Bladder Pacemaker, Part 4 - Patient says it changed her life

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Susan Valot/KPCC

Carolina Martinez (right), a bladder pacemaker patient, talks with her doctor, urologist Larissa Rodriguez, in an exam room at UCLA. Martinez says the pacemaker has made a huge difference in her life.

It can be tough to live with an overactive bladder, or one that just doesn’t work properly. In this last installment of a four-part series, we meet a woman who got a bladder pacemaker in an effort to return to a normal life.

Thirty-year-old Carolina Martinez of Altadena has been in and out of the hospital with painful bladder problems since she was 2. No one could figure it out.

"You know, it felt like a chronic bladder infection," Martinez says. "It burned. It hurt to pee, but it wasn’t as painful as a bladder infection, but — I don’t know if you’ve ever had one — just kind of the need to go all the time. All the time. Never ends. Never stops."

Martinez, who’s small and athletic, couldn’t go bike riding. She couldn’t go out because she had to go to the bathroom so often.

Eventually doctors diagnosed her with interstitial cystitis, a chronic inflammation of the bladder wall. Bladder spasms make the walls harden and the bladder eventually shrinks.

Martinez got a bladder pacemaker at UCLA this past October.

"I usually was getting up every 15, 30 minutes when I was sleeping, you know, so I never had like a full eight hours," she says. "And I tried sleeping pills. I tried everything and nothing worked, you know. If you have to go, you have to go — and if not, it hurts really, really bad, you know."

Now, during eight hours of sleep, she only had to get up twice. Martinez says her bladder pain is gone, too.

She's optimistic that she will eventually return to bike riding and what she calls the “athletic Carolina” that she was in the past.

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