This story recounts the experience of a patient who is receiving neurostimulation for the treatment of bladder control problems. Please bear in mind that the experience is specific to this particular person. Not everyone who receives InterStim Therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story.
I used to tell people that I went to the bathroom more often than a 5 year old. I should know: I work full time as a kindergarten teaching assistant. My name is Ellen, and my job requires me to be in constant motion. When I'm teaching, I don't have the freedom to just leave the classroom to go to the bathroom.
Bladder issues are not life-threatening, but they are life-altering. I have four kids, all involved in various activities. Activities at school were manageable because there were always bathrooms available, but sporting events were more challenging. If I had to go to the bathroom, I'd have to jump in the car and go to the nearest store or restaurant. Worse than the inconvenience was the anxiety and fear I felt about "What if there's no bathroom?"
Traveling was difficult. The anxiety would start days before we planned a trip, when I'd have to map out all the rest areas. I always had to throw a bucket into the car in case of an emergency. As you can imagine with teenagers, I put up with a lot of moans and groans and eye rolling when I had to make a bathroom stop.
I was going to the bathroom more than every hour, round the clock. At night, I'd have to get up 8 or 10 times, so I was always exhausted.
My bladder control problems started 10 years ago, when I was pregnant with my youngest son. At first I thought the pain, urgency and frequency was due to the pregnancy. But after I had my son, the problems continued. I would think that I had a bladder infection, but every time I went to my primary-care doctor, the test would come out negative.
I'm sure they thought I was a complete hypochondriac, because they could never find a reason for my symptoms. I just chalked it up to having four children. I don't think they knew what to do with me, so it was easy to sweep me under the rug. I just needed them to know that I wasn't making this up. In the beginning, I might not have pushed things as hard as I should have to get some answers. But once things started to progress and my symptoms got really bad, then I knew that something was definitely wrong.
I was fortunate that my gynecologist had a clinical interest in bladder dysfunction and was willing to work with me to find a solution to my problems. He prescribed one medication, and when it didn't work, I'd try another. Then another. I felt like I was popping pills all day and nothing was helping. I felt like I was just trading one set of problems for another. For 5 years, I took 4 of those pills a day and dealt with those side effects.
Then, my doctor told me that he was offering InterStim Therapy, and he thought I would be an excellent candidate. I was hesitant at first. It was new to me; I had never heard of it. It was intimidating to think about having a device inside my body. The 2-step procedure seemed overwhelming.
So I did some research on my own and thought, "This could be the answer I'm looking for so I don't need to swallow pills anymore."
Next: Loraine's Story
Medtronic invited this patient to share her story candidly. Not everyone who receives InterStim Therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if sacral nerve stimulation is right for you. In addition to risks related to a surgical procedure, complications associated with InterStim Therapy 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 Therapy 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.