Our first 10 Years (1973 – 1983)


Getting started

In this, the tenth year of operation of our chapter, it seems timely to pause and review events of the past decade and the progress we have made.

Since it is the mandate of our organization to give support to those who undergo ostomy surgery, this, of course, had to be the driving need and reason for the establishment of the chapter. Obviously, there were people in Saskatoon at the time who had undergone ostomy surgery and had struggled alone through the readjustment period, learning firsthand of the critical need for emotional support. As well, members of the medical profession were becoming aware of the need for such lay support.

Between the years of 1969 and 1973 circumstances drew certain people together in Saskatoon, and the seed was planted for an ostomy association group, soon to become affiliated with the United Ostomy Association.

Herb Unruh, key founder of the Saskatoon Ostomy Association

Unruhs lay foundation

In 1968 Herb Unruh returned to Saskatoon from Calgary, where he had been active with the Calgary Ostomy Association. Herb had received an ileostomy, due to ulcerative colitis, in 1966. Wanting to continue to help fellow ostomates in Saskatoon, Herb contacted physicians and surgeons, offering to visit patients who were due to undergo ostomy surgery. Drs. C. Weder and A. Dick were particularly helpful in “opening doors” to his hospital visitations at this time. For many years Herb and his wife Erica continued to visit patients, lending their support and encouragement. In some cases, it was necessary for them to help with the fitting and ordering of appliances, since there were no enterostomal therapists in Saskatoon at the time, and the choice of appliances which hospitals stocked was very limited.

During this time, Herb and Erica met many ostomates, including Ray Perpick and in 1972, the Unruhs and Perpicks went off to San Francisco to attend the 10th Anniversary Conference of the United Ostomy Association. Much useful information was gathered and it was here that the Saskatoon delegates learned of Dr. Fred Inglis, who had recently moved from Montreal to Saskatoon, to the position of Prof. of Surgery, University Hospital, and Anita Leavens, who had been president of the U.O.A. Vancouver chapter, and was now residing in Saskatoon. Dr. Inglis was known to be a supporter of the Montreal Ostomy organizations. Once contacted, these two people became key supporters in organizing a Saskatoon chapter. Others were Vesta Evans, John Stephenson, both ostomates, and Katharina Dietz, a nurse who worked with cancer patients in the Cancer Clinic of University Hospital.

First meetings held

Having been a leader with the Vancouver chapter, Mrs. Leavens was a natural to help organize a Saskatoon group and, on March 10, 1973, a meeting was held at her home.

At this meeting, it was decided to seek advice from physicians and surgeons about contacting other ostomates, and organizing an association. A follow-up meeting was held on April 7, 1973, at the Unruh residence. Attending were Anita Leavens, Vesta Evans, John Stephenson, Olga Robinson, Herb, and Erica Unruh. Plans to hold the first public meeting were made, and names of known ostomates in the area were listed to be contacted, as well as nurses and doctors of the hospitals. The doctors then advised their ostomate patients about the forthcoming meeting.

This inaugural meeting was held on the evening of April 30, 1973, in the Rothman’s Building at 340 Spadina Crescent East. Approximately 30 people attended. The guest speaker was Stella Pankratz, a nursing instructor at Kelsey Institute.

The first executive elected

At the next meeting on June 4, 1973, the following slate of officers was elected: President, Anita Leavens; Vice-president John Stephenson; Secretary, Eunice Stobbe; Treasurer, Caren Shepherd; Visitation Chairman, Herb Unruh. By July, Caren was not able to continue as treasurer and Herb took on the job temporarily. By November, Caren was writing the bulletin with help from Irene Wilson, and Dave Moore became treasurer.

It was at the June 4th meeting that the newly formed directors voted in favour of becoming affiliated with the United Ostomy Association and on October 1, 1973, their application was accepted.

The June meeting also featured a panel discussion on many topics ranging from foods that ostomates found troublesome to the surgeon’s art of fashioning a stoma. Taking part were: Dr. Fred Inglis, Bernice England, R. N., and dietitian Anne Carlson (all of the University Hospital staff) and John Stephenson and Herb Unruh.

Membership fees were set at $5.00 annually, and President Anita Leavens reported that the executive had begun work on drafting a constitution and bylaws.

In August, Anita attended the annual U.O.A. Conference in Chicago and gave a report to the membership at the December 3rd meeting.

A regional representative from United Ostomy Association, Susan Hamilton, came to the September meeting from Spokane, Wash., to explain the functions of the U.O.A. To our members.

During October, an enterostomal therapist was brought in from Toronto to conduct a two-day Ostomy Clinic and to speak at the October meeting. Twenty-five ostomates consulted with the visiting E.T. at the clinic.

In late 1973, Olga Robinson accepted the job of transportation chairman. Dr. Fred Inglis, Dr. Carmen Weder, and Helen Witson, R.N., became the Association’s first medical advisors.

The Cancer Society, Saskatoon Branch, typed and printed the news bulletins and continued to do so for many years.

Establishing a local source of ostomy supplies

One of the biggest problems to overcome was access to an adequate selection of ostomy supplies. Prior to 1973, only a few supplies were carried by the hospitals and some doctors ordered in a few. One pharmacy carried a very limited stock. As a result, the overall supply and selection in Saskatoon were not adequate and many ostomates resorted to ordering from out-of-town suppliers.

To make matters worse, there were no enterostomal therapists, as we have today, to select well-fitting appliances for us, and hospital staffs were not well-informed in this area. Once released from the hospital, the patient was basically left to fend for himself/herself in caring for the ostomy and finding the right appliance. A new ostomate was fortunate to have a visit from another ostomate, to have the benefit of his/her experience and advice on what kind of appliances were available, and how best to get them.

