Ask the Ostomate

Laura Cox had ileostomy surgery in 2011 after two years of a constant flare and exhausting every medication option available for Ulcerative Colitis. Just prior to her surgery, Ms. Cox founded a popular YouTube channel called Ostomystory, where she documented different aspects of life with an ostomy, as well as promoted emotional and physical well-being. Ms. Cox is the Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist for Shield Health Care (shieldhealthcare.com or 800-765-8775), a company focused on providing medical supplies for care at home, where she blogs, makes videos, speaks and provides advice on living with an ostomy.

Have a question for Laura? Please use the contact form.

Economic Hardship and Getting Supplies

I recently lost my job and filed for unemployment. I’m afraid that if I don’t find work soon, I won’t be able to afford my ostomy supplies as my copayments are very high and my ileostomy is very active and requires many pouch changes. What should I do? Are there emergency supply programs for people like me?

I am sorry to hear about your recent unemployment. These are certainly stressful times. I have a few thoughts about free or less expensive ostomy supplies. First, here are some free options.

Ostomy Product Samples
Most large product manufacturing companies offer free samples of their products. You can visit websites of companies like Hollister, Coloplast, ConvaTec, Safen’Simple, and any other product manufacturer you are interested in sampling. This is not a long-time solution, but can help when you are in a pinch.

Local UOAA Support Groups
Many local UOAA groups often have an extra supply of ostomy products for members in need. Although groups are not meeting in-person currently, you can find your local support group and the coordinator’s contact information at www.ostomy.org/support-group-finder/.

Contact Your Care Team
Your Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse (WOCN), Colorectal Surgeon, or specialists may also have extra supplies. You can also contact your local hospital and ask to speak to a patient liaison to discuss your circumstances.

Post on a Facebook Group
There are a few Facebook Groups that exist to support people living with stomas. Some are for emotional support, but I have seen posts from people needing supplies, and generally the community reaches out and gets the person in need ostomy supplies. One of my favorite groups is “I’m ___ and I have an Ostomy”: www.facebook.com/groups/Im.blank.and.I.have.had.an.ostomy.
The Facebook Group Kindred Box is a charitable organization dedicated to helping ostomates get needed supplies:
www.facebook.com/kindredbox.org.
The organization Friends of Ostomates Worldwide also distributes ostomy supplies to those in need free of charge: www.fowusa.org.
Ostomy 2-1-1 is another non-profit organization that offers an emergency ostomy supply pantry to those in need. They do accept donations to assist in continuing to provide emergency ostomy supplies: www.ostomy211.org.

Discounted Ostomy Supplies
United Ostomy Associations of America also put together a list of less expensive ostomy supply options. Ostogroup is an organization that provides ostomy supplies for just the price of shipping and handling. They have pouches, wafers, and accessories available.
You can also find discounted ostomy supplies from companies like Parthenon Ostomy Supplies, Best Buy Medical Supplies, Vitality Medical and Stomabags.com. All of these suppliers offer an extensive variety of products, accessories and brands.
Another option is to look for coupons and rebates on websites such as needymeds.org.
I hope that these resources are helpful, and that you are able to find affordable supplies. Be well!

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