Jen Lane, 53, of Port Charlotte, Fla., was injured eight years ago and has a C4-6 incomplete injury. She went to Jackson Memorial Rehab in Miami. She uses a wheelchair full-time, has partial use of fingers, good biceps but no triceps, so she fumbles with things from lack of good dexterity. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally dumped my leg bag trying to empty it.”
At first she tried intermittent cathing, had problems with urine backing up, swelling and infections, so she changed to a Foley but had occasional infections with that, too. Her bladder regimen gradually evolved into a hybrid system of wearing a Foley for three consecutive days each week, followed by IC for four days. “Neither system by itself does the job, but the combination of the two works best for me.”
She started using the Melio self-emptying leg bag system with her Foley about a year and a half ago and has no complaints about it. In fact, she says it has made a big difference in her life. “I don’t have to worry about overflowing or leaks, and I don’t have to worry about dumping it on myself. The system makes it easy, no bag rupturing or backing up.” The bag signals when it is time to empty (two-thirds full).
While her Florida Medicaid won’t pay for it, she says, she received a free starter kit and subsequent replacements from Melio for trying out the system and giving feedback and suggestions. “They are nice people who are really concerned about making it the best product it can be.” At first she thought the system wouldn’t work for her because the pump module attached to the bag might weigh too much and make handling difficult. “But that didn’t happen at all,” she says. “When I started using it, I didn’t have any problems.”
She likes the freedom from worry and hassle that the system gives her when she is in a public restroom, or any restroom. “You don’t have to worry about hiking your leg on a toilet, you just free up the discharge tube, aim it at the toilet, press the button and empty.”
Bert Burns, 54, of Sewanee, Ga., is no stranger to NEW MOBILITY readers [“Becoming an Entrepreneur,” March 2013]. A C6-7 quad since the age of 20, Burns started up UroMed in 1996, and later, the nonprofit Life After Spinal Cord Injury. He sold UroMed just last year. Burns also was a gold medalist in the 1992 Paralympics.
Burns opted to have a suprapubic catheter system post-injury. A suprapubic drains an indwelling Foley catheter into a leg bag from a stoma near the belly button. Until he learned about the Melio self-emptying leg bag system, he did the best he could emptying his own leg bag, which strapped to his calf. But limited finger dexterity caused occasionally problems. “Sometimes I would spill pee on myself, usually on my foot. Or I would even lose my foot in the toilet trying to handle my leg bag, or I would dump pee on the floor.”
Then there was the problem of en-countering a nondisabled person camped out in the handicapped stall, forcing use of a urinal. Now with his Melio system he can pull a tube from his waistband, aim it, press a lever-button on his waistband controller and pump a stream of pee directly into the urinal or the toilet. The obvious advantages are greater privacy, less hassle, quick action and little danger of spillage.
Self-Emptying on a Plane
Burns says there is another advantage. During his travels as an inspirational speaker for LASCI, he no longer has to limit his fluid consumption before boarding a plane. “I just put a magazine over my lap or lean to one side and push the controller lever and pee into an empty bottle. No one even notices. I usually bring an empty Gatorade bottle or some colored bottle with me.”
He had a little difficulty at first putting the system on by himself, but with just a few days practice, he got the time down to about two minutes. He says he thinks this system is great for quads in the C5-7 range, or others with less use of their arms and hands who can use an attendant to help.
Burns has done a commercial for Melio and sometimes speaks at rehab centers accompanied by a salesman for AssuraMed (a urological company that sells the Melio system), and he uses a Melio system himself most of the time. “If I wear shorts, I use a sports bag, but with long pants I use the Melio system,” he says.
Joe Digiorgio, 27, of Point Pleasant, N.J., a C5 quad for three years, says the Melio system has improved his quality of life. At Kessler Rehab, he was outfitted with a Foley catheter and a leg bag strapped to his calf. He had difficulty bending over, emptying the bag and sitting upright again. When he went home he was dependent on family members to do it for him. “I didn’t want to be a big bother asking them to get down on one knee and empty it.” He had an attendant for one month, but no more. Not wanting to ask for help from complete strangers in public kept him from going out by himself. He lives with his family at home.
In August of 2014 he saw an ad for the Melio system in NEW MOBILITY and contacted the UK-based company. He purchased a system out of pocket in December 2014 and has been using it ever since. There is a one-time cost for the waistband controller ($109), which lasts for three to five years; two leg bags, two night bags and simple accessories cost him $70 a month. Since May of this year, he says his Medicare coverage has kicked in and he has not yet received any bills.
As for putting on the system and using it, “I am completely independent now, “ he says. “It’s the only reason I leave the house by myself. I take Access Link (call-up bus service) and go wherever I want, but sometimes I don’t get the pick-up time I want.” His worries about having an autonomic dysreflexia incident have been put to rest. “Before, I would worry about not being able to empty my bag and my bladder getting backed up and triggering AD. Now the Melio system signals me when to empty, and I do it with the waistband controller. The other change is I’m not afraid to drink as much water as I want or need. Before I would sometimes get dehydrated from not drinking for fear of having problems.”
Digiorgio is currently going to community college and has plans to attend a university or college and earn an engineering degree. He has his driver’s license for hand controls and is looking forward to being able to purchase his own van with help from voc rehab. “Once I get my own vehicle,” he says, “I’m all set.”
For more info, contact www.meliolegbag.com.