Ileostomy Surgery News: Internet Friends Launch Personal Effort to Help Others Find ‘No-Bag’ Life

September 12, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Health News
LOS ANGELES, September 12, 2007 – Ileostomy surgery provided a deep friendship for Kathy Milan and Gwendy Steif. Now the two Illinois women are undertaking a personal mission to reach out and tell others how they found treatment, triumph and a no-bag life through a little-known surgical procedure called a BCIR.

The two friends, who first met through a medical support group on the Internet, say BCIR ileostomy surgery ended years of pain, embarrassment and inconvenience caused by Brooke ileostomies gone bad. The two have something else in common. Before they ever exchanged the first email or shared the first phone call, they shared the same ileostomy surgeon – Don. J. Schiller of Los Angeles. Milan underwent BCIR surgery in March of 2005. Steif’s BCIR ileostomy surgery took place in July of 2004.

Schiller, who has performed BCIR ileostomy surgery longer than any other surgeon in the United States, says BCIR is an abbreviation for the Barnett continent intestinal reservoir. The procedure, named for William O. Barnett, the American doctor who originated it in the 1980s, creates a self-sealing internal pouch that temporarily stores waste, eliminating the need for a bag or other external appliance. BCIR ileostomy surgery evolved from the Kock pouch procedure developed more than 35 years ago.

Both women credit Schiller and his assistant, registered nurse Tillie Huber, with making it possible for them to successfully undergo major surgery in Los Angeles, a city thousands of miles away from Chicago homes. “Dr. Schiller and Tillie were supportive every step of the way,” says Milan. She recalls in the first days after undergoing BCIR ileostomy surgery that it was Huber who was by her side when she emptied her new internal pouch for the first time.

Back home in Chicago, Milan’s first Internet encounter with Steif revealed a pleasant surprise: “Gwendy and I learned we lived only an hour’s drive from each other. She was my lifeline during those first few months after surgery. She knew what I was going through and she was kind enough to let me talk for as long as I wanted to talk.” Today both women are free to lead active lives. One thing they enjoy doing is meeting for lunch at a favorite restaurant, “and lunch means we eat about anything we want to eat,” says Milan, who says she treats herself to a Whopper once a month without fail – “no lettuce and no onions.”

For her part, Steif says it helps her to help others through the throes of serious surgery. “There are hurdles to BCIR ileostomy surgery, but a friend who has been there can help you jump through them.” In all, Steif says she has supported twenty or more men and women by email and telephone as they convalesced from BCIR ileostomy surgery.

While Milan and Steif have much in common, they also have different life experiences. “There were a lot of reasons we might never have developed a close friendship,” says Milan, 34, the mother of a 9-year-old daughter. “Gwendy is 62, old enough to be my mother. Also, I am African-American and she is Caucasian and I work in the home health care industry and live in the city and she raises horses and lives in the country.”

Now, Milan wants to help others the way Steif helped her – and Steif wants to continue reaching out to those who have had BCIR ileostomy surgery and to those who are thinking about it. “We both want others to know that there is life without a bag.”

Milan and Steif are available to communicate with other Brooke ostamates through contact with Schiller and Huber, who they continue to count as friends and medical supporters. For more information about BCIR ileostomy surgery, visit, or call Don J. Schiller, M.D. or Tillie Huber, R.N., at the Ileostomy Surgery Information Center in Los Angeles at (310) 204-4565.

About Dr. Schiller –
Don J. Schiller, MD, FACS is among a small number of surgeons in the United States who perform the specialized BCIR operation. He has operated on hundreds of ileostomy patients from around the world over the past twenty years. He graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and did his surgical residency training at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He has held many medical staff leadership positions at hospitals in Los Angeles, and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Focus: Ileostomy surgery, Ileostomy surgeon, Los Angeles ileostomy surgery, BCIR