Sometimes a medical condition or symptom creates the need for a gastrostomy, either long-term, or for a short period. This can be a life-altering procedure, not because it is a complicated one, but because of the impact it has on the lifestyle of the person needing it.
There are many different kinds of gastrostomies, and they all have different names. As a general group, they are often called g-buttons for short. They can be placed in adults, teens, children, or babies. The care and maintenance is similar regardless of the type or age of the person.
I spent many years working in the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. During those years, I worked with countless families as their children had g-buttons placed. Often they were intimidated by the device, and saw it as something foreign and unattractive on their baby’s body. It was far more difficult to adjust emotionally to the button, for most families, than it was to learn the logistics of how to care for it.
If you live with a medical device such as a g-button, you may struggle to feel that the button is anything but clinical. You were likely sent home from the hospital with stacks of white cotton gauze to apply around your site. While functional, it may feel like just a further reminder of the presence of this device.
If you or your child has a g-button, here are some accessories and suggestions that might help the device to feel just a little less medical, and perhaps allow you to express your personality through it.
Oh, my. How can you not smile when you see the mustache on this taco? These adorable g-tube pads are brimming with personality! This seller offers a massive range of pads that are fun and whimsical, from these tacos, to chicken nuggets, to flowers, to whales. Sold in a variety of shapes and sizes, you’re sure to find something that makes you smile! And the beauty of fabric pads like this, other than the fun factor, is that they are re-usable. Simply wash them, and use them again. No waste!
Oh, Charlie Brown… Old Chuck is a perennial favorite, from adults on down to children. This set of pads has all the old gang together in one place. The design of these pads makes them versatile and easy to use with a variety of devices. A multipack like this could make a great gift, too!
For an older child or an adult, is there anything more fitting than videogame controllers? With the option to choose the color, you could have a different color for each day of the week! Again, these pads are washable and re-usable, for long-lasting wear.
For the mermaid lover, these iridescent pads are simply beautiful, and sure to inspire a smile! There are countless options for fabric button covers. Find some that reflect your personality or draw a smile!
Button Covers and Belts
Feeding tube covers, or belts, come in a variety of styles and sizes. They’re not essential, but they do help to protect the tube from catching on clothing, keep the area clean, and add a little additional padding to even out the appearance of the site under clothing. And they’re another place to infuse some personality and fun. This seller offers belts in a variety of fabric choices, and in several lengths, so they can fit from infant up through adult sizes. They’re washable and reusable, and comfortable to wear under clothing. A “hatch” provides easy access to the button site for care and feeding.
A simple band like this is another option. Similar to the previous belt, this style provides some protection under clothing. The larger flap on this particular belt allows you to store coiled tubing as well.
A simple belly band like this can be a great option, as well, to protect the site and hold tubing in place. Bands like this are also often available in maternity clothing sections, and come in a wide range of colors and styles. They are easy to pull down to access the site. A style like this is probably the most subtle beneath clothing, as the bottom edge would simply look like an undershirt or camisole.
This belt is excellent for continuous infusion, to hold tubing, or for dialysis. The straps are easily concealed beneath clothing and a simple backpack could hold supplies that aren’t in use. The straps are adjustable to ensure a good fit.
Tubing and Bag Accessories
If your condition requires continuous infusion, or if you need to be able to administer a feeding on the go, a bag like this may be an option. It provides a padded case for the infusion bag, some insulation factor, and plenty of style. The snaps and openings at the bottom make it possible to pass tubing through the bottom of the bag, or potentially even to hang it if needed.
Tubing covers and port covers are a convenient and stylish way to protect tubing connection points on the go. Covers like this come in all shapes and sizes to meet the needs of your individual tubing system.
A clip like this is perfect for keeping tubing corralled and out of the way. Snaps make it easy to loop the tubing, and a clip attaches it to clothing (or bedding). This is a great option for keeping tubing secured and out of reach for infants and young children, too. There are countless fabric options available!
For children dealing with a g-button, or adjusting to a family member with one, nothing dispels fear and uncertainty quite like a toy. A toy like this allows a way to demonstrate button care and feedings in a way that is friendly and non-threatening. Pretend play also helps normalize and de-stigmatize things like g-button feedings. Children can practice administering feedings on their stuffed friend any time they’d like. And after demonstrations, these little stuffed animals are perfect for snuggling! This seller offers a variety of animals with a variety of devices, including feeding tubes, g-buttons, PICC lines, chemo ports, hearing aids, hydrocephalus shunts, and tracheostomies. I’ve also been told that Build-A-Bear will add a button (or trach) to their stuffed animals if you provide a device. Often doctors have expired buttons or trachs that can be taken into the store and added to a special stuffed animal.
These sweet little dolls come with multiple options for medical devices. While a child can’t connect a real tubing set to this doll, toys with devices help to normalize the need for devices in real life. This seller offers a variety of dolls, both in terms of medical special needs and appearance. They would make a sweet gift for a child living with a medical device.
If your child already has a favorite doll or stuffed animal, it’s also possible to add a g-button (or other medical device). Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to normalize these devices, to give a non-threatening opportunity to demonstrate, and to allow for creative play that incorporates the device. Nothing is more perfect for this than a well-loved toy! Follow the simple steps in this post to adapt your own toy.