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It’s a Team Effort: Raising a Child with Spina Bifida

holly 180 medical community stories spina bifida mom

Getting a job with 180 Medical wasn’t Holly’s first introduction to our company. She originally found us because her daughter Claire was born with spina bifida and uses catheters. She’s sharing her story of raising a child with spina bifida and how her experience with finding a reliable catheter supply company led to a career at 180 Medical.

Holly, tell us about yourself and how this journey began.

My name is Holly McCullough, and I live in Michigan. My daughter Claire was born with spina bifida, and that’s how I was first introduced to 180 Medical. Today, I’m part of the 180 Medical team as a Territory Sales Manager, which I love so far.

Prior to that, I’d been with 180 Medical for quite a few years as a customer because of Claire’s catheter supply needs. That’s where all this started.

My husband and I married fairly young, and Claire was a surprise gift for us. We found out that we were pregnant while we were still in college. Then at the 20-week ultrasound mark, we found out she would be born with spina bifida.

holly's daughter claire as a baby
Holly’s daughter Claire

At the time, we were just college kids, so I didn’t know what that meant. It was a nerve-wracking time, but it also ended up being a great time for our marriage. That time brought us together and helped us learn what was really important in a relationship.

When your daughter was born with spina bifida, what were some of the challenges you faced?

The doctors prepped us while we were pregnant with her and told us that her bladder and bowel would not function like usual. From day one, when she was a newborn baby, we had to catheterize her. And the catheter sizes for babies are so tiny!

claire at easter

We spent a ton of time in the hospital in the first year of her life with different kinds of surgeries and treatments for infections. There were a lot of hurdles. She needed to have a shunt due to having hydrocephalus. Also, she needed to use a walker when she was first learning to walk.

She did have some learning disabilities throughout school, but she persevered. That’s a great word to describe Claire: perseverance.

What was your experience with catheter suppliers before switching to 180 Medical?

With other catheter supply companies, we definitely ran into issues. All of a sudden, we’d have a bill because something was filed incorrectly. I had to get on the phone for hours, trying to figure out what was going on. So that was super frustrating.

When you have a child that relies on catheters to go to the bathroom, it has to be timely. So we ended up switching from that first supplier to another one. But with the next catheter supply company, I could never get through to anyone on the phone. Shipments were sporadic. I had to call and make sure everything would be on time. I call it babysitting. That wasn’t convenient for us.

I reached out to a friend who happened to work in sales at 180 Medical. She said, “Hey, why don’t you try 180 Medical for catheter supplies? We can send you any brand and any samples you want to try, and then you tell us what works best for Claire.” So I did that, and that’s when we switched to 180 Medical as our new catheter supplier.

Why did you choose to stay with 180 Medical?

When we switched to 180 Medical, their customer service was really what kept me hooked.

I can get on the phone and talk with somebody who knows what they’re talking about. From the first person I spoke with, I felt like they were empathetic. They understood my frustration and wanted to do everything they could to fix it.

That’s part of what intrigued me about the idea of working for 180 Medical. I even said to my husband one day, “Man, if I could just work for 180, that would be great.” And this was years before I decided to apply.

That’s why I work for 180 Medical today and use them for Claire’s catheter supplies. Customer service and freedom of product choice are so important for people who rely on catheters to go to the bathroom.

claire with horse

I feel proud to work for 180 Medical because we truly focus on our customers. I feel that from both the customer and employee perspectives, which is a great blessing.

I love that people have great things to say about 180 Medical even in clinics when I come in. 180 Medical’s reputation precedes them. So it’s been great. I’ve had interactions with our customers, and I get to hear feedback and celebrate their wins with them. But also, during my day, going into clinics, I get to see doctors and nurses that have helped my child along the way.

180 Medical has been around for over 20 years, and even though we’re growing, it feels like a family. I’m new to the family, and I love it.

How did 180 Medical help with finding a catheter that worked best for Claire?

180 Medical was a lot of help. I didn’t even know about all the available product options and different catheter types at first. We started out just using a standard straight catheter with lube. That worked great for years.

As a parent of a child with spina bifida, you’re just trying to make life work. You don’t realize there are other catheters out there, and you just don’t know what will work best until you try them.

In addition to their customer service, one thing that has been valuable about our experience with 180 Medical is the freedom to choose. At any age, at any stage, or even if Claire is like, “I just want to see what’s new on the market,” I know we can get free catheter samples to try.

Request Samples
When Claire started to transition to self-cathing on her own around the second grade, she fell in love with compact catheter options. They’re short, discreet, and disposable. People wouldn’t know what it is when it’s sitting in a trash can at a friend’s house. It looks like a cosmetic because it’s so little and compact.

Claire got to make the decision herself about which catheter was easiest and most discreet for her. Those were really important factors when it came to choosing a catheter.

speedicath compact catheters

Has self-catheterization made an impact on Claire’s independence?

Since she found the right catheter, Claire has been doing amazing. She learned to self-cath in elementary school, and really, she has just functioned as highly as possible throughout her whole life.

She is very positive. She’s a go-getter with so much spirit, but also one of the most laidback people you’ll ever meet. She can enter a room, and people are just instantly attracted to her. We think she is pretty great!

Today, she’s a typical 21-year-old. She works full-time at a childcare center and really enjoys working with kids. She loves hanging out with her friends and being with our family. Also, we’re about to go on a trip to Paris as a family, which is a dream trip for her. We’re all pretty excited.

Claire

Do you have any tips for parents of kids who use catheters?

I know it can be overwhelming, especially at first. If you’re a parent who is learning to cath your baby or child, it’s okay to feel nervous.

It’s a huge responsibility. Your child can’t do it on their own at first. It’s okay to look at the instructions every time you do it for as long as you need. Also, never be afraid to ask questions and find out what type of catheter will work best for your child.

For my husband and me, it was a team effort. As she grew and we began helping her learn to self-cath, we were her cheerleaders. Encourage your child. Let them know it’s okay. Just keep trying and help them remember to stay clean.

get help learning how to cath

Also, find out what your insurance covers. I recommend pediatric closed system catheter kits if you can get them. These help you stay as clean as possible, which is great for cathing your child in public restrooms. Catheter kits usually come with gloves and wipes, which can help prevent UTIs (urinary tract infections) for your little one.

Even if your insurance doesn’t fully cover an advanced option, you could try straight catheters half the time and compact catheters or closed system catheters when you’re out and about.

Are there any spina bifida resources you’d recommend?

For parents and caregivers, there are so many resources on social media nowadays. I reach out to parent support groups or groups for caregivers of people with spina bifida and connect regularly. One thing I’ll say is to be careful because they can become negative platforms, but there are lots of great ones out there.

The Spina Bifida Association has been helpful to us as a family even to this day. Claire has joined groups through SBA where she can meet with people with spina bifida virtually all over the world. They can also help you connect locally to other families and other caregivers too.

For other parents of children with spina bifida, just remember you’re not alone. For sure, you’re not alone. There’s a community to tap into, and I feel like we’re the best version of ourselves when we can be a part of a community.

Holly and family

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About the Author
It’s a Team Effort: Raising a Child with Spina Bifida
Jessica is the Sr. Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, and she has been with the company for over 14 years now. She loves getting to be creative in her role and hearing from customers about the positive impact we've made on their lives.

Outside of work, you can find her hanging out with her husband and their dogs or browsing garden centers (where she will almost certainly buy another houseplant she doesn't really need).