Herb Unruh recalls: “When I had my ileostomy operation, I didn’t have a clue what kind of equipment to wear or where I could get it. By chance, a plant nurse sent one of her patients over (who had an ileostomy). She came with the equipment and put it on me right then and there. If she hadn’t come, I don’t know how I would have managed. That’s how it was. One ostomate helped another with supplies and information, and somehow we got by.”

Nordon Drugs sympathetic to ostomates’ needs

It was Herb who encouraged Blame-Maclean Pharmacy in Calgary to stock ostomy supplies and this proved to be a profitable venture for the pharmacy. By coincidence, a person was working at Nordon Drugs who new the owner of Blame-Maclean and had some knowledge of ostomy supplies. She suggested to Norm Faulkner, owner of Nordon Drugs, that he should consider stocking ostomy supplies. After a period of consultations with Herb Unruh, Paul Anderson, and other ostomates, Norm decided to give it a try and by June 1973, had brought in initial stock.

At first, it was as much an educational process for him as it was for his customers, but fortunately, he was soon to have the assistance of Katja Dietz who completed her enterostomal therapy training in June of 1974. Meanwhile, there was much information exchanged between the experienced ostomates, new ostomates, and Norm, with frequent rendezvous in his store. Later, Norm would accompany Katja on the occasional “house call” to fit appliances on people who required some home service. On this topic alone, we are sure that Norm and Katja could write their own book.

Today, Nordon Drugs is the major supplier in this city, and many ostomates have benefited from Norm’s knowledge and products, his patience, and kindly service. Among other things, he was willing to deliver appliances to new patients with follow-up billing, a service which he still renders. Norm has been a steadfast member of the association since its inception in 1973.

To this point, ostomates received no financial assistance and some supplies were very expensive. Most were the “permanent” type and were used for long periods of time, making it difficult for the wearer to maintain perfect hygiene, skincare, and comfort.

Over the past decade, there have been tremendous advances made in the improvement of ostomy supplies to the point where we now have an extensive choice of appliances and skincare products, plus the added convenience of disposable products. How different it was in the 60s and before.

Many gave support

During the formation period, there were others who were closely involved with the surgery and aftercare of ileostomates, colostomates and urostomates, who knew the value of the emotional support a fellow ostomate could give to a new patient. These were: Dr. Fred Inglis, Head of Surgery (as of 1973), University Hospital; Dr. Esther Brown, Director of the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic; Bernice England, R.N., University Hospital; Helen Witson, R.N., City and Katharina Dietz, R.N., Cancer Clinic. All were vitally concerned and supportive and, in fact, instrumental in founding the chapter. After 10 years, Dr. Inglis continues to be active in our chapter as a resource person, medical a visor, and lecturer. Katja Dietz has given untiring service as a dedicated enterostomal therapist and friend to her patients. Since the beginning, she has assumed a continuously active role in the association.

Reverend Ronald Evans, who became University Hospital Chaplain in 1974, was a strong supporter of visiting service. It was largely through his efforts that approval was given for members of the Ostomy Association to visit patients at University Hospital.

By September 1973, it seemed that the fledgling chapter was well launched with 24 paid memberships. Meetings continued to be held monthly in the Rothman’s Building until December 1973, when the location was changed to the Cancer Clinic Lounge at University Hospital.

Initial activities

It is interesting to note what happened during 1974, the first complete year program-wise. Several surgeons spoke at meetings and served on discussion panels; Dr. Esther Brown, Director of the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic, spoke on the development of ostomy rehabilitation programs within the province; there were displays of ostomy equipment; visiting “dos and don’ts” were discussed; the topics of irrigation and ileostomy problems were dealt with; a general meeting and election of officers was held in June, and the year concluded with a December social evening.

In September 1974, membership fees were raised to $10.00 annually, $4.00 of which was to be remitted to the U.O.A.

It is also interesting to note that the Regina chapter was launched in May 1974, by Elva and Orval Lewis and Vicki and Al Wolf.

Building the visiting program

It seemed that medical staff in the hospitals were not entirely convinced that ostomy association members should be allowed to visit their patients and Herb Unruh took steps to allay any fears or misunderstandings. On January 29, 1974, he spoke to a gathering of doctors and head nurses at St. Paul’s Hospital, appealing for their support of the Ostomy Association’ s visiting program. Purposes and resulting benefits were outlined from an ostomate’s point of view and this seemed to convince them that we could serve a useful purpose in helping to give encouragement and needed strength to ostomy patients.

Katja Dietz, R.N., became Saskatchewan's first enterostomal therapist in 1974

Katja Dietz, R.N., became Saskatchewan’s first enterostomal therapist in 1974


R.N. Enterostomal Therapists, from left to right: Teri Smith, Katja Dietz, and Heather Wigmore. Photo was taken at the C.A.E.T. Annual Conference in Regina, Oct. 1983


The birth of enterostomal therapy in Saskatoon

No doubt some form of enterostomal therapy took place after the first recorded ostomy operation in Rouen, France in 1776, however crude. Nevertheless, 222 years elapsed before anyone produced a trained enterostomal therapist. This occurred in 1958 when Dr. Rupert Turnbull of The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Ohio, trained one of his ileostomy patients on how to care for herself and other patients. This patient, Norma Gill, then founded the first school of Enterostomal Therapy in Cleveland. Today, there are eight such training centres in the U.S.A.

The United Ostomy Association, which was formed in 1962 in the USA, worked with determination to gain greater acceptance of enterostomal therapists and to establish the need for their services in medical centres. Today there are an estimated 1,000 or more E.T.s in the United States and approximately 114 in Canada. Many other countries throughout the world now have enterostomal therapists and there is a World Council for Enterostomal Therapy.

