Ambassador 5 – Romy’s Story
A happy and outgoing mother of two, Romy is realistic about the impact faecal incontinence has had on her life since the birth of her first child in 1999. She recognises that her condition may not be life-threatening, but after a difficult labour left her with rectal bleeding and an anal fistula, her world was turned upside down as she endured 29 surgeries to manage her increasing symptoms of faecal incontinence.
Unfortunately, 1.3 million Australians over the age of 15, live with faecal incontinence1, and many are too embarrassed to discuss their condition with a Healthcare Professional. Rather they try to live with their condition until it starts to impact on other areas of their lives such as social isolation, employment and general health. Sixty-five per cent of women sitting in a GP waiting room will have some form of incontinence, yet less than half of these people report having sought help from a health professional.1
Following the birth of her first child, Romy says her life continued as a ‘busy young mum’ and it was probably 18 months before she visited a GP complaining of rectal bleeding. This appointment led to surgery, as well as subsequent surgeries to correct failings with the initial surgical procedure.
Continence issues did not deter Romy from growing her family, and four years on she gave birth to her second child. Unfortunately, her faecal incontinence worsened and she experienced a lot of post defecation soiling which proved both embarrassing and uncomfortable, particularly during exercise. Accidents could occur at any moment, so carrying her own “change bag” and having access to public toilets when she was out, was vital.
The pleasures of social outings became Romy’s nightmare. She moved interstate, changed GPs, and was referred to her first colorectal surgeon. She underwent a round of new procedures including collagen injections, PTQ (carbon fibre) implants & overlap surgery. Some of these procedures were painful, and none provided relief from her life of faecal incontinence. She recalls having two “AH HA” moments, where she realised the impact of a lack of bowel “control”, was actually ‘controlling’ her life. Romy could no longer attend social events and special family occasions, particularly if access to a toilet was not possible or could be delayed.
The risk of being faecally incontinent for the rest of her life was becoming too great and far too embarrassing for Romy to endure. Struggling to manage her faecal incontinence and facing the prospect of a colostomy, she started to research and question if there were any other treatment options available.
It was at this point that Romy saw another colorectal surgeon who suggested that she trial sacral neuromodulation therapy. With nothing to lose at this point, she agreed to the trial. Sacral neuromodulation therapy involves a trial which allows the patient to assess the effectiveness of the therapy to manage their incontinence. The therapy delivers mild electrical pulses to stimulate the sacral nerves and helps to manage bladder and bowel incontinence symptoms. In Romy’s case, the trial was a success and she moved on to the permanent implant.
Romy soon found she could return to an active lifestyle and lost 15kg along the way! She was back in control of her symptoms and with a small hand held device, she could turn the intensity of the stimulation up and down, on and off, depending on her activity.
Despite her experiences, Romy is positive “My awareness of my body and its functions is second to none! I also believe that the journey has given me a great deal of empathy. It took an overwhelming, disempowering situation, and with the help of some clever doctors and wonderful medical technology, I have come through this experience, empowered and no longer defined by my faecal incontinence.”
So many times people have said to me ‘you don’t look like you are faecally incontinent’. I always found this amusing as I wondered what an incontinent person should look like! I presume they were being complimentary!”
“I know that because I am relatively young, other things may deteriorate as I age, but with my current sacral neuromodulation system stimulating away, I have the confidence that I will never return to my life where faecal incontinence consumed everything. Rather, I now ‘Control’ these symptoms and I have my life back!”
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This patient testimonial relates an account of an individual’s response to the treatment. The account is genuine, typical and documented. However, the individual’s response does not provide any indication, guide, warranty or guarantee as to the response other persons may have to the treatment. The response other persons have to the treatment could be different. Responses to the treatment discussed can and do vary and are specific to the individual patient. Please consult your healthcare professional for a full list of benefits, indications, precautions, clinical results, and other important medical information that pertains to the therapy or products discussed.