In 1989, Andy Manson joined her mother Helen, founder of the Ostomy Care & Supply Centre, and began a 30-year career as a trailblazer and advocate for people with an ostomy. Andy has been a central figure in ostomy care locally, nationally and internationally and today the Ostomy Care Centre is what it is because of Andy. The Ostomy Care and Supply Centre was started with modest goals: dealing with issues like skin irritation, hernia belt fittings, and centrally, helping people learn to live full lives with an ostomy. Under Andy’s guidance, the Centre became a port in the storm for people all over BC, and beyond. As products evolved, so did Andy’s practice. She used her nursing knowledge, unique visuospatial abilities and drive for excellence to hone her skills. Despite having a focus on simplicity, her care plans achieve excellent outcomes, as anyone who has received care from Andy knows. From her years of experience pioneering various techniques she has developed her own set of rules and knows when to break them.
She continually looks for ways to solve problems, looking well outside the box when necessary. Andy has been a strong advocate for ostomy awareness and has done some amazing things in support of that: she has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and trekked in Iceland with Rob Hill of IDEAS (weneedideas.ca). She has served on the Board of Ostomy Canada Society, formerly the United Ostomy Association of Canada, a volunteer organization for those with ostomies. She was awarded the ET Nurse of the Year in 2014 and has been a part of groups of expert ostomy nurses from around the world as they created guidelines to help guide practice throughout the world, and other tools to help improve the lives of people with an ostomy. Andy also undertook the Nurse Continence Advisor program at McMaster University and used this knowledge to help people with urinary and fecal incontinence. Even before I started working here, I knew Andy by reputation. If you had an ostomy question, she was the one to ask. She is regularly asked for her wisdom and insight from her peers. Being invited to join the team was an honour as I was inspired by the level of care and commitment here; I learned from clinicians who had spent decades learning and improving their practice.
Even they benefited from working alongside Andy, as she shared what she had learned with all of us, and demonstrated how to be creative in problem-solving. You may not be aware of it, but this service and model of care are unique in Canada, and even the world. Without charging patients or the health care system, it has managed to provide critically essential care to people experiencing everything from an unusual occurrence to the full crisis related to their ostomy. People are able to get expert help in a timely way so they can get on with the more important work of living. The impact of this service cannot be overstated; Andy has supported thousands of people and their families as they navigate the time after surgery and life after recovery.
If you’re reading this, you know well how challenging this can be. Many of you have formed years-long relationships with Andy, and I know she has a special place in so many hearts. When I first met Andy in 2012, she told me she still got “juiced every day” about the work she does, after more than 20 years. Her engagement with, and commitment to the community has been reciprocated through the trust and gratitude from patients and their families, her regard throughout Canada and the US from her peers, and the legacy she leaves in the Ostomy Care and Supply Centre.