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    Posted September 26, 2014 by

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    Ostomy Awareness…A Little Bit of Big News in the “Ostomy World”

    You might have missed it, but this past summer, a little piece of legislation was quietly passed in the State of New York and was just signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. Known formally as the New York State Ostomy Supplies Bill (# A10140 / S7893), the new law mandates that all health insurers in the State of New York provide coverage for ostomy supplies. The legislation states, “Every policy which provides medical coverage that includes coverage for physician services in a physician's office and every policy which provides major medical or similar comprehensive-type coverage shall include coverage for equipment and supplies used for the treatment of ostomies." The coverage will be subject to annual deductibles and coinsurance. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

    This is Big news for those in the “ostomy world”!

    “As the UOAA President who represents hundreds of thousands of individuals who have had ostomy surgery, I must say we are pleased that Governor Cuomo of New York signed the New York Bill #A10140 / S7893. This legislation marks an important first step in our effort to protect our patients’ rights to the medical supplies they so desperately need,” said Susan Burns, United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) President.

    Most people are probably not aware of why this law is needed. Chances are they have never heard the word ostomy or know what it is. That is why the timing of this Big news is perfect. October is Ostomy Awareness Month, and UOAA’s Ostomy Awareness Day—“Live, Learn, Share”—is celebrated on October 4, 2014. This is an opportunity for people to learn that life with an ostomy is not much different from anyone else’s life.

    Susan Burns explains,

    “Our mission by celebrating this special day is an effort to help patients LIVE a normal life following surgery, to help the medical community LEARN about the needs of ostomy patients, and to SHARE our stories to raise awareness about ostomies throughout the United States. The UOAA is a patient support services, volunteer-based organization, whose mission is to educate and build awareness to patients and to the public. UOAA has many services that assist the new patient and their caregivers before and after surgery, helping in the transition of their new life with an ostomy. UOAA and our over 350 Affiliated Support Groups (ASGs) across the country support our members and welcome new patients every day.”

    One common issue arises that many people would not expect. Often, the treating nurses and doctors are not familiar with an ostomy, and unless they are part of the “ostomy world,” they have little or no knowledge of what it is like to live with one or how to address some of the common concerns of those living with an ostomy.

    To mark this special day, the UOAA has developed its 1st annual WannaWearOne campaign and the Ostomy AWEARness 5k Run/Walk to be held in Durham, NC (www.ostomy5k.org).

    The UOAA has decided to put a spotlight on a little program that started at the University of North Carolina Medical Center back in 2010. It is called the WannaWearOne campaign, which is an empathic effort to have medical personnel wear an ostomy pouch for three days. They can place the pouch anywhere on their body they think is appropriate and simply wear it the first day. The next day, they are asked to fill it with water, applesauce or pudding and go about the day without emptying it so they can experience how it feels to a real bowel or bladder diversion surgery (ostomy) patient. On the last day, they can remove it and gather together to learn more about what an ostomy is and to share their personal experiences.

    Last year, the University of North Carolina Medical Center had over 150 medical professionals and interested participants join the effort. Now, it has caught the attention of others. Already this year, UCLA has decided to take up the challenge during the last week of October with a goal of over 200 people joining in. This is just the start. It is the hope of UOAA to encourage medical centers all across the United States and the world to take up this challenge in helping build Ostomy Awareness. To learn more, go to www.wannawearone.org

    The 1st annual WannaWearOne Ostomy AWEARness 5k Run/Walk is a product of the WannaWearOne campaign that started at UNC. Two nurses, one from UNC and one from Duke University Medical Center, teamed up and contacted the UOAA with an idea to hold an official 5k to help raise funds for the UOAA to continue it mission of helping people living with an ostomy. With the help of the UOAA their idea will become a reality on October 4, 2014, with over 150 participants are expected to run, jog, and walk their way through a picturesque path in Durham, North Carolina.

    Ostomy Awareness has taken on a life of its own after I posted my story on CNN iReport in May 2013. There have been a number of social media campaigns that have garnered the attention of major news organizations, such as what occurred when the courageous woman in the UK posted a picture of herself in a bikini and proudly showed her ostomy pouch. The photo quickly spread around the world and has provided a platform for many others to speak out and be heard about living with an ostomy.

    The enactment of the insurance coverage law in New York state, the WannaWearOne Campaign spreading across the country , and the Ostomy AWEARness 5k Run/Walk in North Carolina on October 4th, are coinciding events that the UOAA hopes will, in a big way, raise awareness about living with an ostomy.

    An ostomy both saves a life and gives normal life back to those living with one. By just reading this story, you now know more than the average American. I challenge you to share your new knowledge because the power of the message is only as strong as the power of the voices shouting it from the hilltops.
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