Posts Tagged ‘Interstim’

Tears and Tears

Tears and Tears.  Words that sound the same, but mean very different things.  Tears (torn) and Tears (crying).  For me, there is a huge correlation between these two homophones.

When you have a baby vaginally, there is a risk that you will tear.  Recently, I came across a website that shows diagrams of vaginal tears in childbirth.  This slide show is an essential viewing point for anyone who wishes to understand visually the physical trauma of a tear.  Feel free to view here:

Although vaginal tears are common during vaginal birth, the severity of the tear and the “how to” of the repair differ.  In her blog, Dr. Amy-The Skeptical OB, Dr. Amy Tuteur talks about the ability to midwives to repair tears during vaginal birth. You can read her take on tearing here

As a recipient of a third degree tear in a hospital setting, I am curious about the ability of my doctor to repair my tear during my forceps assisted vaginal birth.  According to the mayo clinic slide show, the repair for my tear should have been a bit more extensive and done with a little more care.  Maybe it should have even been done in an operating room rather than at the foot of my delivery bed.

Tears often follow tearing.  For me, the physical pain of the initial tear as well as the physical and emotional consequences that follow such a trauma created lots of tears.  It is my hope that midwives and doctors understand the long-term ramifications of diagnosing and repairing a tear correctly.  My tear was not repaired correctly, nor was I given the postpartum support necessary for the tear I sustained.  Luckily, I managed, on my own, to get to a rectal surgeon, and ultimately, to Interstim, to treat the incontinence issues that began with my tear.

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6 months

As of this past weekend, I have had my Interstim implant in for 6 months!  It is amazing how my life has been completely turned around for the last half a year.

The decision to have the implant was really a no-brainer.  I had exhausted the other “non-surgical” routes with little success.  The non-surgical routes of exercise, diet, and physical therapy are all components that serve to strengthen my Interstim now, but did little to appease the nerve function that I lacked prior to the implant.

Just for reference, the surgical route prior to Interstim was a scary prospect.  Before Interstim, my choice was to have my sphincter cut, then sewn back together tighter….repeat surgery every 5 years.  The prognosis of a successful surgery was limited, and there was a very real chance that more harm could be done.

With the sphincter cutting surgery as my only option, you can imagine my relief when my rectal surgeon recommended Interstim.  The surgery itself is low risk, and the prognosis of success is pretty high.  There was no hesitation for me to embark on this journey 6 months ago, and I cannot wait to see where it leads me!

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Just Keep Swimming

One thing that I have found essential to my healing journey is exercise.  Exercise releases feel good endorphins, keeps my weight down, and allows me a great way to beat stress without medication.

Prior to my trauma, I thoroughly enjoyed swimming as exercise.  As a college level competitive swimmer, I was used to tough workouts and long hours in the pool.  As you can imagine, fecal incontinence and swimming laps in a pool DO NOT MIX.  In fact, there are signs posted everywhere that any fecal matter in the pool will result in a pool closure for all patrons.  Besides the obvious fact that a leakage would affect other’s enjoyment of the pool facility for the day; there was no way that I was getting into a pool if there was a chance that I could have an accident.  Obviously this proved a huge loss, emotionally and physically, as I thought about all of the times I would miss in the pool.

Through physical therapy, but, prior to my Interstim surgery, I gained some control of my bowels that would allow me a pretty good idea about when my leakages may occur.  It was at this time that I began to swim again, albeit cautiously.  Even though I felt good about going into the pool again, my plans could change in an instant if I was having a bad day with my sphincter.

Fast forward to now.  Interstim has allowed me complete freedom in the pool.  I no longer foster feeling of uncertainty and grief when stepping into the chlorinated goodness that was my second home prior to trauma.

It turns out that swimming is one of the best exercises I can do with my Interstim implant.  The low impact exercising has allowed me to stay in shape, engage in great workouts, and have fun again.  I could not have imagined this 6 months ago.

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Part Machine

Since the placement of my Interstim, I have come to grow and love the fact that part of me operates on a machine that is implanted into the fleshy part of my backside.  It is so unbelievably awesome that the technology exists that allows me the ability to regain rectal function.  This surgery and the surgical device that sustains my fecal continence is truly life altering and creates a life sustained by predictability and goodness in an area that, prior to the surgery, was unpredictable and depressing.

