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This story recounts the experience of a patient who is receiving Medtronic Bowel Control Therapy (Sacral Neuromodulation delivered through the InterStimTM System) for the treatment of chronic bowel incontinence. Please bear in mind that the experience is specific to this particular person. Not everyone who receives Medtronic Bowel Control Therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story.
Living with bowel control issues means living a life of compromises and concessions. That’s a tough road for an extrovert and performer like me. Instead of running marathons, I ran in the woods to hide my accidents. Instead of swimming with my three kids, I sat on the shore. Instead of stepping on a stage, I stayed in the audience.
My problems began two years after the birth of my third child. At first I just had more urgency, where I had to get to the bathroom and could hardly hold it. My condition progressed quickly to full-out accidents with no warning. Eventually I experienced up to five accidents a week. Fearful and embarrassed, I avoided going out in public, but on the days I had to leave home, my temporary solutions were to pack extra clothes and underwear or to avoid eating. Three times I was hospitalised for malnutrition.
A series of tests revealed that my sphincter muscle was barely working. Surgery to sew it up was unsuccessful due to buildup of scar tissue. Doctors prescribed pelvic floor exercises to strengthen my muscle, but those failed as well.
I didn’t like the feeling of being held back, of not having any control. I began to think my situation was hopeless until my doctor brought up the idea of participating in a trial for InterStimTM Therapy. I was willing to give it a try, and take a shot at reclaiming the life I once had.
The procedure was handled by my doctor, and took place in a hospital. I was nervous about the procedure and having leads placed in my body, but my doctor explained the device, the therapy—everything—to me, so I had no confusion.
The therapy brought me relief. The moment the system was turned on I began to regain control. I felt like a new person. For the first time in more than a year, it seemed possible that I could get back to living life out loud, instead of constantly holding myself back.
That didn’t mean the evaluation period was a breeze, though. Dealing with wires and the external stimulator was a nuisance. I wore unattractive, baggy clothes to leave room for all the stuff sticking out of my lower back. Bathing was also a hassle; I had to take frontal sponge baths.
Despite my frustrations, I knew I wanted long-term therapy right away—so much so that I was impatient. I wanted to skip the trial altogether and get right to the long-term therapy. I didn’t want to wait any longer for the life I envisioned myself living.
Nevertheless, I still harbored some doubts leading up to the procedure. My friends and my husband—whom I’ve always spoken with openly about my condition—were skeptical, and I felt slightly uncomfortable with the idea of having a foreign object in my body. But with such a low quality of life, I was willing to try something new, even if the treatment seemed unconventional.
My initial experience with the long-term InterStimTM System was complicated. Shortly after the procedure, my incision site developed an infection. Then, shortly after my health problems subsided, there were some temporary technical problems with the system.
But soon enough everything started to click: the therapy began working, and I began to feel like the person I was before my bowel control problems.
I’m happy to say my life is now predictable – in the best sense of the word. I now have ample warning to get to the bathroom, and my bowel movements have returned to normal. Accidents are a thing of the past, and I don’t even think about them anymore. I’m living life out loud again.
Thanks to the InterStimTM System, I’ve been able to fully embrace the activities I love. Summer vacations are filled with fun and spontaneity now, and the kids have a mom willing to splash around in the water with them. I’ve become a more engaged friend, who’s no longer timid about meeting my gals out on the town.
My husband and I have also drawn closer as a couple. I’ve begun running with him, and together we’ve begun to produce a musical show for our church. Stepping on a stage was a no-go before, but now I perform in front of a large audience once a year.
If you’re considering Medtronic Bowel Control Therapy, my advice is: don’t hold back. While it’s difficult to get past the stigma of bowel incontinence, you need to be honest about your condition with your friends and family so you can rely on their support.
Medtronic Bowel Control Therapy has allowed me to reclaim my confidence, and has enriched my life. I’m able to be who I used to be—and who I’m supposed to be.
Medtronic invited this patient to share her story candidly. Not everyone who receives Medtronic Bowel 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 InterStimTM 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.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.