Days are eventful for Debra, 66, who is raising her two grandchildren.
"They keep me jumping," she said.
That's why when her urges to use the bathroom grew more frequent and painful, she felt she needed to find a solution.
"Something was wrong," Debra said.
Her bathroom frequency turned into more than an inconvenience. Frequent “accidents” made her dependent on bladder control pads in case she couldn’t make it to a restroom in time.
"I was so frustrated. I couldn’t leave the house," she said.
She admits to tolerating the discomfort for nine years, until it affected the time she spent with her grandchildren. Activities like dining out or going to the pool in her backyard became a burden when managing her frequent need to use the restroom.
"I knew something was wrong with me. I was scared. I thought my bladder had failed," Debra said. "It started to become painful. It started to feel like my insides were trying to get out."
That's when she made an appointment with her primary doctor, who suggested she see a urologist.
During Debra's first appointment with Ascension Saint Thomas urogynecologist Jill Danford, MD, she was surprised to learn that her symptoms of fecal and urinary incontinence (or bowel and bladder control) are common, and that there was a procedure to help relieve her from pain and discomfort.
"I had never in my life heard of anybody who had any type of experience with this," she said.
Debra received an interstim, which Dr. Danford likes to call a “pacemaker” for bowel and bladder control.
"It regulates that connection between the bladder, bowels and the brain," Dr. Danford said.
The two-part procedure involves implanting a small device to the nerve that affects the bowel and the bladder — first temporarily, to ensure it works, then permanently. "So when the brain says, 'You're actually not full, you're fine,' you can hold more,” Dr. Danford explained. “Then, the bladder ‘listens’ instead of trying to squeeze, telling the bladder ‘I'm full.’"
With her new implant, Debra can now control how often she goes to the bathroom.
"I can regulate it, and I can fix it myself," she said.
For the first part of the procedure, a temporary device is placed near a patient’s tailbone, where the nerve that controls the bladder and bowel is located. Once there is 50 percent improvement with incontinence, Dr. Danford says the final stage of the procedure is to take the device and switch out the temporary implant for a permanent one.
The day Debra went home from the final stage of her procedure is the day she found relief.
"It was phenomenal, that's all I can say. It was just phenomenal to see how fast everything just took place," she said.
Now she is enjoying the pool and her grandchildren without the urgent trips to the restroom.
Dr. Danford said that fecal and urinary incontinence is not something women have to suffer through because of age or past childbirth experiences. There are options that can help with relief.
Get back to living the life you love and find a doctor who listens
At Ascension Saint Thomas, doctors are ready to listen to understand you and your unique needs as a woman. We work with you to create a care plan that’s right for you. Appointments are available with urogynecologists. We are ready to help women with vaginal, bladder or pelvic health problems.
At Ascension Medical Group - Center for Female Pelvic Medicine, our care team specializes in diagnosing and treating pelvic floor disorders in women, including incontinence. Our team delivers care that’s personalized for your needs. Whenever possible, minimally invasive options are recommended. And when needed, advanced surgical options are available. Our goal is to help you get back to living the life you love with more confidence and comfort. Start by talking with a doctor about questions and concerns, big and small.
Schedule an appointment with an Ascension Saint Thomas specialist at AscensionSaintThomasWomens.com