The enterostomal therapist is a valuable member of the medical team in ostomy surgery, since ostomy patients are in need of special postoperative care, both physically, and psychologically, if they are to resume a well-adjusted and useful life.

Once a U.O.A. chapter was formed in Saskatoon, the time was ripe to have our own E.T.s. In 1974, with the help of Dr. Esther Brown and Dr. Fred Inglis, two grants were obtained from the Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan Division, and the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic to send Katharina Dietz, R.N., and Professor John Stephenson to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for enterostomal therapy training. Both returned from the two-month course as certified enterostomal therapists and set up a program of services for the province. Shortly after, Prof. Stephenson discontinued E.T. service, leaving Mrs. Dietz as a sole therapist for the province of Saskatchewan.

Stoma Clinics open

In 1979, two Stoma Clinics were opened; one at Plains Hospital in Regina, to serve the southern half of the province, and one in the University Hospital, Saskatoon, to serve the north. Mrs. Dietz was now able to concentrate her efforts on patients in the northern part of the province only.

The need for enterostomal therapists was urgent since even in 1974 it was estimated that there could have been between 1,000 to 2,000 ostomates in Saskatchewan – and that 100 operations were being performed annually. Can you imagine one therapist trying to tend so many patients? For four years, between 1974 to 1978, Katja Dietz somehow managed to handle this workload on her own.

Since the enterostomal therapist was a new introduction to Saskatoon hospitals, it took some time to gain the confidence of the medical staff and to be fully accepted as part of the rehabilitation team. Today, doctors rely considerably on the specialized knowledge of E.T.s- even to the extent of asking them to select the site for the stoma prior to surgery. Until 1975, all nurses had to go to the USA for enterostomal training. In 1976, a training centre opened at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. It operated until 1981 when it closed due to lack of funding, and at the present time there is no other enterostomal training centre in Canada, sadly to say.

The administering of the enterostomal therapist is vital to the rehabilitation of the ostomate. Not only does she help fit us with the right appliance by the time we are ready to leave the hospital, and teach us how to care for our ostomy, she helps us to readjust to our normal lives in many ways through follow-up counselling and checkups. She acts as a medical link between patient and surgeon, alerting the doctor to any condition concerning the ostomy which may need medical attention. In addition, the duties of the enterostomal therapist may include seeing patients in clinics as well as hospitals, visiting nursing homes, instructing nursing staff, and student nurses. In addition, the E .T. usually plays an active role in the local ostomy association. Life for the ostomate would definitely not run as smoothly without them.

The second therapist hired

In late 1978, our lone enterostomal therapist, Katharina Dietz, received reinforcements in the person of Heather Wigmore, R.N., who received her E.T. training in Vancouver. Heather, herself, was an ileostomate. She continued to work with Katja until 1981 when she moved to the USA Heather was replaced by Ten Smith, R.N., also an ileostomate, who received her training in Vancouver as well.

Our two E.T.s attend to ostomy patients in all three hospitals, share many educational tasks, and work together at the Stoma Clinic, University Hospital. On any given day, their combined patient load may total 25 or more. They visit hospitals in the mornings and see outpatients at the Clinic in the afternoons.

Worked into this busy schedule are trips throughout the northern half of the province to many towns and cities, sponsored by the Dept. of Continuing Nursing Education, to keep hospital nursing staff briefed on current ostomy care techniques and equipment. Patients in hospitals at the time may also be seen. Both teach nursing students in Saskatoon at the hospitals and Kelsey, and at Kelsey Institute in Prince Albert.

Following a tradition set by Katja, their doors are not closed “after hours” and ostomates have the assurance of knowing that either one can be reached at almost any time.


The inviting garden and patio at the Dietz residence provide an ideal setting for the annual June social evening.

Leslie Brehon, Edward Dietz and Herb Unruh, chatting on the patio

Leslie Brehon, Edward Dietz, and Herb Unruh, chatting on the patio

A room in the Dietz home, familiar to many.

A room in the Dietz home, familiar to many.


On the way

The first meeting of the 1975-76 season was held at Grace Westminster Church at the request of then-president, John Stephenson, who thought it might be a more convenient location. However, this location did not prove to be popular with Other members,’ and future meetings returned to the Cancer Clinic Lounge.

Saskatoon members receive Kock Pouch

During this term, Herb Unruh and Ray Perpick attended the 13th annual conference of the United Ostomy Association in Toronto. One session at the conference dealt with a new surgical procedure called the Kock Pouch, a method of forming a continent pouch for ileostomates. Dr. Rudd, of Toronto, a specialist in this operation, was the speaker. Subsequently, several members of our association had the surgery in Toronto between 1976 to 1979.

Association falters then gets a second wind

By June of 1976, the organization was in a shaky position. Attendance was so low at the annual meeting in June, that it was not possible to hold an election, and it seemed that we were about to “fold-up”. During the month of July, Mrs. Dietz circulated a letter of concern, urging members to attend the September meeting to try to keep the association alive. A reprint of the letter follows.

Saskatoon, Sask.,
July, 1976


At the last Ostomy Association meeting we were unable to vote for a new President and executive due to lack of attendance. The Ostomy Association is of vital importance for the rehabilitation of the new ostomate. There is one more meeting planned for September and you will receive a bulletin.
May I urge you to attend that meeting in order to keep the Ostomy Association alive. As you know I am not an ostomate, yet deeply interested to return every new patient to a normal life. The existence of the Ostomy Association is part of my rehabilitation program and I am asking you to support the Association for the benefit of the future ostomate.

Come and help share the responsibilities with the group.

Yours sincerely,
(Mrs.) Katharina Dietz, R.N., E.T.