People often say, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”  To that sentiment I add, if you have never had a problem with fecal incontinence, allow yourself to think about the excellence of your brain, nerves, and sphincter function that just sort of know what to do for you to effectively control your bowels.  And if you had, or have, fecal incontinence, allow yourself the thought that there IS hope.  There IS a surgery that you can undergo in order to regain function for fecal incontinence.  Interstim has been an amazing part of my life and I urge you to look into it if you suffer from fecal incontinence.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to ALL!  As I think about this past year, I reflect where I was last New Year’s Eve.  Hoping and praying for something to feel “normal” again.  Not even knowing or imagining that something like Interstim would happen for me 8 months later.  Not realizing that my therapy (all of it) would end within the year.  It is truly amazing that a year can bring so much closure.  But, I would like to point out, it is not merely the passage of time that one needs to get over PTSD and physical problems.  It is through lots of therapy, hard work, medical interventions, and patience that one can overcome life’s obstacles.

With that perspective, I must keep in mind that my resolutions for 2012 won’t just happen.  I will need lots of hard work, and patience, to meet my goals.  Thank you, 2011, for showing me that medical interventions are amazing, therapy really works, and hard work can pay off.  Looking forward to a great and productive 2012!

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In earlier posts I have talked about how I want to be a support to others who need help navigating the stigma of mental illness as well as a guide for those interested in the Interstim Bowel Incontinence therapy.  I should point out that I would not be able to do this if I did not have my own special support system.

My family-My husband, my daughter, my mom, dad, sisters, extended family..they’ve been by my side since the very beginning.  Listening to what I wanted to share, supporting me through my treatments, crying with me and encouraging me during my setbacks, and cheering my successes!

My friends-Old friends who kn0w the “before trauma” me and trust that their unconditional friendship will see us through to the other side.  New friends who understand that there was a “me” from before and trust that they will like her too!

My medical “team”-Rectal Surgeon, Physical Therapist, EMDR Specialist, Psychiatrist, OBGYN, and other medical professionals who have helped with one test or another

My legal “team”-Lawyers, Social Security Disability Right Advocates (this has not panned out financially, but it’s nice to have the members of your team that try to fight for justice!)

My Literary “team”– this team is in the works, my book is written, just need to work through the steps of publication!

Teamwork.  I know I am the major player, but there is no way that I would be able to recover without a team of knowledgeable and supportive individuals. THANK YOU!

Thanks for Reading,


Price Check Please?

Hey, you know that sound that happens when you scan an item for a price check?  That BEEP!  That’s the sound that occurs when I swipe my external remote across my Interstim incision site to turn it up or turn it down.  I’m not going to lie, it’s really cool.

What’s slightly less cool, ok, not cool at all, is the reminder that the BEEP sound generates about money.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly would pay any amount of money to get better, I think anyone would.  What I am saying is that the staggering amount that one pays to get better from mental illness and  fecal incontinence is amazing (and I have pretty good insurance!)

Let me give you the break down:

Copays-$50.00 per time. (OBGYN, PT, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Rectal Surgeon, General Practitioner, Gastroenterologist,  Hospital Stays, Testing) multiply this by 3 years of visits, some of them weekly, some monthly

Medicines-Varies depending on what it is

Out of Network Psychological Specialized Help-$130.00/hour (EMDR specialist) multiply this by 2 hours a week times a year and a half

Massage-$70.00/hour (I would love to do this more, but let’s say once every couple of months)

Incontinence Supplies-Pads, Bran Cereal, Extra Underwear, Enemas, Fiber Enhancers- approx. $50.00/month

Loss of Job due to inability to work-$48,000/year (2 years now)

I don’t even want to do the math…..Let’s just say our nest egg is gone and we live on a very tight budget.  But, it’s worth it when I see the results of my health continuing to get better.  As I said before, I have a very understanding and supportive husband who is in agreement that money isn’t everything, happiness and good health are.  Do I want a price check?  Not really.  But let me tell you, sometimes it is satisfying to hear that beep and know that I am well on my way to a better me!

