs! Who wants to be covered in someone else’s poo…!).
On arrival at the centre, I was taken to the training area and shown the harness. The harness straps fitted over my shoulders like a rucksack, while the strap around my waist was above the stoma bag itself. Perfect! I was concerned that the strap would be too low, but it went across my waist without interfering with my bag in any way. This will depend on where your stoma is situated of course, but unless your stoma is actually on your middle waist, instead of lower down, you should be fine. Each sky diving centre will have its own approach, but even if they don’t offer the opportunity to try on the harness beforehand, then I would insist on it. You’ll have enough on your plate without the added concern of the harness to deal with.
But what about when you are dangling in the air with the strap pulling on your waist? The centre dealt with this concern by asking me to stand on a chair while strapped to a pole via my harness. This sounds easy, and it was…but even just standing with my toes on the edge of the chair, before stepping off to dangle a mere few feet from the ground, was enough to send my stomach into butterfly overdrive. I felt dizzy at the prospect of actually jumping out of a plane….
However, this also did not cause any pressure on my stoma, or on the bag itself, so that reassured me on that issue, too.
The Bag Output - before, during, and after the sky dive
As an ostomate, you will be accustomed to adjusting what you eat before you do various activities, and a sky dive is no different. The night before I made sure to eat something plain, nothing like a curry or containing ingredients which cause me to have wind – like leeks, nuts, oats. I eat whatever I like usually, and just deal with the consequences, but it’s different when you are focusing on an activity like this. Similarly, I ate a plain breakfast of toast. I had to have a coffee though, but with a 2 hour drive to get to the skydive venue, there was plenty of time from eating my breakfast to then jumping out of the plane several hours later – coffee does tend to make my stoma active, but that’s ok if I have time before I do an activity.
During the skydive I think I was so frightened that there was no activity from my stoma at all – no wind, no output. I think it contracted in terror just like the rest of me! Afterwards it was also fine. I think the key is always to eat something that you know your stoma is happy with, and other than that you should have no problems.
The pressure on the bag during the fall
When you are plummeting at 120mph out of an aeroplane, you would think that this would have an impact on your stoma somehow. You would perhaps expect the bag to come away, or a leak to occur, maybe the bag would move about. Nope. Nothing happened at all. It didn’t become gloopy at the edges like it does if you spend a lot of time in the water. My bag was the same when I landed as when I got on the plane, so you can put your mind at rest about that.
If you want additional reassurance you can buy the hydro flanges (which are available on the NHS I believe) – click here:https://www.clinimed.co.uk/stoma-care/products/stoma-skin-care-and-accessories/hydroframe-manuka-honey
Anything else you want to know? Send me a message and I’ll happily answer it if I can.
Other than that…just get out and go and do that sky dive you’ve always wanted to do!