My War with Incontinence
I first knew that I had incontinence when I was five. My parents told me that I had it ever since I had an operation for an obstruction in my bladder (poster urethral valve). A second operation, sphincterotomy, was done due to persistence of obstruction. This caused dribbling.
I went to India at the age of one and started schooling of five. As there was no way of controlling my urine, I was forced to change my shorts many times during lessons. I used to drink large amounts of water and this wet my shorts all the more. I was not conscious of my dribbling and noticed it only when my shorts were damp. Fellow students teased me and I quietened them physically. Most of the time I kept to myself. My parents consulted doctors in India, but it was of no use. I was not old enough to understand the seriousness of my incontinence then.
I returned to Singapore at the age of seven to start primary schooling. I took the school bus and was given funny looks by fellow students. In primary two, I used pampers to control my dribbling. It was heavy, uncomfortable and a hindrance to physical activity. I had to change them between lessons and had to find lockable cubicles to use. I stopped using pampers after a year. I was treated with Collagen injection in Singapore General Hospital, which doctors said would help stop my dribbling but it did not.
In 1992, I started using a tube over my penis with a clip at the bottom. The tube was secured to the penis by a rubber band. This was quite good except when the tube became full, it would suddenly come off and wet my shorts. I used this method for over two years. Just a few months before the bladder enlargement, I changed to a condom but it did not help.
I faced many problems when I had incontinence. I was teased by many of my classmates in school. I could not attend physical education lessons. I dislike outings for fear of my problem being noticed by people. I stood away form people as much as possible especially in crowded areas. When it was not possible, I noticed that people gave me funny looks and sometimes covered their noses. I wore only dark coloured pants those wet patches could not be seen. I was totally helpless when my pants dried and the odour was still there. As a result I had to be cautious and took steps to prevent dribbling. I drank very little when travelling and choose a table near toilets when I am eating out. I even avoided crowed and air-conditioned public transport when my pants were wet. I could not sit in one place for a long time as I would become very restless and irritable and this affected my studies a lot.
In 1996 my father met Dr Peter H C Lim at a Public Forum on Incontinence organised by the Society for Continence (Singapore). My father later took me to his clinic for an examination and Dr Lim suggested an operation to enlarge my bladder to solve my problem. Before the operation could take place, I had to learn to self-catheterise, just in case my sphincter becomes too strong after the surgery. Self-catheterisation was painless and easy and after six months I was ready for the surgery.
Dr Peter H C Lim operated on me on 30 October 1997. I stayed in hospital for about a month. I started self-catheterisation thereafter for about a month to remove mucus in the bladder. Now I do not dribble at all and I am taking cranberry juice to reduce mucus secretion.
I am leading a normal life and enjoying activities, which I was deprived of in my early childhood. I am no longer self-conscious and I am very happy. My only advice to sufferers like me is to come forward and seek help. There is nothing embarrassing about incontinence. It is just a disorder like any other. I would like to thank the Society for Continence (Singapore) for giving me an opportunity to share my experience.