Pride in our NHS: Woman with MS lauds pioneering Sheffield hospital service for changing her life
Janet Blair was so scared of being caught short from the loo she would not leave the house and even cancelled sun-filled holidays.
The 65-year-old, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferer had a flare-up of her condition around six years ago which brought on bladder and bowel problems - a common symptom of the condition.
The relapse also left her with left- sided weakness and drop foot.
Crippled with the fear of an embarrassing situation, she couldn't face going out. Depression later set in and she hit 'rock bottom'.
But Janet, from Barnsley, has lauded a pioneering NHS service in Sheffield for giving her a new lease of life.
"It was really debilitating I was petrified to leave the house," she said.
"Even if I did go out I wouldn't leave the car and I would always be weary of where the toilet is.
"I went from this outgoing and fun person who would be afraid to go outside - it was completely depressing.
"My husband's brother lives in Vancouver and a couple of times he's gone on his own to see him because I just couldn't face the journey
"I would wake up and think it would go away but it didn't it - it took me a while to realise that I needed to seek help."
And that's what Janet did. From her NHS background as a health care assistant at Barnsley Hospital for 23 years, she began to ask a lot of questions about her condition.
"It was quite lucky I found about the service in Sheffield when I was at rock bottom. They've given me a new lease of life."
Using models taken methods used to help spinal injury patients better cope with bladder and bowel problems, Janet was given advice about managing her bladder and shown different products to help her achieve this.
This included a new special pump which allowed her to empty her bowels while sat down, enabling her to live her life again and go out without feeling awkward.
A splint was made for her drop foot, too, and the team provided her with expert advice on her medications which helped lessen the impact of her bladder and bowel problems on a daily basis.
Janet praised the team who've helped her break from the 'vicious cycle' of isolation
"The team are absolutely amazing - they have completely changed my life. I dread to think what state I'd be in if this wasn't available.
"This is something that people don't want to talk about - it's not a topic that's widely discussed but if I can get the message out there to other sufferers then I'm doing something right."
The clinic itself is proving to be a roaring success as the service has led to a decline in the number of hospital admissions resulting from MS-related urinary tract infections.
Bladder and bowel problems are a common symptom of MS, and occur when nerve damage in the brain disrupts the signals the body needs to interpret messages between the brain and the bladder.
Around 75 per cent of MS patients suffer with bladder and bowel problems, which do not always occur immediately after diagnosis. Symptoms include sudden and uncontrolled urges to go to the toilet, more frequent trips and urinary tract infections.
The MS nurse-led urology service has seen around 400 patients since it was first established in May 2014.
Liam Rice, a multiple sclerosis nurse specialist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have set up this pioneering MS nurse-led urology service, which was recently highlighted as inspirational to other health professionals by the MS Trust.
"Using the expertise of two specialisms, the innovative clinic offers MS patients bespoke advice and support on potentially life-changing bladder and bowel problems, helping them to get treatment more quickly in a coordinated way with the backing of an expert team consisting of MS specialists, spinal injury specialists, urological specialists and physiotherapists.
“Since the service was set up we’ve seen a decline in the number of hospital admissions resulting from MS-related urinary tract infections, which is great news, as these can be sometimes be catastrophic in MS patients, potentially leading to a decline in cognitive abilities and spasticity.”