From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook October 2001:

Phases of Surgical Recovery

by Albert Wagoner, MD; via S Brevard (FL) Ostomy Newsletter

Each patient, along with his/her family, usually goes through four phases of recovery following an accident or illness that results in loss of function of an important part of the body. Only the time required for each phase varies. Knowledge of the four phases of recovery is essential. They are:

The Shock Phase - The period of psychological impact. Probably, you remember nothing of this phase after your operation. Nevertheless, it is a phase that requires a lot of support.

The Defensive Retreat Phase - The period in which you defend yourself against the implications of the crisis. You avoid reality. Characteristic of this period is wishful thinking, or denial, or repression of your actual condition. For example, an ostomate may believe that his/her entire colon is still there and will be reconnected later.

The Phase of Acknowledgment - In this period, you face reality. As you give up the existing old structure, you may enter into a period, at least temporarily, of depression, of apathy, or agitation, or bitterness, and of high anxiety. You hate yourself, your stoma, cry a lot, pity or condemn yourself. You may not eat, be unable to sleep, or may want to be left alone to die. In this phase, you need all the support that can be mustered.

The Phase of Adaptation - Now, you actively cope with the situation in a constructive manner. You adopt, during shorter or longer periods, the adjustments that are necessary. You begin to establish new structures and develop a new sense of worth. With the aid of an enterostomal therapy nurse and an ostomy visitor, you can learn about living with a stoma. Aided by your physician, social workers, ostomy association and family, you go about rebuilding and altering the life that brought about the condition.

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Content last revised 2001-10-10