There was a good turnout and an enthusiastic new executive was elected, with Harold Rosvold taking over the position of president, backed by Herb Unruh as vice-president. The health of the association took a definite upward turn from then on.

Al Wolf, a founder of the Regina Ostomy Association, became the second Saskatchewan Provincial Representative for United Ostomy Association in 1976 and visited our group in April 1977. The first Provincial Rep was John Stephenson, Saskatoon, who served from 1974-76.

Some 1976-77 meeting program highlights were: a pharmacist speaking on drugs and the ostomate; a surgeon speaking on the ileal conduit; sessions on the ileostomy and colostomy; visitation; diet, exercise and recreation; and a wind-up June Social at the home of Dale Beavis. The December 1976 meeting featured a slide show on ostomy care and a display of appliances prepared by Mrs. Dietz and Nordon Drugs.

In 1977, Olga Robinson took over the job of visitation chairman and continued in this role until 1983. The visitation chairman coordinates visits to patients in the hospital, both prior to and after ostomy surgery.

In 1977, there was a flurry of public relations activity through articles in The Commentator and The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and interviews on both C.F.Q.C. radio and television.

Regina club members were invited to attend the April 4th meeting, at which Dr. A.A. Dick was the guest speaker. Also at the April meeting, head nurses were honoured: Helen Witson of City Hospital, Audrey Brayshaw of St. Paul’s, and Bernice England and Margaret Brennan University Hospital. Each was presented with a rose as a token of appreciation for their hard work and moral support – and a kiss from Herb Unruh!

In May, a touching letter was received from Mrs. Doris Taylor of Yorkton, telling the bulletin editor, Glen McDonald, how much the bulletin meant to her, even though it might seem to him that no one really cared – thereby giving Glen enough steam to carry on the task for another two years.

On July 1, 1977, mandatory seat belt legislation came into effect which caused some concern among ostomates, as it was thought that the belt, in some cases, could possibly cause damage to one’s ostomy. The legislation stated that some people might qualify for an exemption to wear the seat belt, provided they could obtain a Certificate of Exemption signed by their doctors (supplied by the Highway Traffic Board) stating that under normal everyday conditions, use of a seat belt could cause harm to the particular person. The certificate would have to be carried in the car at all times.

In June, a social evening was held at the Dietz residence and has been held there each June since, becoming a traditional and anticipated annual event.

Mrs. Dietz accomplished two special feats that year: attending the annual United Ostomy Conference in San Diego, Au~t 18-20, and producing a brochure for distribution to new ostomy patients. At the September meeting, she demonstrated many new products that she found displayed at the San Diego convention.

In 1977, our membership reached 79, a new high.

Financial help for ostomates

Now into its fourth year, 1977, the Saskatoon Ostomy Association felt secure enough to tackle the provincial government for financial coverage of ostomy supplies. Ostomates in Manitoba were receiving supplies free of charge.

Herb Unruh started the ball rolling by first approaching Dr. Ernie Baergen, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Medical Association, and then Wes Robbins, Minister of Health at the time. With input from Dale Beavis and Herb from Saskatoon and four Regina members, a brief was presented jointly by the Saskatoon and Regina chapters, requesting full coverage for ostomy supplies. Paul Mostoway, M.L.A., sent a supporting letter to E. Tchorzewski, who succeeded Robbins as Minister of Health. A copy of the Brief follows:

BRIEF by the Regina Chapter of the United Ostomy Association and the Saskatoon Ostomy Association to The Honourable W. C. Robbins, Minister of Health (Gov. of Sask.)
February, 1977
Brief Committee Chairman: Mr. A. Wolf
59 Millar Crescent
Regina, Saskatchewan
The Regina Ostomy Chapter and the Saskatoon Ostomy Association were organized in 1973/74 and are members of the United Ostomy Association, Inc. The U.O.A. is incorporated in the State of New York and is composed of local ostomy chapters in the United States and Canada.

Ileostomy — an ileostomy is a surgically established passageway of the ileum (end of small intestine) with the open end (stoma) protruding through the abdominal wall.
Colostomy — a colostomy is a surgically established passageway of the colon with the open end (stoma) protruding through the abdominal wall.
Urinary Ostomies — performed to provide a convenient outlet for urine because of the loss of the urinary bladder, or of bladder function.

Two hundred years ago, when the first ostomy surgery was performed in France (1776) the quality of life for the ostomate could hardly have been desirable. Until very recently appliances were barely adequate, with unpleasant and often disastrous consequences: hence the dread attached to the mention of “Ostomy ‘to the uninformed, even today.

However, together with modern surgical and ostomy care techniques, there has been rapid development in the design of ostomy products and today many safe and reliable appliances are available.

The management of an ostomy requires an appliance and disposable supplies. Obtaining a suitable appliance and maintaining an adequate supply of the disposables can be a financial burden. In Saskatchewan it has been estimated that the average annual cost is $176.00 per year (retail prices), and in Manitoba the estimate is $156.00 (wholesale prices). This is a considerable strain on the budgets of many ostomates and can result in unnecessary mental, emotional and physical
hardship. For some, the cost could deny them full and free reentry into normal life.

Manitoba has recently introduced legislation making ostomy supplies available under that province’s health plan. As a leader in socialized medicine we sincerely hope that Saskatchewan will follow suit.

It is therefore recommended that all necessary ostomy appliances and supplies be made available without cost to ostomates who are residents of Saskatchewan and are beneficiaries under the Saskatchewan Hospital Services and Medical Care Plan. We believe that, inasmuch as similar benefits have been made available to handicapped persons under the SAIL program, ostomates should also be eligible for supplies without cost.

We propose that our recommendation be discussed further by a committee representative of the Department of Health, the medical profession, suppliers and members of ostomy groups. With input from these sources, suitable guidelines could be laid down to govern the benefits requested.

