School is already in full swing.  I thought this question was so timely. Working in a busy school environment can be so fast paced and crowded.  Our need for cleanliness, privacy, and professionalism all seem to collide at times. Especially when learning to use  an intermittent catheter. The book “Beyond Embarrassment” can offer useful tips.


Hi Trudy:

I have just had sling surgery to alleviate stress incontinence. Unfortunately, I have not been able to pee since the surgery. I left the hospital with a Foley catheter. I have been back to to the doctor twice with had it removed, tried to pee with no success. The doctor is now going to have me begin intermittent self catheterization . I am very worried about this. Will it be something that I will be able to do in a school environment as I am a teacher?  Any suggestions or thoughts are much appreciated. Have you heard of this  retention side effect from sling surgery before?  And if so, does the bladder normally regain its ability to pee without a catheter?

Thank you so much.

Trudy’s Answer:

First of all I am very sorry for your unfortunate circumstances.  

Now for the tips part.

I found a lot of success in the school environment.  I was fearful on my first day at school as well.  There were so many fear factors for me.  All the germs, my privacy, and just logistics. While we are editing the book “Beyond Embarrassment: Reclaiming your life with neurogenic bladder and bowel” the editor suggested I start the book with my hardest day ever with neurogenic bladder. 

That for me was the first day I had to use an intermittent catheter at school. The book begins with this crazy hard day.  My frets were overcome and things ran smoothly after a while.  Like any big change there is a fear factor for sure, but things went well after a while.

Take a look at my stressful day at school, from the first few pages in the first chapter of the book. Go to the, “Look inside feature and scroll to the first chapter.

Some tips the Chapter, Slimy Tubes and Tricky Situations

When I am gallivanting around, I carry my catheters in a side pouch. I know this sounds silly, but I am afraid of not having them with me in case the big earthquake hits. Through experience, I have learned that catheters are sometimes not easy to dispose of, so I carry a zip-lock baggie, which I can just carry out with me. I have a “don’t tell” policy; it is easier that way. I can’t believe how many public restrooms do not have trash disposal.

Toileting happens wherever you are. Be ready! Living with a Neurogenic Bladder and Bowel means we need to be as prepared as a Girl Scout, as diligent as a new mother, and as ready as an army troop deploying overseas. I always have my catheters along. But there is more to being prepared than just having the material goods, believe me. I needed to train, and so do you.

Because I need urinary catheters with me while carrying out daily activities, I have found some stashing places that keep me safe in case I run out and have forgotten to bring them along:

The car glove compartment

The nurse’s room at work

Out-of-the-way spot in the kids’ or trusted friends’ restrooms

All of the restrooms in my home

All first-aid kits should have them, don’t you think?

In the book I also have tips for bladder infections at work.  But for you let’s not jump the gun, you are just starting out.

The bottom line is please do not let this rob you of your joy.  We humans are remarkable and we are good at coping. Unfortunately you won’t have time for much grieving your situation.  In my case I found that good because I was so busy with kids that I forgot about myself.

One thing that did not make it in the book was a busy day at school when catheters flew out of my pocket.  I worked at a high school and some of the kids just helped me pick them up. One student knew what they were, which surprised me.  I was embarrassed but one the students said,” Don’t worry Mrs. Lake my mom uses them too.”  We just got on with business. No big deal.

How do all of you cope with intermittent catheters at work?