Thrive by IU Health

October 13, 2022

Nurse: ‘Ask me Anything About an Ostomy Pouch, Liver Health’

IU Health North Hospital

Nurse: ‘Ask me Anything About an Ostomy Pouch, Liver Health’

October is “Liver Disease Awareness Month” and one nurse shares intimate details about her journey to new health and becoming a mom.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

There is a freedom that Emmy Nix describes that is only known by those who walk in her shoes.

“It sounds like a simple thing but it’s a big deal - to function like other people - to not have to drink a cup of coffee and think about, ‘where is the nearest bathroom?’” said Nix, who turns 32 next month. After years of health concerns and uncertainty, Nix now works as a wound ostomy nurse at IU Health North Hospital. It’s a role that she has lived and can personally relate to those in her care.

From the age of nine, Nix suffered colon problems. It wasn't until years later that the problems were connected to ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. At the age of 19 she was diagnosed with Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a progressive liver and gallbladder disease. Overtime, PSC can lead to liver failure. In December 2015, Nix was in the care of IU Health Dr. Bruce Robb. She underwent a colectomy, a procedure to remove her colon and a portion of the large intestine and began workups for a liver transplant. In June 2016, she received a new liver in the care of IU Health Dr. Richard Mangus and Dr. Chandrashekhar Kubal.

In the same year, she was enrolled in nursing school but withdrew due to health issues.

“I was at IUPUI and I was so sick and needed to know where all the bathrooms were. I started at Marian University but had to leave to go to the bathroom during my nursing entrance exam. If I knew then, what I know now, and if I’d had my ostomy in place, I would have finished nursing school a lot sooner,” said Nix.

The American Cancer Society describes an ostomy (or stoma) as a “surgical opening” made in the skin that allows waste to pass through the body into a prosthetic bag “pouch.” Her road to nursing was not as planned, but Nix said it has led her to where she is now.

A graduate of Greenfield Central High School, Nix went on to earn her degree from Chamberlain University College of Nursing in December 2019.

“I first worked bedside with surgical patients but from the time I walked across that stage to get my nursing degree, my heart was with ostomy/GI patients,” said Nix. She is working on her wound and ostomy licensure and in August began working with IU Health wound ostomy patients.

“I’m a huge advocate and have lots of patients keep in touch with me. I’m an open book and tell patients they can ask me anything,” said Nix. She’s a big proponent of helping alleviate the stigma that comes with ostomies.

Here are three common questions she receives from patients:

Q: Can I swim with an ostomy?
A: Yes. You may want to wear a t-shirt (or for women) a one-piece bathing suit because the ostomy pouch floats.

Q: Can I be sexually active with an ostomy?
A: Yes. The best time to change the pouch is in the morning. She has named her new stomach “Henry” and she says she has never known him to act up during intimacy.

Q: What about the smell?
A: It’s based on the type of food you eat. I tell patients ‘everyone’s poop stinks.’ You can take sprays or use lubricating odor eliminators in your pouch. Another tip is you can slow down the stool output by eating a banana of marshmallow.

Nix encourages patients to have a good support system as they adjust to changes.

For her, that was her husband, Jason. She met him in August of 2014 and he was with her throughout her health journey. “Jason was a blessing in disguise because his grandfather and uncle had ostomy pouches. When I met him I was getting sick and he literally loved me at my worst and through it all. He told me I needed to get an ostomy pouch and I thought he was crazy,” said Nix.

They married in 2017. Three years later, on January 17, 2020, Nix took her nursing boards. The same month, they learned they were going to be parents. Their son, Elijah, was born on January 10, 2020.

They were in the process of adoption and on a Tuesday their profile was chosen and three days later, their son was born.

“We met him at 5:30 on a Friday. He wasn’t even 24 hours old. We have pictures of us in the hospital bed. We are so grateful for adoption,” said Nix. “In seven days I became a nurse and a mom and it was the best thing that happened to me.”

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Bruce W. Robb, MD

Colon & Rectal Surgery

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