In summary, we respectfully submit that our request for coverage is reasonable, and we ask for your consideration of the proposal. We will willingly cooperate in any way possible in supplying any further information and material which may be required.

Finally, after two years of negotiations with Health Department officials and M.L.A.s, a rebate plan was approved. The legislation was passed and became effective April 1, 1979, allowing a 50 percent rebate covering only those items which were deemed necessary and prescribed by an enterostomal therapist. Creams, lotions, and deodorants were not included. Ostomates were able to obtain refunds, first by registering with a certified enterostomal therapist at one of the two Saskatchewan Stoma Clinics, and then submitting claim forms to S.A.I.L. (Saskatchewan Aids to Independent Living).

There have been no changes in the terms laid out for this rebate system since it was initiated in 1979. Both Regina and Saskatoon Chapters have since approached the Ministers of Health, requesting further coverage, especially for the financially disadvantaged and/or senior citizens. Even with the 50 percent rebate on costs, the average net cost to every ostomate (with one stoma) is somewhere between $30.00 to $35.00 a month, as we write this in 1983. This can be quite a burden for those who have two or three stomas, or other health problems in addition to being an ostomate. And, as everyone knows, the cost of medical supplies keeps escalating.

Following is a reprint of the Letter of consent received by Brief Committee Chairman Al Wolf (of Regina) from Herman Rolfes, Minister of Health at the time:

March 29, 1979
Mr. A.C. Wolf
59 Millar Crescent
Regina, Saskatchewan

Dear Mr. Wolf

RE: Ostomy Program

Some time ago, you wrote to me about the need for a program to help ostomy patients. I am pleased to tell you that effective April 1, 1979, Such a program will be in place.

This program will provide Saskatchewan residents with a 50% reimbursement of costs for specified ostomy appliances and supplies prescribed by the enterostomal therapists and purchased after April 1, 1979. The program will also provide for counselling and training of patients by an enterostomal therapist. An enterostomal therapist is a person specially trained in the care of patients requiring an ostomy.

In the past, ostomy patients in the province have purchased their supplies from local pharmacies with no financial assistance. Now, they will be referred by a physician to an enterostomal therapist in Regina or Saskatoon for training and therapy. At that time, the therapist will requisition the necessary supplies. The patient will then take the requisition to his local pharmacy and have it filled, paying the total cost of the bill. Persons who are presently ostomy patients will not be asked to see the therapist immediately to qualify for the benefits.

Herman H. Rolfes,
Minister of Health

Members and friends at a mid-seventies' get-together. Above, from Left: an unidentified visitor, Sarah-Jane Spratt, Edith Clark, Hilda Mattoon and Barb Pawliuk.

Members and friends at a mid-seventies’ get-together. Above, from Left: an unidentified visitor, Sarah-Jane Spratt, Edith Clark, Hilda Mattoon, and Barb Pawliuk.

Above: A. Lesser, Mr. Pawliuk, Kay and Wallace MacLellan.

Above: A. Lesser, Mr. Pawliuk, Kay, and Wallace MacLellan.


Education and publicity increases

When Herb Unruh went to Toronto in 1978 to have the new Kock Pouch surgery performed, Bulletin Editor Glen McDonald wrote in the April 1978 issue: “There is a certain type of person who has to forge ahead. He is not satisfied with the way things are nor with how far he has gone. Herb is one of those persons. Herb has always been a prime mover in getting assistance for the ostomate through our association and even before the association existed. Before the association existed, he often filled the role of the E.T. we have today. He made personal visits to ostomates in all three hospitals and opened his home to many of those he visited. In fact, the good relationship we have with the medical profession is in no small way the result of Herb’s efforts in getting visitors to all the hospitals. Herb was also one of the founders of the Saskatoon Ostomy Association and has served on several executives. I might also note that the above would not have been possible without the understanding and support of his wife Erica.

“Once again Herb is helping to blaze a trail for others. He will be our third to have the Continent Ileostomy (Kock Pouch). I hope you will all join with me in wishing him a speedy recovery and a heartfelt WELCOME HOME.”

In the same issue of the Saskatoon Ostomy Association Bulletin, a portion of a letter from Bette Yetman of the Halifax Metro Chapter was quoted, pointing out that the Saskatoon and Halifax chapters had exchanged bulletins faithfully since March 1974.

And again, the wind-up June Social was held at the Dietz residence on Temperance Street.

In September 1978, members were told that we now had a Medical Advisory Board of four: Drs. Inglis, Weder and Taranger and Helen Witson, R .N.

By now, the two-year term of provincial rep had expired and Al Wolf was ready to step down to be replaced by a Saskatoon member. Herb Unruh volunteered to become the second provincial rep in the fall of 1978. It has since been a policy to alternate the position every two years between a Saskatoon and Regina club member.

In September, Heather Wigmore was in Vancouver taking her training as an enterostomal therapist and would soon be joining forces with Katja.

A change came over the monthly bulletin with the October issue, when the format shrunk to a more compact 8 x 11, from its former 8 x 14 size. The cover featured the U.O.A. symbol of the Phoenix, and the design has continued to this day.

More publicity occurred on October 24, 1978, when Mrs. Dietz appeared with Dr. Inglis on the C.F.Q.C. television show “You and Your Doctor” at 6 p.m. As a result, many ostomates who were unknown to us “came out of hiding” and made appointments with the Stoma Clinic. Others joined the association, who had previously not known about it. Also, that fall, the Unruhs attended a regional conference in Sioux Falls, S.D.

On October 20, 1978, a delegation of four from our chapter went to Nipawin, Sask. to meet with ostomates in the area, to lend assistance and explain the work of the Ostomy Association. They were: Mrs. Dietz, Olga Robinson, Erica, and Herb Unruh. Mrs. Dietz had made a previous trip to Nipawin in March.

