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Tabitha Fung

Patient

A discreet catheter device has helped a young woman find a new lease of life after she awoke with mystery condition which has left her in a wheelchair.


Almost seven years ago, Tabitha Fung awoke one morning unable to feel anything below her waist. While doctors are still not sure of the cause, Tabitha found herself adapting to a life-changing condition and having to use a wheelchair.

Now 38, Tabitha says: “The medical changes that have come with that have been quite major and coming to terms with self-catheterisation has been one of them.”

She was initially given an indwelling catheter with a tube running out of her urethra to a bag attachment, which had to be regularly emptied into a toilet.

Intermittent self-catheterisation

But a few months later, a district nurse spoke to her about intermittent self-catheterisation (ISC). She tried various models, and eventually made the transition from indwelling to an intermittent catheter.

“An indwelling catheter is very limiting and does not do anything for one’s self-confidence,” she says, “whereas ISC is incredibly freeing because you have control over when you want to empty your bladder, and you are not carrying a bag of urine strapped to you.”

With the ISC, which for Tabitha is about the size of a mascara tube, users sit on a toilet, open it and insert into the urethra to use the single-use device to drain the bladder.

“For me, it has made a massive change,” says Tabitha. “I started playing wheelchair tennis about a year after this happened and had I been hooked up to a catheter 24/7 with a bag attached to me, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to try something new.

“Having an intermittent catheter was such a major milestone for me and in building my life as a wheelchair user.”

But when I started to self-catheterise, I realised I was no longer attached to this bag and could go out like a normal person and start doing normal things.

New-found confidence

Tabitha admits to not previously being sporty but having been persuaded to try wheelchair tennis when attending her accessible gym, she now plays at international level and achieved a world-ranking of 160.

The ICS has given Tabitha a new self-confidence. Initially, she found her choice of clothing was restricted and was conscious of having a bag beneath her garments. But now, she wears leggings and stretchy fabrics and feels empowered again.

“I was worried about leaking, or smelling, or just unpleasantness that goes along with going to the toilet and also that indwelling catheters are a heightened risk of infection. I spent a while not being able to go anywhere,” says Tabitha, who lives in the West Midlands.

“But when I started to self-catheterise, I realised I was no longer attached to this bag and could go out like a normal person and start doing normal things. The only thing I had to check was if there were disabled toilets. It basically gave me my independence and my confidence back.”

Freedom and independence

She works at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham as co-chair of disability network for University Hospitals Birmingham Trust. This also gives her the opportunity to talk to other medical staff about ISC as she has found that many are not aware of self-catheterisation and its benefits.

“I truly believe if more medical staff knew about ISC, it would give so many more people freedom and independence,” she says.

“It is the difference between somebody being hooked up to a bag and having low self-confidence and not going out, to someone like myself who goes out, works, plays sport, and has an active role in the community.”

Coloplast’s SpeediCath Compact Eve is unique in triangular shape to support ease of grip and avoid rolling off surfaces. Single use and prescribed on the NHS, it fits easily into a small handbag, and has a triple layer hydrophilic, pre-lubricated coating, with polished eyelets that are designed for smooth, comfortable insertion. SpeediCath Compact Eve can be opened with a single twist and securely reclosed for hygienic, discreet, disposal.

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