I wish I knew then what I know now. That goes with everything about being a quadriplegic. They actually give you a handbook when you leave the hospital or rehab. This handbook is supposed to have everything you will need to be able to live your life. I can tell you right now the handbook is worthless. It is full of things that you would never do. It goes on and on about stuff that will never affect you. But when it comes to the most important stuff, there is maybe a sentence or two. Now the handbook I got came out in the early 90s. I imagine things have changed now with the shareable information that is easily collected these days. At least I hope the handbooks now have relevant information in them.
One of the top two questions every quadriplegic wants to know is how I am going to manage my everyday bathroom duties. Most people have no clue what this involves for a quad. But as a quad I can tell you your life pretty much revolves around how and when I am going to relieve myself.
I had a surgery about two and half years ago to place a suprapubic. A suprapubic is when a tube is placed in a stoma that is surgically opened below your belly button and then the tube goes directly into your bladder. This tube automatically relieves any urine into a bag, that is collected in the bladder. If I knew then what I know now, I would've had the surgery done when I was 15 years old. It has made life so much easier that it is hard to explain.
For some reason my urologist thought that doing straight cathing five or six times a day would be easier than trying to maintain a suprapubic catheter. This is the complete opposite, at least for me. First of all, being a quad you need to depend on someone else to do the straight cathing if you're injury is high enough and you cannot move your fingers. Having to depend on someone else to do anything is always more stressful and bothersome. Having to straight cath I had to be always concerned of where I was and who I was with, when I knew my bladder was full. It pretty much sucked for 20 years. I didn't know it sucked until I had the suprapubic placed and found out how much freedom that gave me. I no longer needed to be somewhere at a certain time to relieve myself. I no longer needed to have someone with me every four or five hours to help. The independence and freedom it gives me is immeasurable.
Emptying the leg bag or bed bag is no big deal. It is simple. It is way easier than having to do anything with straight cathing. As for me, being left alone is a big deal. I don't have to rely on someone always being there just in case. The suprapubic with a bag gives me that independence. I have experienced a lot of neat stuff over the last couple years because I have not been stuck waiting on someone else. I have even had friends empty my leg bag because I was experiencing AD. I was a little nervous at first but it was no big deal to them or me afterwards. It feels more natural.
Urinary tract infections are another big problem for quadriplegics. When I was using the straight cathing technique I was probably averaging around three or four UTIs a year. I was on an antibiotic pretty much year-round for 20 years. As soon as I switched to the suprapubic my system cleared of any bad bugs. I haven't had one UTI since switching to the suprapubic. The UTIs happened because when doing straight cathing, you are entering a foreign object into your body. You can't always get everything clean. Being UTI free does not suck.
The expense of suprapubic is way less also. Most insurance covers these cathing supplies no matter what program you use. But when using a suprapubic you only need to change it once a month. You can change the collection bag whenever you need to but the tubing that goes into the actual bladder is maintenance free for a month. The one thing I do is flush once a day, for ten minutes with a product called Renacidin. It is a type of cleanser that takes out the clogs and sediment that collects throughout the day in the tubing. The stoma also gets cleansed once a day. But that depends on the person and the stoma site. If you are doing straight cathing, that means you are using at least five catheters every day. If you are lucky your insurance will pay for that many catheters a day. If not that means you are going to be cleaning catheters and or buying them every month. Let me tell you, it adds up.
As a nurse friend stated, a suprapubic can help anyone with long-term urinary issues, anyone with muscular issues or bladder issues. Not only does this make life easier for a person with urinary issues, it makes life easier for their possible caretaker. Knowing that you are not tied to a strict schedule makes life more flexible for both the caretaker and client.
The difference in my quality of life before and after this surgery is crazy. Not having to worry about the extra supplies, need for privacy and the clean environment is worth way more than any negative I can think of when using a suprapubic. I wish I wouldn't have to listen to my urologist and did the surgery a long time ago. The best part about this surgery is that if it is elective, that means it is reversible if it does not work or help you. I am not trying to push anyone who is reading this one way or the other, I am just stating what has worked for me.
Thanks for reading, Clint