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Firefighter and family man pays it forward to others facing surgery and life with a stoma.
During an emergency run, firefighter and paramedic Brandon Wilch had an opportunity to educate a police officer about stomas. “We were at a cardiac arrest scene, and the officer pointed at the victim’s now visible stoma bag and said that the person must have been really sick,” said Brandon. “I replied that maybe the patient was actually in better health following this surgery, because, after all, my stoma is what has allowed me to be a firefighter. He was stunned to learn I was an ostomate.”
A Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis and Stoma Surgery
More than a decade earlier, Brandon had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. At first, he chose to deal with his condition by staying home, living in pain and, as he puts it, “remaining close to a bathroom.” His weight dropped to 115 pounds, rendering him unable to live his life as he wanted. He also was scared for his future when he found out that he would need surgery to stay alive.
Brandon’s mind immediately began racing through all the fun activities and job-related responsibilities he thought he would have to forego post-surgery. He asked both his surgeon and gastrointestinal (GI) doctor what his restrictions would be. “I was shocked to hear that I wouldn’t have any, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure if I believed them,” recalls Brandon. “I was wary about whether or not I’d be able to get back into the Fire Service, let alone do simple things like swim,” he admits. “With the state of my health, however, I had no choice – surgery it was!”
Getting Support After Surgery and Living With a Stoma
In the days following his ileostomy surgery, Brandon was surrounded by guidance and support from the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) nurses who looked after him. “They were my Guardian Angels,” says Brandon. “They helped me realise how the Crohn’s symptoms had not only affected me, but also those who meant the most to me.”
As the years went by, Brandon met the love of his life, Janeen. They married, and their children William and Keira became a true inspiration to how Brandon viewed life. “In the birth of my children, I found that what others told me about loving something unlike I’ve loved anything before—was true,” notes Brandon. He also displays an insatiable love for life and is living his to the fullest. “Janeen and I are doing so much together,” says Brandon. “We’re cycling, camping, ballroom dancing, and, believe it or not, even skydiving!”
Getting Back to Work and Giving Back to the Ostomy Community
Meanwhile, back on the job, Brandon has no restrictions on his abilities to fight fires and respond to emergency calls alongside his team. He is incredibly grateful for the stoma that saved his life. He pays it forward by contributing to inspirational blogs and social media, reaching others with his support and words of wisdom: “Thanks to stoma surgery, I can conquer it all. So can you.”
Brandon Wilch lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife and two children. The family loves the outdoors and enjoys using their camper as much as possible. In addition to being a firefighter and paramedic, Brandon’s future plans include working toward becoming a registered nurse.
Please share this article with anyone you know who may need inspiration and support while facing ostomy surgery.
Financial Disclosure: Brandon received compensation from Hollister Incorporated for his contribution to this article.
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