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Can YOU imagine?

Sometimes, when I explain incontinence to people, it’s hard for me to really understand that they can actually “get” the impact that this condition has on one’s life.  To suddenly lose the ability to function in an area that you take for granted is a nearly impossible situation to truly understand unless you have gone through it yourself.  So, I will try my best to explain my fecal incontinence to you:

Put yourself in this frame of mind:  Your worst day with diarrhea.  We’ve all experienced this.  Now, imagine that this happens every day, without warning, and instead of liquid shots of stool, you are passing full size bowel movements.  Now, imagine that you try to make it to the bathroom, but standing only allows gravity to assist you in passing more stool.  Now, imagine that you do make it to the bathroom sometimes, but lack the sphincter sensation to finish a bowel movement so it slowly leaks out throughout the rest of the day.  Now, imagine that this is happening at work, in the car, while you are taking care of your kids, grocery shopping, at church, etc.  I think you get the point.  It’s defeating.

That’s why I am so grateful and will continue to pass the word on about Interstim.  I can always imagine the incontinence issue, because I went through it.  I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.  I hope that you who only have to imagine it in your lifetime can gain empathy for those living with the situation with my above examples.  I hope that you who do more than imagine, who live with the incontinence, have success with Interstim. 

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Support Systems

This week I began my quest to set up a support system for those suffering with fecal incontinence.  The following is a flyer I distributed to my rectal surgeon’s office, another local rectal surgeon’s practice, and my physical therapist’s office.  If you are interested in the actual flyer for any reason, please contact me via e-mail and I will send it to you as a document.  Below is the flyer copied and pasted from my own document:

Dear Friend,

I suffer from Fecal Incontinence.

In March of 2008, I delivered my first born vaginally with the help of forceps.  I experienced a third degree tear in the process.  In the weeks following delivery, it became apparent that I had suffered damage to the rectal sphincter.  I was diagnosed with fecal incontinence and began physical therapy in May of 2008.

Because of the traumatic nature of my delivery, I also suffered emotionally.  I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with related anxiety disorder by the following year. 

The past three years of my life have been filled with endless appointments with physical therapists, rectal surgeons, OBGYN’s, psychologists, and psychiatrists’.  I ended up leaving work in April of 2010, after the physical and emotional stress resulting from the situation landed me in the hospital recovering from one of my many panic attacks. 

 I heard about Medtronic from my rectal surgeon in June and was ready to try anything that could possibly increase my ability to control my bowel incontinence.  Medtronic Interstim has changed my life.  From the moment of implant, I recognized changes in my function.  I could feel again.  I could clench again.  I could CONTROL my bowel movements again.  It is truly a miraculous therapy.  I have very little issue with bowel incontinence since the first implant.

Recently, I have begun blogging about my experiences with Interstim as well as the events that caused me to be incontinent in the first place.  My blog is called Peace out of Pieces and can be found at  Please feel free to read, comment, and pass along to anyone that may be interested.

My goal is to facilitate a support group that allows people who suffer with Fecal Incontinence, have had the Medtronic Interstim surgery for bowel incontinence, people who are considering the surgery, inquiring health care professionals, and the advocates that support Interstim to come together to talk about pertinent and practical issues surrounding the therapy and the situation.   Please contact me if you are interested at Dates, times, and locations for the group to meet will be discussed via e-mail.  I look forward to hearing your stories and meeting you in the near future!

Thanks for Reading!


40 grams

40 seems to be the magic number.  I begin each day with 40 grams of fiber.  I should take out stock in All Bran, because I go through at least a box a week!  Eating fiber is essential, even with Interstim intervention.  Some ways that I have found to get 1 cup of Bran Buds into my mouth in the morning:

Bran Buds with Yogurt and Berries

Bran Buds with Chicken Salad

Bran Buds with Milk (not recommended, unless you like the texture of glue)

Bran Buds with Almonds and Chocolate Chips

Bran Buds with Peanut Butter

I find that if I don’t eat 1 cup a day, I seem to backslide with my continence.  Eating the same thing every day may seem easy, until you actually have to do it.  If anyone has any suggestions for future recipes, let me know!

Thanks for Reading!


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