This week I should have been back at Tommy’s for an appointment at the Joint Pain and Urology clinic – it was cancelled due to a shortage of doctors. I’ve touched briefly on one of my pages about additional problems caused by nerve damage in the back, but even for para & tetraplegics with the very worst back injuries, as a society we really don’t like to mention the more personal bodily & sexual functions that can fail as a result.
It stands to reason that when a back is broken and a spinal cord severed, that any part of the body that functions from nerves below this point will no longer work properly. So equally if nerves are damaged beyond repair, bodily functions become abnormal too. More of this on a “page”, but when I was seen last Christmas for the first time at St Thomas’, Dr Palmisani was the first consultant who took my comments about my bladder seriously. So seriously that he set the wheels in motion for a urology referral, to check whether I had the dreaded female stress incontinence or something linked to my back. I knew it wasn’t S.I. – in my experience many male doctors assume that any woman with children will have a damaged undercarriage from childbirth – “I’ve had 3 C sections” I told him “my undercarriage is intact!”. I think that I already knew what the problem was – lack of sensation, going all day with no urge to “pee”, UTIs and then being unable to go. “It’s your age” friends have said, to which I thought “I’m not that old!” But earlier this year I was seen at Guy’s by a sympathetic female urologist, who immediately said that my symptoms were classic for the level at which the nerve damage is. She also mentioned that there are 3 professions who develop an ability to hold on for long periods of time – bus drivers, cabbies and nurses – so I was already half way there. The bladder stretches beyond normal capacity because the nerves no longer signal that it is full to the brain. I believe the non technical term could be “baggy balloon bladder”.
The tests that I have undergone I will detail on a separate page – not everyone will want to know! – but at least with the indignity of childbirth you walk away with a baby at the end; after this indignity I just walked away with a box of catheters and a lesson in intermittent self catheterisation!! When I had the scs trial, Dr Palmisani suddenly put it to me that he was thinking of speaking with his urology colleague with a view to using an electrode or two to stimulate my bladder……it all sounds slightly experimental and unfortunately the different specialities weren’t able to link up before the stimulator was implanted, but it could mean that somewhere down the line there may be more surgery, a tweaking of my implant programme and a buzzing bladder!
Final thoughts go to my mate Jean who has had her full implant today………