'Life started for me when I got my stoma bag,' says 20-year-old who had her bowel removed
“I had to have my stoma bag otherwise I would have died. At 19, you do what anyone would – you choose not to die.”
Ellie Beardsmore from Sedgley was battling to get the treatment she needed for four and a half years, not knowing that she had ulcerative colitis.
The teenager would find fresh blood when she went to the toilet, but was told by her GP that she was just constipated and prescribed her cream for piles.
“Originally I was just bleeding when I went to the toilet,” she said. “Dark blood can be a sign of bowel cancer, but mine was red and fresh so they said it wasn’t cancer.
“I thought it was perfectly normal to bleed when I went to the toilet. The GP said it was fine. But I was walking around with this dying organ inside of me.”
However, the problem didn’t go away, and in the six months before her eventual surgery, Ellie began to suffer from abdominal pain, ulcers in her mouth and eczema.
“In those last six months before surgery, I was going to the toilet five or six times a day,” she said.
“Then it was 30 times a day. I basically just living on the toilet – I was on it all night and all day.”
In agony, Ellie went to A&E in April 2022 and was diagnosed with moderate ulcerated colitis and was given tablets. But just a mere week later, she was back in A&E.
It was at this point that Ellie was diagnosed with severe colitis and told that she should have emergency surgery to have her large bowel removed. Otherwise, she would die.
“I was told ‘we have got no choice but to operate and give you a stoma bag, or you aren’t going to see the year out’. It was a lot,” she said. Ellie even had the operation in her workplace, as she is a project co-ordinator for Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.
The now 20-year-old said: “I can’t fault them. It has changed my life.”
The operation removed Ellie’s large bowel and gave her a stoma: an opening that is made through the abdominal wall, connecting the small bowel to the surface of the stomach.
Ellie says having the surgery and a stoma bag has transformed her life for the better. “People say your life ends when you get a stoma bag. But life has just started for me,” she said. “It’s amazing to be honest.
“I’m leading a really normal life – eating what I want, wearing tight clothes and doing all the weird things a 20-year-old might do. I can still go on holidays and go to water parks. I can do anything I did before and now I don’t have to worry about where the nearest toilet is. It’s changed my life.”
And now, Ellie is working hard to destigmatise stomas and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
“Even in hospital there was a stigma around it,” she said. “I’ve even read articles where people have refused the surgery and died. There aren’t enough people like myself out there in the media with a stoma bag.”