Merzaan Smit (18) T4/T5 -
When the rehab doctor tells you that you are paralyzed from the waist down it’s a big shock, but he doesn’t tell you immediately what the consequences are going to be, that you will also lose your bladder and bowel function. We all assume it will be there always and take it for granted.
Bummer number one: I have to spend 40 – 60 minutes on the throne every third day! I thought about putting a television in, but I am too afraid my guests will enjoy it so much that they won’t come out! In rehab you get used to the routine that they teach you, but when you get out and back to real life you can’t always manage to stick with that routine, and have to adapt it to your body and your lifestyle.
I changed my bowel program in the following ways. I drink three Soflax tablets when I wake up on my toilet day. I like to control when I go to the loo so, after about six hours, all I do is insert a Dulcolax suppository. I then lie down on the couch (the Dulcolax works better when you lie down) and, depending on how full my stomach is, I wait about twenty minutes, sometimes less and sometimes more, before my stomach tells me it’s time to go and visit the throne.
I plan my bowel program around my daily schedule, but I never push a day because that is when accidents happen. If my bowel program is unsuccessful I wait, and monitor it for the rest of the day, because I know it will come eventually and I need to be ready when it does come to prevent an accident and save my confidence.
Bummer number two: you have to insert a small pipe called a self-cath into your bladder every time you need to wee. Fortunately I have feeling and sensation so I don’t work on an hourly schedule. I go when I feel I need to.
For people like me bladder infections are as common as colds. I always have Pyridium tablets on standby, for when the infection sticks its ugly head up. Citrusoda is always on Mom’s shopping list to ease any bladder irritation and it also helps me with bladder leaks.
But you need to do everything on your side to prevent getting a bladder infection. You know that story, wash your hands, wash the self-cath, it’s always wash wash wash, but there are germs everywhere and, even when transferring to the toilet after you have washed your hands, you pick up more germs so I have a little plastic spray bottle of Dismed bioscrub mixed with water that I spray everything with after transferring.
I used to be a coffee addict and struggled to control my bladder, when I had to go I had to go - otherwise it would be too late. Then I realized that all the caffeine was the problem. I stopped drinking coffee two months ago and I no longer have this problem. For me, coffee, alcohol and water go through my kidneys the fastest and make me visit the loo even four times an hour!
In the beginning I was ashamed and shy. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had lost my bowel and bladder function but, as time went by, I started getting used to it and started trusting my friends with my secret. I have grown used to my body and I know what works and what doesn’t. The best you can do is adapt your lifestyle to your body. I am very active, I still ride my quad and my exercise is swimming. I do find that, after a good swimming session, my bowel program goes faster and easier.
I am now eighteen years old and live life to the fullest. I do everything with my friends and live a normal life and do all the things a teenager does. When you almost lose your life once it’s a wake up call. You realize that you have a second chance and you have to do everything that you can to make every minute count.