Personal Stories Enhance Nurses' Care to Ostomy Center Patients

Erin DellaGrotta, RN, left, and Mary Cabral, CNP, right, care for patients at the Ostomy Center

Mary Cabral, CNP, once had an ostomy for many months.

Erin DellaGrotta, RN, helped her mother with her ostomy and saw how she wouldn’t let it slow down her athletic lifestyle.

Thanks to their personal experiences and professional training, the two nurses are ideally suited to staff the Miriam Hospital's new Ostomy Center, where they provide compassionate and skilled care for patients confronting the physical and emotional challenges of managing an ostomy.

An ostomy is a surgically created opening in the gastrointestinal tract or within the urinary system with an opening to the skin to allow waste to leave the body. It's created for a variety of reasons, including colorectal and bladder cancer, diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, trauma or birth defects.

Cabral, who has devoted her career to treating ostomy patients, was brought to Lifespan in 2018 to open the Ostomy Center. Coincidentally, she had an ostomy not long after becoming an ostomy nurse.

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“I had to have one for seven months. I tried to do everything I possibly could while I had it so I could say to patients, ‘You can do this,’ ” she says. “I share that with some of my patients. I think it’s important for some of them to know. For people who have a little more difficulty, I can relate to what they’ve been through.” 

Steven Schechter, MD

DellaGrotta, who works on inpatient units caring for patients undergoing ostomy procedures, was tapped to work part-time for the new center. She not only helps patients in the weeks and months after their operations, but also in the weeks beforehand to prepare them.

“Some of them cry and need a little bit of support,” says DellaGrotta.

Sometimes she encourages patients by telling them how her mother continued to bike, golf, cross-country ski, even climb challenging Mt. Washington after having both a colostomy and urostomy. 

The idea for the center came from Steven Schechter, MD, a colorectal surgeon with the Lifespan Cancer Institute, who saw the need for better follow-up care and support for patients. “Mary and Erin are the perfect providers for the new clinic. Their amazing knowledge and expertise in ostomy care, coupled with their professionalism and compassion, make them the perfect caregivers for these special patients,” he says.

In the past care of patients who have had colorectal surgery “has been managed in a fragmented form by the surgeon’s office, visiting nurses, or the emergency room. Now with the Ostomy Center, we can take better care of these special patients,” says Dr. Schechter.