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A small group of people formed the starting point for a new shared support network, as Western Isles Stoma Group met up on Thursday 8 February in Stornoway.

The group currently numbers between three and seven people, but they know there are over 100 people through the isles who have stoma, not to mention the family members, partners and professional support workers who have insights to share.

Acting group co-ordinator Neil Barker said the group shared ‘laughs and business’ last week when they were hosted at WICCI on Cromwell Street for their regular meeting.

He said: “We looked at the Scottish Stoma Forum for specialist nurses and patients and learnt about fishing boats too! We represent any ostomist between Barra and the Butt. Join us!”

Speaking to today, Neil said: “The group has been going for just over a year, meeting every eight weeks at WICCI for a chat, tea and biscuits.

“It’s a chance for conversation about any sort of issues, for emotional support and to share experiences.

“That said, it’s important to stress it’s not a medical advice group – it’s a chance for us to be in a group of people where it’s safe to talk about the experience of ostomy, and nothing is off limits, there’s a good deal of banter.”

Neil explained that there were three common types of stoma – a bag outside the body to take human waste – after an ileostomy, which is connected to the small bowel, colostomy connected to the colon, or a urostomy, which is connected to the bladder.

Some of those who have a stoma have experienced cancer – as Neil has – but people can have a stoma as a result of inflammatory bowel disease, childbirth complications or abdominal injury.

Neil said: “Stomas are self-managed for the most part, but there is a poo taboo which means it’s not something everyone wants to chat about, so if you get together in a group with other people it can feel like a relief – we have some laughs about some of our experiences.”

Neil sees the group developing from a small group to a wider network, perhaps becoming a stoma forum for the Western Isles and working with NHS Western Isles to help provide emotional and professional support and advocacy.

The next meeting is on Thursday 14 March at 2.30pm at WICCI in Stornoway and a video link can be set up for people living further away who would like to take part.

To find out more contact Helen Sandison at WICCI on 01851 706721 or Neil on 07886 241822.

The pictures show Neil, Anne and Donalda from the core group with Helen Sandison at WICCI during last week’s meeting, and Neil living life to the max, stoma bag and all, at Riof beach.