Membership seemed to be steadily increasing since we now had 84 paid memberships plus another 13 people subscribing to the bulletin.

Good news for ostomates

During the 1978-79 season, Herb Unruh wore two hats: that of provincial rep for U.O.A. And as president for our chapter.

Two significant things happened this season. On April 1, 1979, the Saskatchewan government’s rebate program on ostomy supplies came into effect arid our first Stoma Clinic opened in Ellis Hall, University Hospital. Heather Wigmore, who had completed her E.T. Training in September, joined Mrs. Dietz and, in October, a part-time secretary was hired for the Stoma Clinic.

Earlier in the year, on January 16, Dr. Wolan and Mrs. Dietz had appeared on the C.F.Q.C. television program “You and Your Doctor”, to discuss urinary diversions. Arrangements for medical professionals to appear in this program were made through Dr. Baergen, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Medical Association, and we are grateful to the Medical Association and C.F.Q.C. for the many opportunities they have given us over the years to inform the public about ostomy surgery.

On March 13, several of our members braved the winter roads to visit the Regina chapter.

When the Saskatchewan Aids to Independent Living rebate program started in April 1979, two government representatives came to the April meeting to explain how the program worked. All ostomates in northern Saskatchewan were asked to register at the Stoma Clinic but it took many months before all ostomates came forth, from near and far, to complete the registration process.

In late spring, it was hoped that a joint picnic might be arranged for Regina and Saskatoon members, but for various reasons, the picnic did not materialize. However, Saskatoon members did get together again for a June social in the Dietz’ home and garden.

It was reported that during the months of July and August 1979, our two E.T.s had totalled 552 visits with patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and the Clinic. As time went on, other tasks were added to their busy schedule: that of imparting information on ostomy care and appliances to senior pharmaceutical students, nursing students and hospital staff.

In August 1979, the Unruhs attended a U.O.A. convention in Vancouver and gave their report at the September meeting.

Members helped set up and man displays during the month of November at the Medical Show, University of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Medical Conference at the Sheraton Cavalier, giving up-to-date information on ostomy care and appliances.

Click on photo to see larger size

Left to Right – Mrs. McDonald, Elsa Cechanowicz, Katja Dietz, Erica Unruh and Norm Faulkner


Into the ‘80s!

Another first occurred in September 1980, when an all-day ostomy seminar was held in Regina and more than 100 nurses attended. The event was sponsored by The Dept. of Continuing Nursing Education.

In September 1980, membership fees were increased to $12.00 from the former $10.00.

During the first few months of 1981, several executive positions were vacated and a committee was formed to find replacements for a president, secretary, and bulletin editor. By March all these positions were filled and we were “off and running” again. A 10-year summary of Directors later.

Heather Wigmore left Saskatoon in May 1981, to move to the USA with her husband so that he could continue his medical training. On May 7, a farewell dinner was held for Heather at the German Concordia Club.

Al Wolf, from Regina, attended the April meeting and announced that The Canadian Cancer Society (Saskatchewan Division) had printed pamphlets for the two Saskatchewan chapters which explained the purpose and functions of the Ostomy Association.

On June 15, 1981, Ten Smith, R.N., replaced Heather Wigmore at the Stoma Clinic and then went to Vancouver for enterostomal therapy training in September.

New Stoma Clinic opens

In October 1981, the Stoma Clinic moved from Ellis Hall to the 6th floor of the new multi-million dollar addition to University Hospital. Facilities in the new Clinic were much improved over the first one, with private examining rooms, reception area, large washrooms, and storage space. By now, we had an estimated 1,000 or more people with ostomies living in the northern half of Saskatchewan, the area served by the Saskatoon Stoma Clinic. Since ostomates should return regularly to the Clinic for checkups, and ostomy surgery cases increase each year, the workload for the Clinic is continually increasing.

Petitioning for better coverage

At the November ‘81 meeting, members signed a petition and wrote letters to the Saskatchewan Minister of Health and other M.L.A.s requesting that coverage of creams and deodorants be included in the rebate program and that 100 percent coverage be extended to ostomates who were 65 years of age or over. M.L.A.s Paul Mostoway and Bob Ogle sent letters to the Minister of Health, Herman Rolfes, supporting our request. In reply to a personal letter from one of our members, Olaf Vigeant, Mr. Rolfes stated that supplementary health benefits were available through the Medical Services Division of his Department, but, first, eligibility had to be determined by the Department of Social Services. Seemingly, few people have followed this route due to the discomfort of having to ask for social aid.

Outreach Program launched

In the early 80s, there was a movement to extend the services of ostomy associations from their membership area to other areas in the region. This was called the Outreach Program and originated with U.O.A. in the United States. When it was found that a sufficient number of ostomates in a nearby community wanted to form a self-help group, an effort was made to launch a satellite chapter that would be sponsored by an existing “parent” chapter. The satellite operates under the wing of its parent chapter, drawing on it for support in all areas. There must be a minimum of 10 active members to form a satellite. Regina started satellites in Moose Jaw and Melville in 1982 and, in 1983, Saskatoon launched a satellite in Prince Albert. When the fledgling satellite group reaches a self-sufficient stage, it becomes an affiliated chapter of the United Ostomy Association, and functions independently.

U.O.A. celebrates 20th year

1982 marked United Ostomy Association’s 20th anniversary year. U.O.A. was formed at the Constitutional Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 22, 1962.

It was the U.O.A. that encouraged manufacturers to develop better appliances such as the ones we take for granted today. It was the U.O.A. That got the U.S. Congress to pass public law 92-603, dated Oct. 30, 1972, to provide ostomy supplies through Medicare. It was also responsible for the removal of tax on all ostomy supplies. Today there are 647 local chapters of the United Ostomy Association throughout the United States and Canada, with thousands of members to help both new and established ostomates.

