Laura Dorn is an active person. A 58-year-old from Keizer, Oregon, she loves walking, running, swimming and anything else that keeps her on the go. Like most active people, her goal is to keep moving for as long as possible. She doesn’t want anything to slow her down, but a few years ago that goal looked like it was slipping away.
Urinary incontinence was causing Laura to leak urine. Whether she was dancing at a wedding or simply sneezing during allergy season, she leaked. She started wearing a pad every day, but this solution quickly proved to be unsustainable, uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Many women suffer silently with urinary incontinence. It can be embarrassing to talk about with both friends and healthcare professionals. Laura understands this hesitation, but she points out: “There is a whole aisle at the drugstore for this.” She knew she could not be the only one suffering, so she took difficult first step—asking for help.
Laura’s primary care provider referred her to Dr. Rebecca Batalden, a urogynecologist at The Oregon Clinic, to discuss her leaking. “Urogynecologists are doctors who treat women for a wide range of pelvic floor disorders,” said Dr. Batalden. “Damage caused by childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic disease or surgery can weaken these muscles and make proper function hard.”
Laura remembers, “Dr. Batalden was very friendly and professional.” She pulled up a rolling chair in the exam room and truly sat down with Laura on her level. She brought out a book with pictures that helped explain in detail what was causing the urinary incontinence. Dr. Batalden explained why Laura had this condition and what they could do about it.
“The information was easy to understand,” recalls Laura. “I felt relieved when I received a diagnosis and some treatment options. I learned there was a surgery that could help, even if it didn’t relieve 100% of my symptoms.”
Dr. Batalden made sure that Laura knew the risks and rewards of the surgery. She told Laura that surgery can help, but doesn’t always resolve incontinence fully. Despite knowing that, Laura decided to go forward with a vaginal sling procedure. Instead of using a mesh, some of Laura’s own body tissue would be used to reinforce her pelvic floor giving her more control of her urine flow.
In most cases, this is an outpatient procedure, but Laura spent the night at the hospital. During her hospital stay, Laura remembers that she had a nurse always checking in with her. The nurses explained everything to her clearly and were always helpful. She felt like her team of caretakers went the extra mile to make her feel comfortable and safe.
Reflecting on the surgery Laura says, “The surgery was a breeze. I was a little nervous, but the anesthesiologist was a hoot. I’ve had surgery before but I can’t remember a better experience than this one.”
After the procedure, Laura could not exercise for eight weeks—another tough time for an active person. She remained patient because she understood that proper healing is an important part of the process. After eight weeks, Laura was told she could be active again. “I was so excited to finally get back to doing the things I love without incontinence standing in my way,” Laura said.
Laura no longer wears pads and enjoys walking, running, hiking and going to the gym once again. “When you want to climb mountains or take an aerobics class, you don’t want to worry about your bladder,” Laura said. “I have told many of my friends about this procedure to give them hope that there are options out there for people suffering with urinary incontinence.”
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