Natalie Barnhard is a community activist, speaker, entrepreneur, and disability advocate. Natalie was involved in an accident in 2004 which resulted in a spinal cord injury. She became a C5/6 quadriplegic. Natalie continued to live an active lifestyle post-injury but desperately wanted to gain some independence. She tells how the Mitrofanoff procedure helped her become more independent with her self-care.
The Mitrofanoff Procedure
The Mitrofanoff procedure was created in 1976 by Paul Mitrofanoff. It is also known as the Mitrofanoff Appendiciovesicostomy or a Continent Urinary Diversion. The procedure was created to permit bladder drainage where voiding or urethral self-catheterization is not possible.
The Mitrofanoff procedure creates a channel into the bladder. A catheter is then used via the channel to empty the bladder.
The procedure may be an option for people with the following conditions:
- Congenital birth malformations (for example - bladder exstrophy, bladder epispadias, spina bifida and neurogenic bladder)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal Cord Injuries and paraplegia
- Bladder cancer patients and in some cases prostate or bowel cancer
Natalie explains why she chose to undergo the procedure. She says, “For me, it was really difficult to use a catheter in my wheelchair because I couldn’t do any of it myself due to my hand dexterity. It was even challenging for one caregiver to help me do it from the chair, so it was easiest to find a place to lay down – which isn’t always convenient. I have definitely had to be creative and I made it work.”
Natalie states another reason she got the Mitrofanoff procedure was that she was experiencing a lot of UTIs. She was constantly on antibiotics due to the UTIs and she was experiencing autonomic dysreflexia.
“I was eager to have the freedom and possibly even teach myself to cath. That would be HUGE. Even if I didn’t get to that point, it would still create a lifestyle change for me. So, I finally decided to take the leap and do it.”
Natalie educates others using her own personal experience with the Mitrofanoff surgery. She says, “After this surgery, you leave the hospital with a few tubes. You have an indwelling catheter in your urethra, plus a suprapubic, and then you have a tube in the stoma as well so it doesn’t close up. After your body starts healing, the doctors remove the Foley catheter. Then you can start using the stoma, but the suprapubic remains as a backup. Initially, right out of the gate, my doctors told me there would be mucous in the surgical area, and we learned how to irrigate the area properly to help with that. My doctors also informed me there could be slight leaking while my body got used to things – and that would be normal too.”
“With anything, when you’re undergoing such a huge change to your body, there will be some risk and unexpected challenges.”
Natalie has experienced some complications after her surgery. Her stoma has started leaking, but she is working with her doctors to get the issue resolved. However, Natalie says, “As of right now, when it’s working, I love it. Everyone I know that has had it too would recommend it, but people should know there are risks to this surgery too.”
Natalie advises others by stating, “Don’t go into this until you’ve done your research, talked to your healthcare professionals and loved ones. I knew what this could do for my life. I’m still optimistic too as it hasn’t even been a year since my operation. There’s a long healing process to this surgery and my body just needs more time.”
Natalie prefers to use Cure Medical catheters. “In the relatively short amount of time I’ve been using Cure catheters, I’ve seen such a positive difference,” she says.
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