Cancer Society lends strong support

In 1982, the Cancer Society was able to donate $5,400 to be shared by the Regina and Saskatoon chapters. Committees were appointed by both chapters to oversee the use of the grant. The funds were put to use as follows: printed educational material; public education such as exhibits and open houses; travel to regional or national U.O.A. conferences; printing and mailing of the monthly bulletins; incidental expenses.

Both the Canadian and USA Cancer Society play a protective and supportive role in ostomy Associations throughout the two countries. It helps in various ways such as assisting with the printing of bulletins, funding, provision of literature, and other educational aids and, in many cases, by allowing the use of its facilities for meetings.

New U.O.A. rep trains in Los Angeles

By September 1982, it again was Saskatoon’s turn to appoint a Provincial Rep for U.O.A. as Ken Matchett from Regina stepped down, Otto Fonau from Wynyard (a Saskatoon chapter member) assumed the job. Ken and Muriel Matchett of the Regina chapter visited at our September 13th meeting and Ken spoke about what he had learned at the recent U.O.A. conference in Atlanta, Georgia which he had attended with Otto. It gave Otto an excellent introduction to the workings of the organization. Communication through regional and national conferences is necessary in order to maintain touch with the overall purpose and function of the United Ostomy Association.

In October, Otto also attended a training session for U.O.A. Provincial Reps in Los Angeles, the location of the U.O.A. administration offices.

In the fall of 1982, Mrs. Dietz and Mrs. Wigmore created three new pamphlets produced through The Patient Education Centre at University Hospital. They covered the topics of Colostomy, Ileostomy, and Urinary Diversion. The Stoma Clinic is part of The Patient Education Centre.

Bulletin links members and chapters

By September 1982, there were 104 members of the Saskatoon chapter, with an additional six subscribing to the bulletin. The bulletin, written voluntarily by a member, or members, is sent approximately nine times a year to all members, bulletin-only subscribers and to others – such as members of the medical profession, ostomy association branches, and the Cancer Society. It contains information on ostomy care, general health care, and news of chapter and general U.O.A. activities. All U.O.A. chapters circulate newsletters to their members and exchange newsletters with other chapters.

Since 1981, duplicating and mailing has been done by a mailing service, since handling the many operations involved (writing, printing, collating and mailing) were too time-consuming for one person, and it seemed difficult to assemble enough volunteers on a continuous basis. Gathering of information, writing, and typing, are currently being done by the bulletin editor. This system has proven to be very efficient and trouble-free, with donations from the Cancer Society making it possible to pay for the printing and mailing. Communication with members is a vital function of the group, and particularly so for the 55 percent of members who live out of town.

Our first Open House

A significant achievement in 1982 was the presentation of an Open House for ostomates, families, and friends, from Saskatoon and the surrounding region, which was held in the meeting and lecture area, 6th floor of University Hospital. The primary intention was to make it possible for out-of-towners to attend, who normally could not make it to our regular evening meetings due to the travel time involved. Therefore, it was held on a Sunday afternoon, November 7, with an excellent turnout of out-of-town and local visitors. Some drove from as far as Lloydminster, even though the roads were in poor condition due to a storm on the previous day.

At 2 p.m., President Leslie Brehon welcomed everyone and talked briefly about the work of the association. Then she introduced the speaker, Dr. Fred Inglis, who explained problems that ostomates face after surgery and answered questions from the audience.

There were displays of current ostomy equipment manned by some manufacturers’ representatives and our E.T.s, and a good selection of hand-out literature. A film and two slide shows were presented in adjoining rooms, which dealt with ostomy care, surgery and health topics. A hearty selection of refreshments was served. The Open House was so successful that it was later agreed to hold one at least every second year. The co-ordinator of the event was Louise Mulligan, from St. Denis.

Statistics from the annual convention of U.O.A. in 1982, showed that there were approximately 120,000 ostomy surgeries performed each year. The theme of the conference was “You are not alone.”

First C.A.E.T. Conference held in Canada

Another “first” occurred in October 1982, when the initial annual convention of The Canadian Association of Enterostomal Therapists was held in Toronto. Our two E.T.s attended. At the time there were 114 certified enterostomal therapists in Canada – 50 percent being in the province of Quebec.

1983: 10th anniversary year

The Canadian Association for Enterostomal Therapists sponsored an Ostomy Conference in Regina on the evening of March 18, 1983, and nine members of our chapter attended. Saskatoon members gathered at the German Concordia Club for supper and social evening on Thursday, March 24th.

At the April 1983 meeting, we were reminded by Herb Unruh that this was our 10th anniversary year. Ronalda Adkin, our bulletin editor, suggested that it would be nice to have a 10-year review written, or a capsule history and volunteered to write it.

By April 1983, we had 118 paid memberships. At the April meeting, copies of the original bylaws were circulated to all executive members for their information. The original bylaws stated that the Board of Directors would be composed of past-president, president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. The executive could appoint committee heads as needed. Our chapter then had a bulletin editor, as well as entertainment, friendship, and visitation chairpersons, in addition to the five directors.

The work of the Provincial Representative

Basic functions of the U.O.A. Provincial Rep are to act as a liaison between U.O.A. and all Saskatchewan chapters and their satellites and also to serve as a coordinator and consultant for chapters within the province.

At the April 1983 meeting, Otto Fonau gave a report on what he had done during his first year as Provincial Rep for U.O.A.

