Shirley Pierce is all about family.
She and her husband, Raymond, have bee married 34 years and they have 10 children between them. She had five children from her first marriage; he had three, and they have two children together. They work from home and run their own company – Pierce Digital, a premier digital imaging company.
For Shirley, problems with her bowels began at a very early age. She remembers her first proctology appointment at age 13 because she was already suffering from chronic constipation. After years of living with this problem, the lining of her intestine had become stretched. Then Shirley’s colon suffered nerve damage during the birth of her first child. That along with the constipation caused her bowels to lose the nerve connection needed have full control over her bodily functions.
She had her first prolapsed bowel surgery to correct the problem, but it didn’t last. Her symptoms where becoming worse than ever before, and she was losing what little control she did have. That meant that Shirley had to stay near a restroom every minute. And even that wasn’t close enough on many occasions throughout the day.
“I had no way of controlling my urge to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t even feel that it was about to happen before it was almost too late,” remembers Shirley. “My family and friends knew I couldn’t help it when I took off running to the bathroom in the middle of a conversation. A lot of times I wouldn’t make it in time.”
She was then referred to Shauna Lorenzo-Rivera, M.D., colorectal surgeon with University Surgical who helped begin a process that would bring relief and control back into Shirley’s life. She performed a special kind of prolapsed bowel surgery that uses robotic technology to cut and remove parts of the colon and then put it back together again. This option meant faster recovery and less pain and bruising in Shirley’s stomach.
After the procedure, Dr. Lorenzo performed several tests to see if Shirley was a candidate for a sacral nerve stimulator (also known as InterStim). InterStim is a neurotransmitter device that’s implanted under the skin in the upper buttock area that transmits mild electrical impulses through a lead wire close to the sacral nerve. It’s been shown to help people with both urinary and fecal incontinence have greater control of their bowels.
“We went into a testing phase where they implant temporary wires that go to your spine. I wrote down every time I went to the bathroom, what happened, the type of stools and if I made it to the bathroom without an accident,” Shirley says. “In less than two weeks, Dr. Lorenzo told me I was a candidate for the device.”
After the device was implanted, the electrical signals sent by the device to Shirley’s brain where being acknowledged, and her body was recognizing her need to use the bathroom. For the first time in more than a year, she could go walking outside with her husband again.
Back to Living
“When you’re having 20 bowel movements in a day and without a way of knowing when it’s going to happen, it’s totally embarrassing and had a really negative impact on my mental health and self esteem,” Shirley says. “This device took me out of my own prison and gave me the opportunity to do be with my family and do the things I love.”
Shirley is brave to tell this story – it’s something that we don’t often talk about, but that affects many people who are too embarrassed to ask for help. If you or someone you know is suffering in silence from the pain and shame often associated with fecal incontinence, please reach out for help today. For a physician referral, please call (423) 267-0466.
To learn more about sacral nerve stimulation, click here.