Bladder Accidents

I have been a T4-T5 paraplegic for over 15 years. I will never forget the changes that took place to my body on March 2, 2001. In an instant, I went from being able to walk, run, and feel everything to a being on a stretcher – not able to feel or move my legs. However, that was just the beginning of what was to come with my new form of life.

I remember, in high school, a guy who had a car accident resulting in quadriplegia. I just assumed “Oh man, he won’t be able to walk again and has limited hand function. He will have to use a power wheelchair for the rest of his life.” Wow, was I blindsided when I became paralyzed!

First, I had to learn how to balance again because my injury level prohibits use of abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. Next, I had to learn how to transfer in and out of my wheelchair. I was totally blown away at how heavy my legs were when I had to pick them up to get in and out of bed. The hardest thing for me, even 15 years later, is dealing with using the bathroom.

Yes, I know a lot of people who are paralyzed don’t feel comfortable talking about this subject unless they are talking to someone else who is also paralyzed. Most lose the function to void independently, depending on injury level and/or if injury is complete or incomplete. Most paraplegics, like me, use an intermittent catheter and we will typically catheterize ourselves every 4 hours. Some quadriplegics use an internal catheter, a Foley catheter that typically stays in for up to a month before changing to a new one.

The biggest issue that paraplegics, like myself, face is that we don’t know when we need to void. After, about a year post injury, I noticed I would get cold chills; my face would turn red and feel hot. These were signals that I needed to void. However, I only have about 30 seconds to a minute to go ahead and cath myself before I have a bladder accident.

Yep, I said it, bladder accident! It is just one of the things people with spinal cord injuries deal with daily. It can happen at any time or any place. If I am dealing with a urinary tract infection the chances of having a bladder accident intensifies greatly.

I can’t count how many times, when I worked as a 911 dispatcher, that I felt the urge to void and couldn’t get to the bathroom in time to cath because I was on the phone with someone in need on a 911 line. I couldn’t put them on hold and tell them “I would be back in a minute. I need to use the bathroom.” Yeah, it sucked and it was embarrassing having to tell those who I was supervised and worked with that I had a bladder accident and was going to have to go home to change and would return later. I could have let the embarrassment get the best of me, felt sorry for myself and never showed back up. But I would return every time it happened. See, I realized one day that even able-bodied people have these types of problems and that there are a lot of people worse off than me. I eventually started cathing at my console if I was on a 911 call. Talk about multi-tasking! Talking, typing, and cathing at the same time.

There have been a lot of advancements in urological supplies. Condom catheters have come a long way since I first became injured. New products have helped protect me from having a lot of bladder accidents. A condom catheter is basically what it sounds like. It goes on like a condom and has an opening on the end of it that attaches to a leg bag. If you start voiding before you can cath, it will go into the leg bag.

Finally, I want to try to encourage those with spinal cord injuries to not let the bladder mishaps control your life. Do not live in fear because you are afraid you’re going to have a bladder accident. Be honest with your family, friends, and co-workers about your spinal cord injury and the problems that you face. They will respect you for it.

Yes, I am 34 years old and I occasionally have bladder accidents. I get mad for a minute, or a little embarrassed temporarily, but I don’t let it stop me from enjoying life. God has blessed me with a great family, friends, and a beautiful wife. They all love me for me!

Jeremy

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