Victoria Small, InterStim Therapy Patient

Victoria Small

Fitness Enthusiast, Mother and InterStim Therapy Patient

"My life is so much better now than it was before! I'm back in the swing and living my life!"

Free from Worry, She’s Finally Living Life to the Fullest

For years, Victoria Small did her best to cope with bowel leaks that happened almost every day. But last year, minor surgery brought the problem under control, and now Victoria is more active, more sociable and having a lot more fun.

Her new life began when she asked Colon and Rectal Surgeon George Zainea, M.D., if anything could be done to help. She’d had the condition since her now-grown daughter was born, but never discussed it with a doctor.

"I never told anybody because I was mortified,” she said. ”I couldn’t get through a day without some leaking, and the older I got, the worse it was. I would let myself get dehydrated to try and control it, but the constipation made it worse.”

The problem was especially rough because Small loves to dance and exercise. “After I would lift weights, power walk or do yoga, I would have to go to the bathroom and clean up,” she said. “But even just going out with the gang could be uncomfortable. I felt like they knew.”

Tests performed by Dr. Zainea revealed the underlying problem: One side of her rectum was paralyzed because of damage to nerves, which is not uncommon in childbirth. With the new diagnosis, Dr. Zainea referred Victoria to Urologist Karla Witzke, D.O., to explore InterStim® Therapy, a technique for treating overactive bladder that is now approved for fecal incontinence.

The therapy uses an implanted neurostimulator, similar to a pacemaker, to control bowel leaks by providing small electrical stimulation to the nerve that activates muscles in the bowel.

“When Dr. Witzke described it, I didn’t know what to think, but at that point, I was willing to try anything. I just wanted to be able to live my life again,” Victoria said. “She told me that an implant about the size of the cap on an aspirin bottle – like a little battery pack – would go under my skin just below my waistline. I asked her if it would interfere with my Pilates or core work, and she said I wouldn’t even know it was there.”

Victoria was thrilled when a two-week trial using an external neurostimulator confirmed that the technique worked for her. “It was a miracle to me!” she said. “Once the trial showed it worked, I felt like Dr. Witzke couldn’t get me into surgery fast enough!”

For the trial, Dr. Witzke had inserted the flexible leads from the nerve at Victoria’s bowel to the external device at her hip. After the trial, Victoria underwent outpatient surgery at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland. During the procedure, Dr. Witzke implanted the neurostimulator in her upper buttocks, just below her waistline, and attached the leads. A hand-held device would let her adjust the impulse strength as needed.

Victoria was glad to find, close to home, a doctor who offered the new technique and was easy to talk to about her problem. “Dr. Witzke is one of the most professional, sweetest, most caring people I have ever met. She’s wonderful – personable and compassionate,” she said. “I also have great regard for Dr. Zainea, and appreciate his recommendation.

“My life is so much better now than it was before! I’m amazed by it! I really am!” she said. “I used to think about going out to the store or to dinner, and I just didn’t want to do it. But now I’m not afraid to socialize. I’m back in the swing and living my life!”

InterStim® is a registered trademark of Medtronic, Inc.

Those who are experiencing fecal or urinary incontinence are encouraged to talk with their primary care provider, or contact MyMichigan’s Nurse Navigator directly at (989) 837-9045 or toll free at (888) 626-4547. Additional information about Dr. Witzke and Dr. Zainea may be found at www.mymichigan.org/doctors.