I had to leave some distance between my appointment with the specialist nurse at the Bladder and Bowel clinic, so that I could gain some perspective on it. All that has done has made me more annoyed, which be explained in more detail as you read this post.
The clinic was held at the local hospital, so no long trek into the city with a full bladder. It wasn’t until 45 minutes before the appointment that I remembered that a full bladder was a prerequisite. I downed two cups of tea and a 250ml bottle of diet coke to ensure the job was done well. I then squealed as we went over every bump in the road as I was busting to spend a penny.
I was seen right away and ushered into a room with an examining table a few chairs and a desk. The nurse introduced herself and seemed on first appearances quite reasonable, if a little wet. I was trying my best not to come across as hostile, I have built up this defence mechanism over the years as it leads to less disappointment. I handed over my questionnaire that I had been asked to complete prior to coming including the results from operation “measure my piss”. I had fully expected that my bladder would be scanned on arriving then I would be allowed to relieve myself and be scanned again but no this didn’t happen for what seemed like an eternity. We went through my questionnaire until in the end I had to tell her I was about to wet myself. She seemed surprised, which alarmed me because after all this was her job to look after people with bladder problems, who had come to the clinic with a full bladder as the letter had informed them they had to do.
I was handed a diamond-shaped cardboard dish and told to produce a sample and come back. I managed to fill the receptacle with ease however as normal the flow of urine stopped. I could have strained, changed position as I would normally at home but I decided this was pointless if they were going to scan my bladder to see if there was any residual urine. When I returned she scanned my bladder – roughly pressing down much too firmly for my liking, to the point where I was concerned that I would wet myself. She turned at this point from someone who had been reasonably pleasant to someone whose feathers had been ruffled. She snappily announced that I had 350ml left in my bladder although the scan couldn’t be as accurate once the amount passed 250ml. She made me feel like I had done something wrong by proving I did indeed have issues with my bladder.
The next thing on her hit list was the amount of fluids I consume. This was all done under the guise of it would be knocking out my electrolytes. Had she bothered to read my notes at all or have read my prescription list she would have seen I take salt tablets and Fludrocortisone. Again I felt like I had to defend myself, explaining one of the main symptoms of Dysautonomia is excessive thirst and I had drunk like this all my life.
During the preamble before I had been allowed to empty my bladder she had informed my husband and I, that her husband had Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – like it was a badge of honour. She also told she had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, although I am left wondering to this day what relevance this had to my own issues. It’s not that I wanted to be star of the show but when you attend a medical appointment you expect to be discussing your own issues not that of the medical professional and their spouse.
During the appointment I found out that her husband and I shared a hospital consultant. Her husband had been given the advice to drink 3-4 litres a day. She announced quite proudly that he was on 3 salt tablets – a day. Again I didn’t understand where the competition element was coming from and explained that I was on 6-8 salt tablets a day and that the consultant had never set a limit on how much I could or couldn’t drink. She couldn’t get her head around the fact I didn’t solely have PoTs anymore, my condition had worsened. She never really let me explain about my condition as she was too busy interrupting me to tell me about her husbands awful fatigue and chest pain on exertion. It’s almost as if she couldn’t see me sat in my wheelchair slumping further and further down as I could no longer hold myself up. I came away thinking I am sure this was my appointment where I was supposed to talk about my issues.
When she had informed us that her husband had PoTs both my husband and I were relieved that we wouldn’t have to explain everything as we assumed that she would have done some research into the condition. How wrong we were, this was worse than having an appointment with a medical professional with no clue. It became clear that when I rattled off a couple of well-known websites for those with PoTs or Dysautonomia she had never heard of them. She was clueless and could only go on her husbands symptoms which with it being a syndrome and the fact that mine own condition had progressed past that of PoTs were largely ignored. I had described my condition on the questionnaire as Severe Autonomic Dysfunction, she understood what the autonomic nervous system was but couldn’t get to grips with how the disorder affected me. Perhaps if she had listened she might have done. She admitted she had heard of Ehlers Danlos syndrome but had no knowledge of it, despite her happily telling me I was the third person on her books with the disorder. Maybe I am being a little hard on her but if I was a nurse looking after three people with the same condition, I would have done a little research about it so I would be more able to understand the challenges those patients face.
I was becoming irked by her lack of knowledge and the constant comparison between myself and her husband. I felt by the end of the appointment if I heard one more mention of her husbands fatigue I may swing for her. She has no clue that on returning home from the appointment – the first time I have been properly out of the house since the 19th December, I went straight to bed such were the levels of my fatigue. Her opening line in the appointment when going through all my medical issues had wound me up – “Oh it’s not much of a life for you” said in such a way that it was assumed that I had a choice in the matter. I responded with “life is what you make it” because I believe that to be true. I live for the good days and manage the shit in between. Maybe I am being too harsh on her maybe she was trying to be empathetic and compassionate. It wasn’t doing anything other than rubbing me up the wrong way and I had to play nice as she was the gateway to me receiving additional treatment.
