I have spent a large part of my life searching. We all search right? (I mean, I hope it’s not just me.) We search for happiness, love, friendship, knowledge, and wealth. If you’re like me you spend a lot of time searching for your car keys in the bottom of your purse and maybe your cell phone whilst talking on it. However while I’d rather be on a quest to find the true meaning of life or, more likely, figuring out how to convince my husband that four kids would be a fantastic idea, I have instead found myself otherwise occupied with the all important pursuit of bladder control.
My spinal cord injury has resulted in a lot more than useless legs. Among other things, I now have what is called a ‘neurogenic bladder’. This is just doctor talk for ‘a bladder that does whatever the hell it pleases’ and I guarantee you it is NOT as glamorous as it sounds. For the first month after my accident I didn’t pay my bladder too much attention. I had an indwelling catheter (a tube that goes up into the bladder and stays there, continually draining into a bag) and I had more to worry about than urine. But for weeks I was told that the best bladder management option for me would be to take out the catheter that wasn’t causing me problems, was consistently draining my bladder and was keeping me dry, in order to try something different. And there starts my battle with bladder control.
Something different meant doing my own catheters to drain my bladder on a consistent schedule (ideally every 4-6 hours). They made it sound like it was easy…I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that it was not. A urethra is not a large opening – I’ll leave it at that. However performing the actual catheter was the least of my problems. I went from not thinking about my bladder or ‘accidents’ to constantly being anxious about both. In theory, your bladder should be able to stretch and hold a certain amount of urine until you empty it with the catheter. Except sometimes (or all the time) it doesn’t do that. Sometimes it spasms and releases everything. And due to the lack of sensation below the waist…I wouldn’t know. Theories are great.
So after a few days consisting of a tremendous amount of crying and having wet underwear/pants/wheelchair etc. all the damn time, I started wearing, what I like to think is, a prettier and more girly version of disposable underwear. But really…it’s just a diaper with a purple bow that I call a ‘pad’ to make myself feel better.
I was super frustrated and ready to go back to my semi-permanent catheter but my medical team convinced me otherwise. They convinced me to try medication that would help my bladder relax. The meds helped a bit but I think it was mostly because I stopped drinking enough. Basically I was still stuck between a rock and a hard place…
ROCK -> Using catheters increases the risk of bladder infection. Staying hydrated is a big part of fighting bladder infections. Staying hydrated means a lot of urine. A lot of urine means leaking or cathetering (definitely not a word) more often and that increases the risk of bladder infections <-HARD PLACE
To top it all off, my bladder infections tend to present as major leaking – we’re talking through a pad, through my clothes through my cushion leaking. So. Frustrating.
So after 8 months of continually fighting with my bladder I decided to give up the medication and try Botox. They inject the Botox in to the bladder wall (about 20 times) and it helps the bladder to relax and hold more urine – Apparently I’m a textbook candidate and it can last 6 to 12 months. I’m hopeful this will finally be the answer and I can stop stocking up on my purple-bowed diapers. As much as I’ve grown to love them/I don’t want to die every time I buy them or put them on (they have saved me a lot of mess and embarrassment…it’s a love/hate sort of arrangement).
So now here I am…Three days post Botox and hoping to see it work. I plan on trying this new absorbent underwear called “Icon Undies” (www.iconundies.com). They are real underwear with an absorbent aspect to them…I’m very intrigued and hope that it will give me peace of mind while maybe looking a bit more stylish – if only for myself. I will definitely update on these underwear; they seem like a great option for any woman who deals with bladder leaks (and it is a lot more common then you might think).
As for what I might spend my time on if I find the secret to bladder control…I think maybe I’ll revisit the fourth child argument. Nothing screws up bladder control like getting pregnant.