How Catheter Valves Are Giving Me Back My Confidence

Carrie Beckwith Flip Flo Valves

My transition to a suprapubic catheter is the best decision that I’ve made

It’s been nearly three months since I made the transition from self-catheterising to a permanent indwelling catheter. Boris, my suprapubic catheter (SPC), joined my team of medical devices in mid-November 2016 and, despite some rather unpleasant initial infections, it was the best decision I’ve made.

The aim of having a suprapubic catheter was to help reduce some of my pain and discomfort from needing the loo all of the time. Feeling like your bladder is going to burst two minutes after leaving the bathroom is more than simply frustrating, it is life affecting. My bladder retention, combined with bladder over-activity, resulted in a rather miserable existence and very little sleep. My urologist suggested we move to an SPC simply to improve my quality of life. Aside from the initial infections (during the first few months following the surgical procedure to install Boris, my catheter site was plagued with recurring MRSA infections), it has done just that and I am now a new woman, simply from getting a regular good night’s sleep.

At first, I used night bags to drain my catheter 24/7

To begin with, the plan was to use large night-time catheter bags, 24/7, to drain my bladder. Due to a wonky urethra and pelvic sphincter dysfunction, incontinence was a common issue I had to deal with before my SPC. I did talk about flip-flo valves with my urologist but the assumption was that I would not be able to tolerate using these. At the time we discussed them, I was also having TPN (total parenteral nutrition, which means feeding via a central line into my heart due to complete intestinal failure) so it was felt that I would have too much urine loss with the valves, due to receiving large volumes of fluid via my TPN.

Trying out catheter valves instead of night bags

However, whilst in hospital for my TPN, I saw a different urology team than usual who suggested that I give catheter valves a try, just to see. I loved the idea of being bag-free, even for a few hours. Within a few minutes of trying out the catheter valves, I felt like I needed the loo so I got to try weeing pretty quickly. It felt very strange at first and a little uncomfortable as the bladder emptied but, by golly, was it great to stand over a toilet and actually wee again! I managed to last a whole hour with the valves before my bladder realised what was going on and decided to throw a tantrum. Still, I was over the moon when later in the day I realised my catheter wasn’t draining properly and I got to use the valves to help empty my bladder fully. I was hooked!

Back home, I am using a combination of catheter valves and drainage bags

Now I am back home, I still connect to urine bags 24/7 but having the catheter valves means I can have a break from my bags for a short while on days when my bladder is behaving. The catheter valves also allow me to shower without having my drainage bag attached which makes things much easier and less stressful.

I have even tried using a valve on the feeding tube in my stomach which drains my stomach contents. Again, using valves here allows me to have some bag-free time and means I can easily drain my stomach when I need to.

Regaining a little bit of confidence

While I may not have the total freedom and independence most people get with catheter valves, I am so grateful that I can still use them with my SPC. They allow me to take back some control of my bladder and, as part of my general catheter care routine, they help me to feel that little bit more confident once again.

Carrie's suprapubic catheter has made her feel like a "new woman"

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by Carrie Beckwith Fellows

Carrie Beckwith Fellows

About the author

Hi I'm Carrie, I live in rural Northumberland. I have complex health issues including severe intestinal dysmotility and bladder dysfunction caused by Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. You can follow my blog at