Have you ever been made to feel guilty about drinking 250 ml of diet coke a day? I have, the way she banged on and on about my diet coke habit you’d think I was drinking 25 litres a day not 250ml. She just wouldn’t let it drop I was quite amazed at how she let rip. Then next came my tea consumption, now I admit I drink quite a bit of tea 8-10 cups a day but as I am awake from 3.30am most days I don’t really think its excessive. Just to shut her up I told a lie and said that they were decaffeinated, all she did was go back to attacking the diet coke again. I couldn’t win with her, it was kind of “mother knows best” vibe I was getting from her. My husband and I have now labelled diet coke as “the devils juice” and laugh hysterically every time I drink it.
It was obvious that she has the same line of patter for each appointment, that caffeine is the work of Beelzebub, along with fizzy drinks and artificial sweetener, all three of which I consume. I was made to feel again that I had brought my bladder problems on myself. My chart was showing her I had an overactive bladder as I was passing less than 250ml on occasion and going 3 or 4 times in an hour. Overactive bladders are caused by a variety of reasons. Some people ( note not all people ) do find relief when they avoid or reduce their caffeine, fizzy drink and artificial sweetener consumption. I was told that I must stop these immediately. I also had to retrain my bladder so I needed to ignore the messages of needing to urinate and try to increase the length of time I hold on. I also needed to start doing pelvic floor exercises at least 4 times a day.
I did manage to squeeze into the conversation that a close relative of mine has Fowler’s syndrome and has ended up with a sacral nerve stimulator. The nurse again was a bit prickly informing me that if I had that then catheters wouldn’t work on me. I pointed out to her that whenever I have been catheterised nothing passes into the bag. I have to take copious amounts of buscopan to relax the valve on my bladder, walk about, drink, cough etc all in all it can take anywhere from 10-40 minutes before my bladder valve will relax enough to let the catheter work. I almost ended up in surgery in June 2014 when my bladder failed to drain for nearly an hour. It really annoyed me that she seemed to dislike me for having more knowledge than her. I guess she wanted someone who would just let her witter on and not interrupt or challenge her.
However she did concede eventually that there was something neurological going on with my bladder due to the acute urinary retention I keep getting. I have been referred to the hospital for urodynamic testing – which maybe a problem as I am allergic to the dye they place in your bladder, I did mention in my questionnaire I was allergic to it. I am also supposed to be being taught at home how to self catheterise so that I can empty my bladder fully before going to sleep and any time that I feel it hasn’t emptied completely. Most days then. I can look forward to having to see her again after being taught how to self catheterise as she will scan my bladder to ensure that I am doing it properly. I am looking forward to being treated like a naughty school girl again no end.
The funniest part of the appointment was when she told my husband if it was easier for me he could learn how to insert the catheter for me. Both of us recoiled immediately. Why on earth would I want him doing that? I can’t think of anything I would like less! He can’t even be in the same room as me when I am injecting my medication. How on earth would he manage to do it without passing out? A firm “No thank you” was uttered by him and seconded by me. He then added “We like to keep our hobbies separate”. I could tell when he said this he had reached the end of his tether with her also. He went back to playing Angry Birds on his phone.
During the appointment because it was about stuff that makes hubby feel sick (and who can blame him), he kept his concentration focused on playing Angry Birds so he could block out what was said. Unfortunately the nurse didn’t seem to understand he wanted very limited participation in the appointment and kept trying to engage him in conversation. He really wasn’t being rude, he is very supportive of me, he just isn’t so great in a medical setting which is absolutely fine as I can advocate for myself.
There is one thing that keeps going around in my head that really annoyed me (and yes there were some parts that didn’t) which was when I jokingly mentioned that one time when measuring my urine the jug had overflowed making the measurement way past 700ml, she immediately snapped back without a moment’s hesitation “well I have passed 750ml”. I just thought, Jesus you must be an absolute barrel of laughs to live with. Not only had I been entered into competition with her husband, I was now in a real pissing contest with her. What the hell was going on here?
I will be completely honest I have not ditched the devil drinks, why? Because I only get an overactive bladder on the days leading up to urinary retention. I have however started holding on longer rather than going the moment I feel the need to go, which at the moment is working fine. I had got myself into the habit of going frequently because in the past I have found holding on leads to me contracting UTI’s or having bladder spasm or finding that I am unable to urinate properly. If I find the new regime on holding on leads to UTI’s I will go back to not holding on. Had she given me the time to explain any of this maybe her advice would have been different.
It was disappointing that the session was dominated by her and her husbands own health issues, not my own. I would have liked the opportunity to properly explain and discuss what was going on with my bladder and bowel. I wasn’t given that opportunity. It is a shame that the skill of listening to the patient wasn’t employed during this appointment.
Looking back on it now I consider it one of the weirdest and most surreal appointments I have ever attended. Should I have been in the position where I would never had to see her again, I would have happily written a complaint about her. My hands are tied at the moment with her being the one to refer me and organise me being taught how to catheterise myself.
UTI – Urinary Tract Infections
PoTs – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome