My name is Bill, and I have worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. Nearly 26 years ago, I was involved in a motocross accident that rendered me quadriplegic. You can learn more about my story here.
Over the years since then, I've been able to help and counsel others who are also dealing with life after a spinal cord injury. I am happiest when I am helping others, and these days at 180 Medical, I spend a lot of time just talking to our customers on the phone who are new to catheterizing.
One thing I get a lot of questions about is self-catheterization in public restrooms. Naturally, people new to cathing can sometimes feel a little unsure about this - from discretion to how to be as clean as possible while cathing. While some people can schedule their daily plans around
their cathing routine so they can be at home when it’s time to self-catheterize,
this can be limiting for those who travel, work, or have an active lifestyle.
For most people, there’s not a guarantee you’ll always be at home in the
comfort of your own bathroom when it is time to catheterize and empty the
bladder. I’ve even spoken to some individuals who have skipped cathing to avoid
having to do so in a public place, but this is not advisable, as you could be
damaging your bladder and kidneys by holding urine in too long.
As a catheter-user myself, I thought I could help to shed
some light on the best methods for self-cathing when you’re not at home. We
hope this helps you with some ideas on how to make self-cathing away from home
as easy and safe as possible.
When planning to catheterize away from your home, whether
traveling, working, or just having a day out and about, there are different
ways of transporting your supplies with discretion and ease.
- To make the catheter more discreet when carrying it, you can fold the catheter into a
soft U-shape or wrap it around your hand into a circle. You just want to make
sure you don’t get a kink in the catheter as this could make it difficult to
use. We do offer a male length catheter that comes packaged already in a
U-shape for those who don’t like to fold their catheters. Some people are able to carry their supplies
in a pocket. We also offer compact catheters, which may or may not be covered by your insurance (you can inquire with us to have your coverage verified).
- For carrying supplies, I have heard of people using everything from their
cases for eyeglasses to small bags. I talked to one gentleman who carries his
supplies in a briefcase, so he has a hard surface to set his supplies on.
- A lot of wheelchair users carry their supplies in a backpack and hang it on the back of their chair.
- There are many different options in how to carry your supplies. With some time, you can find what will work best for you.
Sterile Preparation and Catheterization
When you are catheterizing in your own personal
surroundings, you are not exposed to as many germs and bacteria that you could
possibly encounter when catheterizing in a public restroom facility. You just
wash your hands at the sink, go to your toilet or the area designated for your
routine, and prepare your supplies accordingly.
But when you are in a public facility, you never know what
the surroundings will be like. It's important to keep the process as sterile as possible so that you can lower your risk of any infection.
Before you enter the stall, be sure to wash your hands with
soap and water. Once you have entered the stall, there probably won’t be a good,
clean surface to set your supplies on. You could bring a paper towel from home to
set your supplies on. Some people set their supplies on whatever they use to
carry them in. You can sit on the toilet or in your wheelchair and prepare
things in your lap.
The first thing you want to do is make sure your hands and the area of insertion are as clean as possible before inserting a catheter. You will have already washed your hands before entering the stall, and you may also want to use an
antibacterial wipe to clean the area of insertion.
Often, if you are using a closed system or catheter with a kit, you will have wipes or swabs included to use. Some people like to apply some antibacterial gel on
their hands as an extra precautionary
measure. Many people also use gloves, which is especially helpful when you are in a public restroom. Often these are included with catheter kits as well. All of this would depend on what your insurance covers, however.
If you are using a catheter with a lubrication packet
separately, you may face a few more challenges than you might with an advanced
product such as pre-lubricated catheters or catheters with insertion supplies.
With time, you will figure out your own preferred method of applying lubricant to your catheter. Some people are able to tear the lubrication packet
open at both ends and run the catheter through the inside of the packet to lubricate it. Some people have limited dexterity or strength, so opening the packet may require scissors which would need to be carried with the rest of your supplies.
Another option of application that I've heard is to open the catheter packaging, leave the catheter sitting inside and then apply lubrication to it. You can also open the catheter
packaging about a third of the way down and squeeze the lubrication into the
packaging and when pulling the catheter out drag it through the lubrication.
If you are using a pre-lubricated catheter, it should be ready to use right out of the packaging. Hydrophilic catheters will require application of water (usually included in a packet along with the catheter) in order for the lubrication to be activated. Some hydrophilic catheter brands include an easy handling sleeve to help you with handling the catheter and guiding it during insertion without actually touching the surface of the catheter tube.
Once you've prepped your supplies, sterilized your hands and the area of insertion, and made sure your catheter is lubricated, you are now ready to catheterize. Once you finish, you can then wipe off your hands and urethra
and throw away the used contents in the nearest trash receptacle. Never flush a catheter, collection bag, wipes, or other catheterization accessories down a toilet.
180 Medical has one-of-a-kind catheterization instructional materials
available for you to help demonstrate the catheterization procedure
including easy-to-understand catheter videos and catheter insertion
instructions. We have separate materials available for men,
women, girls, and boys.
Have questions? Just give us a call or send us a chat online
during business hours. Our staff of catheter experts will be ready to answer any catheterization questions you may have or walk you through the cathing process.
Bill has worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. He loves getting to talk to our customers, sharing his first-hand experiences as a quadriplegic, and helping those with in-depth questions about self-catheterization. He enjoys spending time outdoors, as well as watching and attending motocross events. Learn more about Bill's story.