Looking back, Carl Simmons says that it was dangerous to assume: “It will probably just go away”. ‘It’ being recurring urinary tract infections repeatedly treated with antibiotics. Had the underlying cause been detected sooner, the outcome could have been different. This is what motivates me to share my story with other men.
On a meaningful pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, Carl Simmons and David (aka “Dave”) Dufresne walked various paths, ranging from 65 to 625 miles. Friends for 35 years and now married, they relished the great outdoors, despite Carl’s recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).
“I was an Elementary School teacher.” Carl tells me as I reach them at their home one afternoon. It is a pleasure to listen to this couple describe what they have experienced, in the sincere desire to help others avoid what they have been through. Carl and Dave interrupt each other graciously as they tell the tale, until I’m not sure which one is speaking – these two men definitely flow.
Recurring Urinary Tract Infections
“I always followed the rules!” Carl explains earnestly. “I always drank the recommended amount of water and knew my health profile.” David Dufresne agrees, continuing, “We are the OCD couple.”
We eat healthy meals at the same time every day. Carl would take cranberry and saw palmetto, but that was just masking the infection. At first Carl would get a urinary tract infection (UTI) once a year, then twice, three times…”
Dave trails off and Carl picks up the narration. “It finally changed last year. I took 2 full courses of a prescribed antibiotic and within 3 hours, I had the same cloudiness, urgency, and inability to urinate, burning, all the symptoms we had diagnosed as frequent UTIs.”
Dave interjects, “Now in hindsight we suspect it was because he wasn’t completely emptying his bladder.”
Carl agrees. “I think the problem is that it is so gradual that you get used to it, just like Chinese Water torture.” Dave pops in, ”If the urodynamic study had been available to Carl even 5 years ago, he might have been able to recover.”
They are correct; Carl hadn’t been completely emptying his bladder for years, allowing some urine to sit in his bladder and attract bacteria. The antibiotic masked the symptoms for a while… until it didn’t. Carl went to the urologist and got a urodynamic study. The result? Carl was diagnosed with an atonic bladder which means the he was unable to spontaneously urinate due to insufficient detruser muscle contraction. “Probably from years of stretching it out by not emptying it properly.” Dave contributes. “You can’t pee until 4 o’clock when you are a teacher!” Carl shoots back. (I’m telling you, these guys need their own show.)
“I’m like my dad, my first thought if anything goes wrong is “Tumor”!” Carl confesses wryly. Fortunately, this was not the case.
Dave assures me that Carl isn’t taking care of himself due to vanity, that he has a very healthy self-image. In hindsight , he remembers that “Carl had a little bit of a bulge, and my thought was that he needed to tone up his abdominals. Instead, Carl was holding 2 liters of fluid in his bladder!”
The men describe one of the treatments in Carl’s journey toward bladder management was a ‘face-lift of the bladder.’ It involves small implants that prevent enlarged prostate tissue from blocking the opening of the urethra. “Initially it was stupendous!” Carl remembers, “However, my problem was not the prostate or urethra, my bladder muscles are just weak.”
“I am now able to urinate somewhat on my own, but that’s still not enough to keep some of the urine from pooling and attracting bacteria.”
Thanks to Dave’s connections as a hospital pharmacist, they found a physician colleague of Dave’s who recommended using a catheter to completely empty Carl’s bladder. “At first they had me on a Foley, a leg bag,” Carl tells me, while Dave groans. Carl laughs, “It worked ok, but it was a bit cumbersome.” Dave breaks in sarcastically with “A bit!?”
Carl’s choice: the Hydrophilic Cure Catheter
Carl continues, “The doctor said, ‘let’s try intermittent catheterization’, and they gave me a selection of about 10 catheters. I tried them. They weren’t awful, but the Hydrophilic Cure Catheter with coude tip was the best by far.”
By now, you can probably tell, Carl and Dave are well informed experts on bladder health and catheters. Dave speaks with authority stating that, “The fact that the tip is smooth, eyelets are fire polished, and the catheter has a hydrophilic coating, was the ticket for Carl!”
It is obvious that the men are fervent fans of Cure Medical (now, owned by Convatec). Carl explains, “David’s research showed that the founder of Cure Medical is a catheter user and that Cure Medical is the only catheter company to support medical research. That’s a huge thing to us!”
I ask if there is discomfort and for a moment, I see the teacher in Carl emerge.
“The fact remains that the Hydrophilic Cure Catheter is the most comfortable, pain free, convenient method to do what I need to do. I don’t know how the material is different – the Cure Catheter coude tip s a really pretty instrument – it’s like it is not even there. I’m Libra, so appearance is very important to me.”
Dave quickly agrees, “ It is a very easy solution. It is elegant! According to my pharmacy training, that’s the term we use in compounding. We were always graded on the elegance of the end product. “
After a rare pause, Carl says solemnly, “Our main message is that this is doable. It is a wonderful option for bladder health, and we want others to know that! We stand on the shoulders of many others who have gone before us. It is a matter of giving back to our community.”
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