My Tips for Learning to Self-Cath with Limited Hand Dexterity

tips for learning how to self-cath with limited hand dexterity quadriplegicMy name is Mason Ellis. In my senior year of high school, I was in a car accident that left me quadriplegic with a C5 spinal cord injury. You can read my story of recovery here. Since then, I have been actively working on beating my spinal cord injury every day. These days, I try to use my experience to help others when I can outside of work and school. For example, I love the chance to reach out and mentor newly spinal cord injured patients. Another way I’ve been sharing my experience is through my YouTube channel. All my original videos offer viewers helpful information about life with a spinal cord injury.

After becoming a quadriplegic, it is guaranteed that you will get overwhelmed by everything that you think you cannot do. It’s not that you can’t necessarily do those things anymore. You just have to do them in a different way. For example, we all have to empty our bladders regularly. After a spinal cord injury, the bladder’s nerves can also be affected, so you have to use an intermittent catheter. Self-catheterizing can be difficult or even seem impossible for those with limited hand dexterity like myself. However, I assure you that it is possible. Below is my experience with some tips for learning to self-cath with limited hand dexterity.

Self-Cathing as a New Quadriplegic

mason with mtg ez gripper
Mason with the MTG EZ-Gripper Catheter

When I was still at the rehabilitation hospital after my accident, I remember nurses were catheterizing me using a straight catheter. They told me I’d be able to self-catheterize independently before I left. 29 days later, I left rehab. I was never shown a catheter that I could use on my own, so I still needed someone else to catheterize me. I decided to take it upon myself to find a catheter that I’d be able to use.

At that time, I assumed all catheters were the same because I’d only seen straight catheters. However, I soon found out that I assumed wrong. A little research revealed a new world of catheter types. I quickly found out about all of the features that different and more advanced catheters offered, even for individuals like me with limited hand dexterity. One catheter that stood out to me was MTG’s EZ-Gripper Closed System Catheter Kit.

Luckily, I found out that my new catheter supplier, 180 Medical, carried MTG catheter products. After I spoke with one of their Catheter Specialists, they sent me several samples of the EZ-Gripper catheter. This way, I could try it out first before switching my orders completely.

The first time I self-cathed using the MTG EZ-Gripper, it took me one whole hour but I did it all by myself. It felt awesome to know that self-cathing was possible for me! With time and practice, my technique and ability improved. Today, I can self-catheterize within 5-10 minutes!

If you’re a quadriplegic like me or if you live with limited hand dexterity due to another condition, I highly recommend researching this catheter type. 180 Medical can help you with free catheter samples to try out so you find one that works well for you too!

Finding the Right Catheter for You

When searching for catheters, it is important to know the available catheter options for limited hand dexterity. Finding the right catheter that works best for you is an important step in figuring out how to self-catheterize.

Here are the three main types of catheters available today:

1. Straight Catheters

Intermittent straight catheters are the most basic catheters. One upside is that uncoated straight catheters are often less expensive than other catheter options. Straight catheters require manual lubrication before insertion, which can be difficult to achieve when your hand and finger movement is limited. In particular, opening the packets of lubricating jelly is a challenge. If your insurance only covers straight catheters, you may prefer to use a tube of lubrication with a flip-top lid for easier opening.

view straight catheters 180 medical

2. Hydrophilic Catheters

Hydrophilic intermittent catheters are sometimes easier to use because you don’t have to use a separate form of lubrication to get the catheter ready. Instead, hydrophilic catheters feature a special coating that is activated by water to fully lubricate the tube. Some hydrophilic catheters also come pre-lubricated in their own solution, while others require you to pop a water packet to activate the lubrication. A potential downside for those with limited hand dexterity to consider is that hydrophilic catheters can get pretty slippery. While most brands include a handling sleeve to keep your hands off the catheter tube, that may not help when it comes to gripping. In addition, popping the water packet may prove difficult for people with limited hand dexterity.

view hydrophilic catheters 180 medical

3. Closed System Catheters

A closed system catheter is a pre-lubricated catheter that is housed in its own collection bag, which has several advantages over the other catheter types. The main advantage of these catheters is that the user will not have to touch the catheter tube directly. This minimizes the risk of bacteria from getting into the body and getting a urinary tract infection (UTI). Another advantage of closed system catheters is that a collection bag is already attached to the catheter, which removes the need to find an accessible bathroom. This feature allows you to catheterize wherever you are. Some closed system catheters (such as the MTG EZ-Gripper) have gripping aids or easy-to-open packaging for people who want to self-cath with limited hand dexterity.

In my personal opinion, closed system catheters may be the best option for people who have limited hand dexterity.

view closed system catheters 180 medical

Self-Cathing Assistive Devices for Quadriplegics

On top of finding a catheter that works well for you, you may be interested in learning more about devices that can assist you during self-catheterizing. These work to help you better manipulate and control your catheter for insertion. The quadriplegic catheter inserter is a spring-loaded clamp that fits around the catheter to help you grasp it for insertion.

The MTG Eagle Board is a device that is made to work with the MTG-EZ Gripper and has many features including a special hook to help hold your pants down, a housing clip to keep the catheter in place, and thumbholes for easy maneuverability.

Check out my video about the MTG Eagle Board below.

Personally, the MTG EZ-Gripper changed my life, and I know that having the ability to self-cath will change yours too! If I had been told about the MTG EZ-Gripper catheter in rehab, I believe my quality of life would have turned around much sooner.

MTG EZ Gripper at 180 Medical

Where to Get Catheter Supplies

Do you want to talk with someone about how to find the best catheter for your unique needs? Do you already know the catheter that works best for you but you’re looking for a reliable catheter supplier?

No matter where you are in your journey to learning how to self-cath with limited hand dexterity, 180 Medical’s Catheter Specialists are ready to help! Contact 180 Medical to find out more about your options.

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About the Author
Mason Ellis was injured in a car accident on January 19, 2015. He is now a C5/6/7 quadriplegic paralyzed from the neck down. Since his accident, he has connected with others with spinal cord injuries, as well as family members, friends, and caregivers of someone with a spinal cord injury, therapists and doctors, and able-bodied individuals too. His motto is to "live life just like I would've able-bodied."