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9 Must-Haves for Surviving a Bladder Control Stimulation Trial

Going into my completion proctectomy surgery last year, it never occurred to me that when I woke up I might not ever urinate again without medical intervention. After consulting with numerous urologists and being told that more than likely my sacral nerves had been severed during surgery, I accepted that the InterStim Sacral Neuromodulation System was the best chance of restoring function to my bladder and ultimately protecting my kidneys.

The device works by electrically stimulating the sacral nerve, which is thought to normalize neural communication between the bladder and brain and between the bowel and the brain. Indications for InterStim placement include overactive bladder (OAB), urinary retention and fecal incontinence. Once approved by insurance, patients undergo a two-week trial phase to determine if the device will be successful in elevating symptoms before the permanent device is implanted.

The following nine items were instrumental in getting me through my trial phase comfortably:

1. Drawstring Pants — During the trial phase the battery pack is externally placed on a belt on the waist and the leads are secured to the lower back with gauze and bandages. I found the pressure of any type of waistline really agitated the site and got in the way of the battery back, and that drawstring style pants could be situated as tight or loose as I needed to comfortably accommodate the device.

2. Heating Pad — For the first week of the trial I found heat to be the most comforting on my surgical site to ease the pain. Using heat at night was key to falling and staying asleep.

3. Rolling Backpack — During the trial I was limited to a 10 lb. lifting limit. I carry a pretty big backpack to and from work every day, and I found that a backpack on wheels was the best compromise to stay within the restriction and not have to pick and choose what items were insignificant enough to leave at home.

4. Gauze Pads and Tegaderm — During the trial you will be sent home with leads on the outside of your body covered with gauze and Tegaderm to keep it dry and in place. I found that after a few days the bandage started to peel and became itchy to the point I needed to change it. Having gauze pads and Tegaderm on hand will ensure you can replace the bandages almost exactly the way they were after surgery.

5. The Mighty Med Planner by Mighty Well — While there are many people who know about my health struggles, there are just as many who don’t, and I like having the ability to be discreet about my medical supplies when I’m not in the mood to share my life story. The Mighty Med Planner was great throughout my trial phase, and it is something I will continue to use for the rest of my life. During the trial you will be provided with a remote control for your device and while you’re told it can be left at home, I found it was best kept with me as occasionally my leads came unplugged from the battery pack and I needed the remote to turn it back on. The Mighty Med Planner provided a great place to keep my remote and catheters and be able to discreetly carry it if I needed too. (You can use my affiliate code MOLLIET10 to get 10% off the purchase of your very own Mighty Med Planner.)

6. Refillable Ice Pack — Once the pain subsided during the trial, I got pretty itchy from having to have a bandage over the wire throughout the trail phase. I found a lot of relief from the Medline Refillable Ice Pack as it is rectangular and covers the entire test site perfectly.

7. Dry Shampoo — During the trial the surgical site must remain dry, which makes washing hair difficult. I opted for dry shampoo throughout the week to keep my hair looking clean and then stopped by a salon midway through the trial on the weekend for a wash and blowout.

8. Goodwipes Body Wipes — These are my go-to wipes for hospital stays and they worked great during the trail to help me feel fresh when a full on shower wasn’t option. They come in multiple scents, but my personal favorite is lavender.

9. Bladder or Colon Plush by I Heart Guts — I’ve always found it comforting to have a stuffed animal or other plush to keep me company in pre-op and while recovering from surgery. My pick for the Interstim trial and permanent implant is the bladder plush for OAB and retention patients and the colon plush for fecal incontinence patients. They are adorable and fun and my medical team loved them.

Photo courtesy of the author