A young woman who was left incontinent and virtually housebound following an illness is now able to pee normally – by remote control.
Amy Lyons, 22, is the first person in the UK to be fitted with a pioneering implant which enables her to go the loo at the touch of a button.
Amy had been left scared to leave her home after her bladder stopped working following a series of urinary infections and sepsis as a youngster.
But now thanks to a pocked-sized device inserted into her lower back which sends electrical signals her bladder its function has been restored to normal.
She said : “I haven’t had to worry about weeing myself which I had to worry about before, I can go on as normal.
“I can spend time with people without worrying about where toilets are in restaurants.
“For something like this to be available is so good and it will help so many people especially young girls who could be going through the same thing as me.”
Amy’s problems began when she started suffering from repeated water infections at the young age of just seven.
They culminated in an untreated water infection in 2015 which eventually led to sepsis and a three-week hospital stay at St. James’ Hospital in Leeds, West Yorks.
During that time, Amy was unable to pass urine for three days causing her stomach to swell.
Eventually she was referred to a urological surgeon at private hospital Spire Leeds and it was confirmed her bladder had completely failed.
Following this devastating diagnosis, the former personal trainer was taught to self-catheterise and had to repeat this up to ten times a day.
It wasn’t until 2017 that she was told about a pioneering implant which could allow her to control when she could go to the toilet at the touch of a button.
Amy said: “I was told by a urological surgeon that I could have pioneering treatment which could help me control my bladder and get me back to normal but I had to wait about six months until it was legal in the UK.
“The one they had prior to this implant lasts for five years and is aimed at older people.
“The chance to have an implant that would only need changing once every 15 years seemed better for me.”
Speaking about the infection that led to complete loss of bladder control, Amy said she became ‘incredibly embarrassed’ and didn’t want to leave the house.
Amy said: “I didn’t know at first what it was, I was just in pain I had to go to A&E who then told me my kidneys were failing.
“It was embarrassing because I had zero control of my bladder, I would just wee myself sometimes because I didn’t know when I was going to go.
“After I was discharged from hospital and realised my bladder no longer worked, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the house – I didn’t feel any urge to urinate and had no control over my bladder despite being taught how to self-catheterise.”
The young woman said her life changed drastically once she found out about her failed bladder system and she even had to stop going to university in York as she had planned.
Amy, from Leeds, West Yorks, added; “Going to university was tricky, I was on too many medications because I have hypermobility which means I dislocate joints easily but my bladder was the main issue.
“Even travelling to university was tricky because it meant having to take a taxi every day to lectures or making sure I sit somewhere which is easy for me to run to the toilet.
“It changed my life completely. This is what happens to older people so for it to happen at 19 was distressing.”
The Axonixcs Sacral Neuromodulator, which Amy was fitted in April this year, is controlled by a remote and is rechargeable via a wireless system.
This device can help one in three people who suffer from urinary and bowel dysfunction including overactive bladders.
The implant needs charging once a week for less than one hour, which Amy does by placing a charging device against her skin, which is secured in position with a supplied belt.
Amy, who also suffers from Ehlers Danlos syndrome type 3, which affects internal organs, as well as her skin, admits her relationships have been affected hugely since she became ill but she is trying to live a normal life as possible.
She said; “Before I got ill, my boyfriend and I used to do a lot together, we used to go to the gym and train together but being pro-active with my condition got really difficult so I had to stop.
“He stayed with me even after I peed a lot but that’s when you know if someone’s a keeper.
“Because we went through such a serious thing so early, we knew we could handle anything.”
“My bladder failure has affected my friendships, when we went out to eat it would be a pain because we’d need to plan for somewhere where I could run to the toilet easily.
“I had to stop drinking completely because my kidney’s had failed, people feel embarrassed to drink around me so it didn’t surprise me when I started to lose friends
“I can’t do normal things people my age do like go out but two of my friends who I’ve grown up with have stuck by me.”
This implant has helped her regain control over her bladder, it allows Amy to pass urine naturally and the urge to pass urine has come back gradually.
Since the surgery in April, she has not leaked meaning she has one less health issue to worry about.
She believes by being open about her bladder failure, she hopes more young women will get water infections treated sooner rather than later as it can have serious consequences.
Amy said by speaking out about her experience, anything to do with bladder or water infections can be less taboo.
“If water infections were spoken about or weren’t made to be this embarrassing thing I could have potentially saved my bladder.
“My life could’ve been different but it’s too late to look back and say what if.
“I was lucky to have life insurance which saved me a lot of grief, I’m back to normal now, I just have to deal with my other health problems now then I should be going back to study in a couple of years.”