When I first started Bladder Matters in 2008, my goal was to provide information from experienced wheelchair users, researchers and doctors to answer your questions and help you maintain a healthy bladder. I knew the column would be popular because, in my experience, every time a group of wheelers gets together, “SCI locker room talk” ensues, and it takes about four minutes for the conversation to turn to plumbing.
As I wrote in the first column, this is serious stuff — urinary system complications are the fifth leading cause of death for people with SCI, according to a U.S. Department of Health study. Good bladder management is more than just keeping dry. Many of us have forgotten, or just don’t practice, the basics. Worse yet, in these times of insurance-driven “instant rehab,” many new SCI folks don’t learn the basics in the first place, which can cause social and — sometimes very serious — physical problems.
Writing the columns also enlightened me. It isn’t just folks with SCI who need bladder advice, but also people with MS, spina bifida and other conditions that affect the urinary system.
Nonetheless, I’ve found I’m receiving fewer questions now, and it’s hard to find topics I haven’t covered. The column seems to have run its course, so this will be the final installment of Bladder Matters. I hope this means I’ve addressed most of your concerns when it comes to bladder management. If you are looking for answers on a bladder-related subject, you can view the past four years of Bladder Matters columns here.
For further questions, a great resource is National Spinal Cord Injury Association, a program of United Spinal Association. Go to “Resource Center” and pull down “Ask Spinal Cord Central.”
The holiday season being upon us I thought it appropriate to end the column with holiday travel advice.
Q. I’m in my fifth year as a T6 paraplegic. I’m planning to fly from Los Angeles to New York to visit my family for the holidays. I have taken short flights before but nothing this long. I’ve got a nonstop flight, and it looks like it will take me at least six hours. How do wheelchair users manage their bladder on long flights?
A. Great question, Patrice. I’m in my 26th year as a T10 complete para and fly quite a bit. Part of the answer depends on how you manage your bladder, as well as how good you are at transfers.
I find the most important thing is planning. I plan to spend extra time on the plane, stuck on a runway. To that end, I make sure and take a daypack with extra cat