A 23-year-old woman has been unable to urinate for three years after being struck down by a bizarre condition.
Vikki Black, from Barrow-in-Furness, suffers from Fowler’s syndrome, also known as urine retention. It leaves her bladder muscles unable to relax.
While most people take popping to the toilets for granted, she constantly thinks about it – because she simply cannot.
Miss Black, who has been unable to go to the toilet naturally since October 2014, initially thought she was suffering from a bout of cystitis.
She is now hoping to undergo pioneering surgery to have tiny electrical pulses implanted on her tail bone to trigger the nerves which work her bladder.
Opening up about her struggle to urinate for the first time, Miss Black said: ‘It’s changed my life so much.
‘I’m in and out of hospital and can’t do something as simple as wee. [Surgery] is my last hope. I’m desperate to go to the loo.’
The problems started back in late 2014, when the environmental health engineer began struggling to urinate.
Over the course of a few days, her symptoms worsened until eventually, she couldn’t go to the toilet at all.
On top of this, her stomach swelled dramatically. She said that she looked ’20 weeks pregnant’. Miss Black added: ‘I was bursting. I knew I needed to go, I just couldn’t.’
Her father, Steve, 52, raced her to the nearby Furness General Hospital. She was given an emergency catheter to drain away 1200mls of urine.
Doctors told her that the bladder is only designed to hold a maximum amount of around 500ml urine.
The relief was immediate, and Miss Black was hopeful she’d been cured. But the next day, her stomach swelled once again.
She returned to the same hospital where another catheter was fitted for what she thought would be three months – but three years on it remains intact.
Referred to Manchester Royal Infirmary around a year later, Miss Black underwent a urodynamic test, which involves inserting two small catheters – one in the bladder and one in the rectum.
The bladder is then slowly filled with saline salt water and monitored for any irregular spasms.
Once a patient’s bladder is full, they are asked to pass urine with the catheters in, allowing doctors to gather information on what pressure the bladder muscle generates for a urine flow rate.
It was this procedure that led to her official diagnosis of Fowler’s Syndrome, a condition only described 30 years ago, in late 2015.
The condition, which typically affects women aged in their 20s to 40s, can occur as a result of an operation, or even spontaneously.
Miss Black said: ‘It’s so rare that often, when I visit the doctors or hospital, people haven’t heard of it. But it has a huge impact.
‘Because of the catheter, I’ve had a lot of kidney infections. I’ve probably suffered around 90 infections and been in and out of hospital.
‘Just last week I was in Salford Royal Infirmary with another infection. I was given intravenous antibiotics.’
Now, Miss Black is hoping to have a type of surgery called sacral nerve stimulation, which is available on the NHS.
However, she said she’d prefer to have it done privately so that she can avoid the waiting list for the operation.
The procedure involves small electrical pulses stimulating the nerves in the lower back, just above the tail bone, which affect bladder control.