A flood of relief for incontinence
As an artist, teacher and mother, Marilyn (not her real name), manages a busy life in Edmonton. She also manages a condition not uncommon to her middle-aged peer group: urinary incontinence.
“I’ll be working in my office. I’ll feel the need to go and I run for the bathroom, but sometimes I won’t make it,” she says. It’s been an issue for her since childhood. She was embarrassed and too humiliated to talk about it.
Then, about 20 years ago, something shifted. She and a friend were giggling during a visit, her bladder let go and she wet her pants. “There was no way she could not see what had happened, so I came clean. She told me her sister did that all the time.
“I learned I was not alone and that it wasn’t my fault,” Marilyn says. “It was such a turning point.” Today, she wears maxi-pads, uses the bathroom whenever she can and makes sure she knows where the nearest one is.
Women like Marilyn are the kinds of patients Jane Schulz, ’90 BMedSc, ’92 MD, sees in her position as professor and chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. (She also holds the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation Chair in Women’s Health Research.)
Schulz and her team are leading innovation and research in treating urinary incontinence and creating new best practices that have the attention of other clinical centres. The first step, she says, is to acknowledge how common a problem it is.
“We get peed on every day,” says Schulz, who does clinical work at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women in Edmonton. “Body fluids do not faze us. We want to see what is going on so we can help people.” She is also a member of the University of Alberta’s Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI).