“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” So said... well I’m not sure who, but someone who didn’t get the can of drink they wanted. But for many of us with medical conditions, we don’t like change.
Familiarity, Reliability, Routine – these are our friends. Surprise, Variation, Detour – only passing acquaintances. We like things just as they are. I was born with an abnormality; I want as much normality as possible now, thanks very much. Let’s have all the big surprises up front: when I was born my bladder was, well, up front.
I still vividly recall learning the self-cath process aged eight. Getting used to the new norm was quite an undertaking. So, once I’d found a catheter that worked, I didn’t even contemplate the idea that there might be anything but that one.
For years – even decades – I had one type of catheter. That, for me, was the only one that existed. Changing that would be like going from cow’s milk to yak’s milk: I knew others existed but I also ‘knew’, without even trying, that the others weren’t for me. I had found my groove – or should I say, the cath had found my groove.
I guess that’s part of the reluctance. This is a sensitive part of the body we’re talking about. Why would I want to put myself through trying a new untested product? Well, tested on someone, presumably (who wants that job?), but not tested on me. Therefore, no thanks.
The lesson I’ve had to learn is that change can be a good thing. I was very stubborn before realizing this. My hand was forced when, as a twentysomething, my old caths suddenly were no longer available. That particular model just vanished. It honestly felt like the end of the world. It was like someone had banned oxygen. And how can there be an alternative to oxygen? You can’t just ‘try’ hydrogen.
After a panicked phone call to the hospital I visit once a year (a urological ‘Centre of Excellence’ I hear – or at least a centre of not-bad-ness), I visited to browse their products. I felt like Harry Potter in the wand shop (or I would have done if Harry Potter had been a thing back then). Suddenly my eyes were opened to the options available and, while most looked daunting, I was just scouring the shelves for something that looked most like my original idea of what a catheter is.
I grabbed a few samples and tried them back home. There was an uncomfortable one, an unwieldy one, one that needed to be wrestled into submission, and one that was very comfortable but had the accidental by-product of soaking the toilet. It was like attaching a garden hose but realizing too late that it was a full sprinkler system – and the shed and patio had been watered instead of just the sunflower I was aiming at.
Then I found a good one. A better one, even. Turns out, technology and innovation had moved things on since I was eight. Comfort, practicality, and the ability not to water the entire room were there if I’d looked for it... plus that nagging feeling that I should have done this sooner.