Loving life as a stoma care nurse with an ileostomy
Silvia Karina Moreira Seifert
Friday, September 17, 2021
Silvia Karina Moreira Seifert charts a life that has taken her from Crohn’s disease to an ostomy and a nursing career in Brazil and Chile
From a very early age, I have felt the power of love in our lives.
I was born and grew up surrounded by lots of love and attention. During my childhood days, while my parents worked hard for our livelihood, I stayed with my maternal grandparents. I fondly remember my grandfather taking me to school, until I was able to go by myself. We lived in southern Brazil, and I can still smell the chineque, a traditional sweet bread made with manioc flour, which we used to buy on the way to school. Sweet memories!
I was my parent’s firstborn, as well as my grandmother’s first granddaughter and, with apologies to her other grandchildren, her favorite to this day. My beloved grandmother and I believe that all the moments we have shared together have created a bond where she can sense when I’m not well. As an adult, I have had many days when I have woken up in a melancholy mood and have been surprised by a message or call from her asking why I am sad. As much as I have insisted on saying that everything is fine and that she doesn’t need to worry, there she has been, offering me comfort and strength. How to describe a love that transcends the soul?
A cruel start
However, it was as a child that I remember first having severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. From then on, my health went through countless ups and downs, with terrible crises, when I needed long stays in the hospital. My mother was always by my side, a brave warrior and an efficient administrator when required.
By the age of 10, I still didn’t have a definite diagnosis. I had lost a lot of weight, due to whatever disease was affecting me, as well as the restrictive diets imposed to identify suspected food allergies and intolerances. Eventually, high fevers and worsening abdominal pain were joined by rectal bleeding and numerous rectovaginal fistulas.
Silvia had an ileostomy formed in 1996
Eventually, I went for a biopsy at São Paulo University Clinical Hospital, and this confirmed that I had Crohn’s disease. I was started on the most suitable treatments available at the time, and these managed to partially control the disease. When it was controlled, I was able to go to school, as well as to keep my mind and body busy with activities from dance and theater to swimming and music lessons.
By that time, I had been through countless health services and clinicians, but then I met Dr Cleusa. Dr Cleusa and the multidisciplinary team at São Paulo University Clinical Hospital have been my guardian angels, accompanying me for many years. Today, I count many of these professionals as close friends. I am grateful that I have always been gifted with love and friendship in all their forms.
Unfortunately, the disease never fully went away. By the time I was 17 years old, the crises had come back. In 1996, I underwent my first surgery. I still remember that day in detail. The operation went on for many hours, and there were serious complications. To keep me alive, the surgeons had to remove my entire large intestine and part of my small intestine, and so I left the theater ward with an ileostomy.
I had to adapt to and accept a new way of life, and I must confess that, at first, the rehabilitation process was not easy. By the time I turned 18, I was back in school and preparing to face my university entrance exams. At that point, everything became too intense, and my emotional imbalance triggered yet another severe crisis. In just over a year after the first surgery, I was in hospital again for another surgical intervention, followed by treatment with antibiotics and immunosuppressants to control the disease. However, somehow, through all this, I never stopped dedicating myself to my studies.
Silvia and her family have been able to travel the world
At the turn of the millennium, as I entered my 20s, I learned that I had passed the university entrance exams. I chose to study nursing, and I made the choice to do this far from home, at a public university in another state. I had some experience living and studying in a different region of the country, and I saw it as an opportunity for self-discovery, empowerment and personal growth. My family supported me in this, and their love was soon joined by that of the many open-minded people from many places who I met there.
The next 4 years up to my graduation were my golden years, filled with joy, learning and friendships that would last a lifetime. Each year, I would make the long journey from university to home to see friends and family and celebrate life!
When I graduated from university, I started my professional nursing career in the peadiatric oncology and intensive care units of a public hospital. This phase of my life was also filled with indescribable stories and unforgettable people.
Finding my niche
When I signed up for a nursing degree, I was already thinking about specialising in stoma care. Ever since I got a stoma, I had hoped to learn all about this world and make a difference. So, after I graduated, I soon went in search of a part-time postgraduate course.
Eventually, I found one and enrolled. I worked throughout the day, with my time divided between caring for patients at the hospital and taking classes for the specialist nursing course. Once again, the course introduced me to friends for life!
I have always sought to grow my career, and I applied for many different posts. By now, I’ve worked as a public employee in primary care, in hospitals and in teaching, at the municipal, state and federal levels.
Silvia works for a stoma care company
Across the continent
Eventually, a good friend invited me to work as a stoma care nurse employed by a multinational ostomy company. Not only would I be leaving public service for the private sector, but I would also be leaving the country. The role I was offered was based in Chile, which is a country on the other side of the continent, where people speak Spanish instead of my native Brazilian Portuguese. I’d always enjoyed traveling, and I had had the chance to visit other countries around the world, as well as much of Brazil. Living and working so far away and having to learn a new language would be an opportunity to get to know the world better, which had always been one of my life projects. It was really motivating!
I arrived in Chile in 2014 and stayed there until 2018. This was another milestone in my history. In my role, I was able to learn and teach, exchange experiences and develop projects that I am proud to have executed. I also got to know practically all the regions of that beautiful country. I met wonderful people and grew up as a nurse and as a person. However, this period also had its difficult moments of loneliness and pain. I ended up needing a third surgical intervention, which led to days in intensive care with sepsis. However, many more days were filled with joy, accomplishment and love.
A happy return
My time in Chile was where and when I met the great love of my life. After a few loving relationships, I had finally met the person who would transform my life. In 2018, my employer offered me a role back in Brazil, and I returned home, bringing my partner with me.
Since we came back, I have been very happy with my work and everything it has provided for me. I am constantly learning and improving my skills. In the end, it was my search for knowledge on stoma care that taught me about myself and made me a stronger and more confident person. In this, I feel that I have been guided by a divine force, always directing my steps, choices and actions.
Silvia and her partner met in Chile
The power of love
I have always been surrounded by love, in all stages of this journey. Even in the most difficult moments that I have had to face, when I have least expected it, I have always been able to find warmth and comfort in other people. For this, I am full of gratitude.
The desire to spread this feeling love is uncontrollable. I feel that I can make a difference in people’s lives, that I can stimulate and motivate them to face fear, insecurity and loneliness. We are not alone. We are many, and we have the power to transform lives.
Silvia Karina Moreira Seifert is a stoma care nurse and ileostomate based in Brazil