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Patient given new lease of life thanks to innovative MS nurse-led urology clinic

A multiple sclerosis sufferer who could not face going out because of debilitating bladder and bowel problems caused by her condition says she’s been given a new lease of life thanks to an innovative clinic run by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Janet Blair, who was first diagnosed with the condition at the age of 23, hit “rock bottom” after a flare-up of her condition at the age of 59. The relapse left her with left-sided weakness, foot drop, and bladder and bowel problems.

I didn’t want to go out. I couldn’t cope, and the depression set in,” said Janet, who gave up a busy job as healthcare assistant in Barnsley after the attack. “It immediately changed my life and the way I did things. I felt isolated and I was too scared to go out, even for a couple of hours.”

Although she was taught how to drain her bladder lying down, she still couldn’t lead a normal life – even cancelling holidays with her husband because she feared ending up in embarrassing situations.

Two years later, Janet, now 65, was seen at a pioneering MS nurse-led urological service set up by Liam Rice, a MS specialist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in conjunction with Miss Sheilagh Reid, a consultant urologist working within the spinal injury service. Using models taken from thinking and best practice models 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.

Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable – you need support to live your life. I’d gone from being a busy person looking after people to the one being looked after, but the MS urology team at the Hallamshire Hospital sorted me out. I don’t know where I’d be without their backing.  I would have just gone further and further down. They are an amazing team,” Janet, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five weeks after the birth of her second child, said.

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.

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.”

Around 75% 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 to the toilet and urinary tract infections.

The MS nurse-led urology service has seen around 400 patients since it was first established in May 2014.