Regaining control and quality of life

Sharon Nottingham is getting back to living her life after getting the InterStim device.

Forty-six million Americans struggle with an overactive bladder and some find that they can no longer fully participate in their own lives anymore because they must deal with the problem. West Shore Medical Center in Manistee is helping people with this problem by using a device called InterStim.

Sharon Nottingham noticed she started having the urge to use the restroom very frequently after having two kids and a hysterectomy.

"I would go to the bathroom before a meal, I couldn't even get through the meal," Nottingham said.

Soon her primary care physician recommended she talk with Dr. Marian Fuller, an OBGYN at West Shore. Dr. Fuller says bladder control issues affect a lot of people but 1 in 3 women over the age of 40 will experience this problem. After behavior modifications and other medications fail and if the patient has a good trial period, Dr. Fuller will implant the InterStim device.

"The InterStim restores proper communication to the bladder such that the brain is constantly signaling that the patient needs to use the restroom when in fact they may really not need to use the restroom or gives a very sudden, intense signal that they have to go and they just can't hold it InterStim works to control that nerve signal to the bladder and only sends the proper nerve signals through," Dr. Fuller said.

Sharon has had the device for a few weeks now and she says it has changed her life.

"No pain. Turned it on , turned it up, probably within 24 hours I could finish a meal, I could actually drive 20 miles without having to find a bathroom. No pads, no pads anymore," Nottingham said.

InterStim is basically a pace-maker for the bladder, using mild electrical pulses between the brain and nerves to get the bladder functioning normally again. There are different settings on the device which is controlled by a remote outside of the body. Patients will need a minor surgery to have the battery replaced every 3 to 5 years.

InterStim is the first device of its kind and although many people who have control problems don't ever ask for help, the problem is very treatable.

"This is something that women have a hard time talking about," Dr. Fuller said. "We're taught from the time were infants that we should control our bladder and so it's something that were not very proud of if we're having accidents so it can be a difficult thing to raise awareness or to discuss with the physician but we do want women to know that there is help out there and if a medication isn't working for you we have other options."

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