He had attended a seminar in Regina; the annual U.O.A. conference in Atlanta; and a training seminar in Los Angeles. He also visited Melville, where a satellite was being formed; the Moose Jaw satellite chapter; and investigated inquiries about forming satellites in Prince Albert and Humboldt. During the year, he had travelled 1,130 miles.

Prince Albert joins the fold

On June 7, 1983, a meeting was held in Prince Albert to launch a satellite chapter in that city, since a sufficient number of people had expressed interest in forming a group. Three Saskatoon members attended the meeting to give assistance and general information. These were Louise Mulligan, Harry Landa, and Cliff Gray. As a result of the meeting, the formation of a chapter proceeded, spearheaded by Helen and Herman Knoke of Prince Albert.

A nomination committee was struck for the election of a new executive in June, and the date for the June Social was set for Friday, June 24. Again, the hosts were to be Katja and Edward Dietz.

The big storm

The evening that the June party took place will not be soon forgotten, as a severe storm hit Saskatoon at 5:30 p.m., flooding the city, causing injury and death, and inflicting millions of dollars of property damage. Although the sky looked pretty threatening by 5 p.m., most of us hoped it would be a quick thunderstorm and soon pass over. The first inkling that the Dietz’s received that it might be something more serious was when Harry Landa phoned to say: “There’s a great black ball in the sky coming our way and I’m not venturing out right now.”

The storm hit just as most of us were getting ready to leave. Some were stranded in another part of the city, or downtown, or could not get through their own street. Others from out of town heeded the severe storm warning and stayed home. However, having overcome adversity in the past, quite a few members made it to the Dietz residence, each with an incredible story to tell. By 10 p.m. about 20 people had arrived, dried out, and proceeded to enjoy the evening. In one instance the Friestadts had gone to rescue their son and his friends who had escaped from the flooded basement of a hotel. The Fonaus were trapped on Second Avenue downtown where water was above knee-level. The storm made headlines on the national news.

Bulletin subscription fee raised

In September 1983, the bulletin editor reported that it was costing about $1700 a year to print and mail nine or ten issues and that the current bulletin subscription fee, of $3.00 a year, did not cover costs. A motion was made that the bulletin subscription rate be increased to $5.00 a year, and the annual membership fee remains at $12.00. This motion was passed.

Canadian U.O.A. office opens

In 1983. a Canadian U.O.A. office was established in Hamilton, Ontario, headed by a longtime and dedicated worker from the Hamilton Ostomy Association, Allen Porter.

The office space was donated by the Hamilton Separate School Board and set up in an unused classroom of a school. Canadian chapters were now able to obtain literature, films, and other items within Canada. The new U.O.A. office, located at 5 Hamilton Ave., also serves as an information clearance centre and publishes a Canadian newsletter.

Saskatchewan hosts second C.A.E.T. conference

The Canadian Association of Enterostomal Therapists held its second national conference in Regina on October 12-14, 1983. Our E.T.s, who were involved in the planning, reported that two-thirds of all E.T.s in Canada attended and that it was a very successful conference. Four of the guest speakers were from Saskatoon.

New Cancer Clinic underway

Dr. David Klaassen, Director of the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic, spoke at the October meeting on the topic of new developments in cancer treatment. He also shared information on the facilities and equipment being planned for the new Cancer Clinic, targeted to open in 1986.

Two of our members attended regional U.O.A. conferences in 1983: Otto Fonau went to Rochester, Minnesota, and Ronalda Adkin attended an October conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

1983 closes with memorable events

As 1983 drew to a close, two major events occurred, one happy and one sad.

On December 7, Herb Unruh died following surgery in Toronto. Although no serious problems were anticipated, his heart did not withstand the rigours of the operation. It was ironic that he was taken from us 10 years alter he had forged the beginning of the Ostomy Association. Up to the time he left for the operation, he was working to obtain publicity in our local media and had audited our books for 1983.

At the end of December, Katja Dietz received a coveted community award: that of being chosen ‘Citizen of the Year” for the city of Saskatoon, an award presented annually by television station C.F.Q.C.

Subsequent interviews on television, and an article in the Star-Phoenix, provided the public with more information on ostomy surgery and the work of enterostomal therapists.

It was an unanticipated plus for the Ostomy Association, publicity-wise, and members could once again thank Herb Unruh for starting the campaign to nominate Katja for the award, back in November.

Our supporters

Throughout the past decade, we have leaned heavily on our medical friends and health care specialists. Many have given valuable hours of their time to come speak, explain, illustrate – and give their support and encouragement. To the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, and dieticians who have shared their knowledge with us, we extend our grateful thanks, for you have added immeasurably to our well-being and strength.

Our purpose

Many things have happened over the past 10 years: important and trivial events, happy and memorable events, and achievements that stem from strong purpose and dedication. All have contributed toward the end result of making the path smoother for ostomates of the future.

We who have taken an active part in the Ostomy Association were not seeking only to help others when we first became involved but sought basically to help ourselves. This was natural since we were then recovering from major surgery and emotional trauma.

But in time, by gaining strength through the help of others, in being grateful for the continued good life which God and our surgeons had given we could in turn realize the necessity to help others. Through this giving of ourselves, we have been rewarded by a common fellowship with other ostomates, and the knowledge that we are always ready to help one another should help be needed.

This is the essence of the purpose of the Ostomy Association.

Ronalda Adkin

Ronalda Adkin

The Author

Ronalda Adkin has been a bulletin editor for the Saskatoon Ostomy Association since October 1981.

In March 1981, she had colostomy surgery at City Hospital in Saskatoon and joined the association in May.

Ronalda has had several careers in the advertising and public relations field, having initially been a commercial artist and advertising writer. She is still working in the public relations field and was able to “do her bit” for fellow ostomates by writing the monthly bulletins.

She started work on this history in late 1983 and completed it in February 1984.

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