Beckie H.
Urinary retention

This story recounts the experience of a patient who is receiving Medtronic Bladder Control Therapy (Sacral Neuromodulation), delivered by the InterStim® System, for the treatment of bladder control problems. Please bear in mind that the experience is specific to this particular person. Not everyone who receives Medtronic Bladder Control Therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story.

My urinary retention and the resulting overflow leaking were so embarrassing that I didn't want anyone to know. My coworker and I had a code phrase so she could cover for me when I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. I'd tell her I needed to "see R.C.," which was short for "Relief Coming"...from a catheter.

My name is Beckie. When I was out for a jog on my 38th birthday, I suffered a stroke, despite running 24 miles per week and being in good shape. Later we discovered the stroke was caused by a hole in my heart. While I was still in the hospital, I felt like I had to urinate all the time, but I couldn't go. That seemed odd, since I'd never had problems with urinary urgency or retention before. However, I was preoccupied with needing heart surgery, overcoming the stroke, and getting back home to my husband and two sons, so I didn't address my difficulty with urination right away.

Months later I still felt like I had to go constantly, my back ached, and I also began having frequent urinary tract infections. My internal medicine doctor kept reassuring me that we would get to the bottom of this, but he attributed it to stress or depression due to the stroke. I was starting to think I was crazy, since as a nurse, I knew a stroke shouldn't cause bladder problems. It got very frustrating, constantly asking "How could this be? What's wrong with me?" My doctor prescribed two different bladder medications, but they didn't do anything to relieve my symptoms. I adapted by not eating or drinking much at work and just tried to manage as best I could.

I was catheterizing myself every 3 to 4 hours around the clock, which was incredibly inconvenient and put a real strain on my active lifestyle. Do you know how hard it is to cath yourself in a public restroom while on in-line skates? Plus, I was always worried about overflow leaking. I knew where every bathroom was between my home in western Wisconsin and my job in the St. Paul metro area.

After several months of my insisting that something wasn't right, my doctor ordered a postvoid residual test and determined that I had a very large-volume bladder. My bladder would get so full that the urine would back up into my kidneys, and I would have overflow leaking.

He referred me to a urologist, but it took me a few months to actually make the appointment. After all the doctors I had seen with my stroke and heart surgery, I felt like the last thing I needed was another doctor to add to the list. When I finally went, the urologist ordered urodynamic tests that showed my bladder muscles never relaxed enough for me to go normally.

That doctor referred me to another urologist, who finally figured it out. He explained that due to the stroke, my brain and the nerves that control bladder function weren't communicating correctly. He thought InterStim® Therapy might target this communication problem and relieve my symptoms. I had never heard of it, and I thought it sounded strange. Over the next year or so, I researched InterStim Therapy and did a lot of thinking.

As an operating room nurse, I wasn't afraid of the surgery. After all, it's a minimally invasive procedure, and I see far more invasive surgeries every day at work. My hesitation was for emotional reasons. My doctor said there was a 40% chance that InterStim Therapy wouldn't work for me. I had been through such an emotional journey that if it didn't work, I didn't know if I could handle that huge of a letdown. That was the root of my concern.

The turning point came when my urologist's nurse reminded me that all the antibiotics I was taking for my frequent bladder and kidney infections could cause other, more serious medical problems. That got me thinking, "Well, if there's something out there for me to try, and yet I'm putting my kidneys through all this, I'd better just go for it." I figured I had to try something, because there was nothing else I could do. I scheduled an appointment for the trial assessment and crossed my fingers.

Read the next part of Beckie's story - Step 1: Evaluation

Next: Ellen's Story

Medtronic invited this patient to share their story candidly. Not everyone who receives Medtronic Bladder Control Therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if sacral neuromodulation is right for you. In addition to risks related to a surgical procedure, complications associated with the InterStim System can include pain at the implant sites, new pain, infection, lead (thin wire) movement/migration, device problems, interactions with certain other devices or diagnostic equipment such as MRI, undesirable changes in urinary or bowel function, uncomfortable stimulation (sometimes described as a jolting or shocking feeling), and others. Surgery is required to remove the InterStim System. Please refer to Important Safety Information. Always discuss the potential risks and benefits of the therapy with your physician. This therapy is not for everyone. A prescription is required.

Last updated: 27 Apr 2015