How I won my victory over BPH-without surgery
In medical school, I was taught that doctors should never tell patients about their own personal maladies. It's best for them to think you're above illness-only "patients" get sick, not doctors.
But I've given it some serious thought and have decided that it's in your best interest to know that even doctors have their fair share of problems, and I'm certainly no exception. And if hearing about my own victory over BPH-without surgery-can help you do the same, then it's certainly worth showing that I am indeed human after all!
A "simple" procedure turns into a nightmare of events
In June 2002, I underwent what I thought was a simple, routine hernia repair operation. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. For 12 hours following surgery, I was paraplegic and went without voiding my bladder for two and a half days. Somewhere along the way, my prostate had completely shut down.
Needless to say, I was a little alarmed. But two different doctors examined me the day after my surgery and both of them pronounced that my bladder was not full or distended, despite the fact that it had been about 36 hours since the last time I'd "gone." The next day, Sunday, one of the doctors returned. He said once again that everything was fine and told me not to worry.
By then, I was in serious trouble. Later that afternoon, I finally came to my senses and demanded to see a urologist. I suppose, with everything I've seen and told you about in regard to the deteriorating state of physician priorities, I shouldn't have been surprised when I learned that there wasn't a single urologist available -they were all in Disney World attending a urology conference.
Lucky for me, one urologist returned from the conference early (I guess he'd had his fill of Mickey and Minnie) and agreed to see me Sunday evening. He catheterized me and removed 2,500 milliliters of urine-that's more than half a gallon! The catheter was left in for three days to see if the rest would allow my prostate to recover some function. Early Wednesday morning, the catheter was removed. The doctor told me to call if I hadn't voided by noon.
Well, noon came and went and I remained completely obstructed. When I called, the urologist said he would come over after seeing some patients. He finally showed up around 10:30 that night, which left me without relief and, I must say, in great agony for another 16 hours. Once again, the catheter removed 2,500 mls of urine-a double assault on my beleaguered bladder and prostate in less than a week.
Finding options when you're told there are none
The urologist said that the situation was hopeless and the only option was prostate surgery. He also told me to discontinue prostate-shrinking medications and saw palmetto because they "weren't of any use."
I was very discouraged: ready to give up and "get it over with." I was sick and tired of the pain and discomfort. But it never hurts to get as many opinions as you can if it will help you avoid surgery, so I talked to another urologist-a colleague of my son's-who advised me NOT to discontinue the saw palmetto or the prescription "prostate shrinker." He said he'd seen cases in which the patient fully recovered if enough time was allowed for healing.
And then I was referred to Dr. Cartwright,* who reinforced that opinion. Honestly, if Dr. Cartwright hadn't encouraged me, I probably would have made a great mistake and gone ahead with the surgery. But he reminded me that "Rome wasn't built in a day," and, if I was willing to be patient and follow certain procedures, I might be able to beat the thing without surgery.
Getting a hands-on lesson in self-care
The "certain procedure" turned out to be that I would have to catheterize myself three times a day. Dr. Cartwright said that after at least six weeks of giving my prostate and bladder this complete rest, we could see if anything had been accomplished.
I admit it: Self-catheterization seemed to me pretty much like trying to do your own appendectomy. I told the doctor I really didn't think I could do it. Dr. Cartwright's Roman history lesson hadn't quite convinced me, so he tried another tack: "Well, you know, surgery is surgery, and you won't be the same, no matter what anybody tells you.
There's a possibility of impotence, you might have retrograde ejaculation, and you might have urinary incontinence."
That did the trick: I decided I'd try it. But the first time was daunting, to say the least. So I thought I would ease myself into it by going to the emergency ward and letting one of the nurses do it while I watched and learned. Well, I couldn't watch, and after the deed was done, I proclaimed: "Oh my God, I can't do this!" To which the nurse replied: "My dad did it for six months, so why can't you do it? And you're a doctor!" She was right, of course: Men with no medical training are out there doing this to themselves every day. But at the time, it didn't seem to make much difference if I was a doctor or a rocket scientist-I was not looking forward to this hands-on approach.
After the first tense exercise in self-plumbing, I realized it really wasn't all that bad. It didn't hurt; it just felt weird.
Within two weeks, my bladder was beginning to get back on track. So I cut back on how often I used the catheter to once every three days. Things continued to improve, and soon the catheter was stored away in a jar of hydrogen peroxide-no more self-plumbing. I am completely well-yeehah!
I feel terrific and am grateful that I found two good urologists that don't follow the "When in doubt, cut it out" creed. I thank them from the depths of my heart (and loins) for encouraging me to do this self-treatment-including taking the saw palmetto. I actually discontinued using pharmaceuticals because of their side effects, especially fatigue.
Action to take:
Since this course of treatment was so remarkably effective for me, I can't help but think others might benefit from it as well. If prostate surgery has come up in conversation with your doctor, get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion. Ask about the possibility of taking saw palmetto and using a catheter for as long as necessary. If there's a way to avoid surgery, I can speak from personal experience when I say that you won't regret giving it a try. RH