Despite regularly working on a variety of medical device design, development & engineering projects, there are always improvements to be made and taking the time to really understand user needs is a crucial piece to the puzzle.

Through our network of consultants, clinicians, and partner universities, we aim to engage with users from as early as possible in the design & development process. This helps us uncover valuable insights and use human centred design to improve patient outcomes.

Previously, Lottie shared her experiences of self-injection. This week, Tayla Collinson, a 27-year-old who manages a number of chronic conditions, shares her experiences of using both suprapubic and urethral catheters.

A bit about you

Hi! My name is Tayla Collison, I am 27 years old and I am from Norfolk. I used to be a Deputy Store Manager at B&M Stores but in November 2019, I had bladder surgery and haven’t been able to return to work since. I have a 9-year-old son and he is my main priority so, I’m a disabled single mum. 

I studied in London and have a Bachelor’s Degree in Photography which is a big passion of mine. However, due to my medical condition(s) I am currently unable to pursue a career in this. I now use various social media platforms to promote body positivity and advocate for chronic illness – this is now my day-to-day job/hobby per cé.

I have Interstitial Cystitis which is a bladder condition that makes my bladder red and inflamed. It is easily irritated which means I have to stick to a special, non-acidic, diet. I also have Fowler’s Syndrome which is the reason for needing a catheter. The muscle that would keep me continent and allow me to urinate, doesn’t work. So, the muscle is constantly stopping my bladder from allowing it to void meaning I have to use a catheter as an aid to urinate. 

I also have a bulging disc in my lower lumber which gives me back ache but isn’t bad enough to class as a disability as such! But, I do have Fibromyalgia which is a condition that causes widespread, extreme fatigue amongst other symptoms. These conditions combined, mean that I struggle daily in general.

A selfie of Tayla, a medical device user

Tayla, sat on the floor in an orange jumper with her catheter and leg bag on show

Your Device

In March 2020, I was fitted with a urethral catheter which at the time was temporary until I went into complete retention. Then, in November 2020, I had a suprapubic catheter fitted which is what I’m currently living with until further communications with my Urologist.

“A suprapubic catheter is a hollow flexible tube that is used to drain urine from the bladder. It is inserted into the bladder through a cut in the tummy, a few inches below the navel (tummy button). This is done under a local anaesthetic or a light general anaesthetic… Anyone who cannot empty their bladder may need a catheter. A suprapubic catheter may be chosen because it is more comfortable and less likely to give you an infection than indwelling urethral catheters.”  Bladder & Bowel Community

This means, I use a catheter constantly which is attached to a leg bag that I wear and my urine drains into. I have to use a leg bag and allow my urine to free flow as if I allow my bladder to fill up, it gives me intense pain.

A day in your life

My day-to-day life is pretty simple to be honest. I wake up and detach my night bag – a 2 Litre bag that I attach to my catheter through the night. When it comes to getting dressed, this can be a problem as wearing jeans can be uncomfortable on my catheter insertion site but also my bag too so, I tend to wear baggy clothes such as dresses and jogging bottoms. Due to not working, I spend most of my time at home, which is the best place for me as any type of exercise or activity can bring on pain. I usually end up napping during the day due to my Fibromyalgia but also because I often don’t get a good night’s sleep and feel super tired the following day as a result. My catheter is fairly low maintenance. I have to empty the leg bag when it gets halfway full and ensure my insertion site stays clean. The site is just an open wound but it heals the way an ear heals around an earring when pierced. 

I pick my son up from school, we have dinner and a bath/shower. I prefer to have a bath but because of the catheter I am told that I should reduce the number of baths I have and shower instead. It’s then night-time, so I attach my night bag which just slots into the leg bag and the urine drains from the catheter, into the leg bag and then into the night bag. As mentioned above, I struggle to get much sleep due to pain and discomfort. This is one of the worst symptoms that comes with all my conditions. 

A selfie of Tayla, a medical device user with her son

A picture of a ... catheter port site with two hands creating a heart shape around

Is there anything that you like about your device?

To be completely honest, there isn’t much that I like about my device. If I could have a flip flo valve and just have the catheter, then things would be better. It would be less intrusive, and I could be more comfortable. The leg bag that I have to keep attached is my main dislike. I don’t have a problem with it being on show or anything in that way but as discussed, it’s annoying and can be uncomfortable. The bags can easily detach from the catheter and I get covered in urine, so I would prefer if there was a way that they would reliably stay together. I have someone visit my house every 12 weeks to do a catheter change and the other ‘accessories’ are delivered through a prescription service which makes delivery super easy and convenient.

Is there anything that you dislike about your device or routine?

I have already mentioned a few things that I don’t like about my device however, I also feel that there isn’t much awareness out there regarding catheter use. Prior to having mine, I didn’t know anyone with a catheter whether that be personally or, online etc. So, when this happened to me, I had to learn for myself. I use my social media platform(s) to raise awareness for my catheter and other medical conditions. If there are others of any age who have to have a catheter, I would like them to see my content and be comforted so they don’t feel uncomfortable or alone. 

I wish there were better devices to help attach the catheter to the leg bag and to my leg too. I have some locks that are handy but they don’t always work with certain bags as they make the catheter bigger and I then can’t close the lock therefore these are rarely an option for me so the bag keeps sliding off the catheter and covering me in urine. I have some other strips that can help keep the catheter in place but they’re not sticky enough and come away after a few hours. The straps that are provided with the bag are just uncomfortable and as the bag starts to fill up, the bag drags down and slips. As of yet, I am to find something to help keep the bag in place and that is comfortable too.

Tayla's leg bag

Your ideal device…

I currently have to use a silicone system due to having a suprapubic catheter – these are the catheters that I struggle to keep the leg bag attached to. When I used rubber urethral catheters, these were perfect for keeping the bag attached. So, I would love to have a SPC that would do the same job. With the leg bags, I would love for the flip flo outlet at the bottom to have a clip so you can’t accidentally open it if it gets caught. I would also love a different way of keeping the bag attached to my leg.

Here at HD, we often work on on various continence device projects and have extensive experience working on urinary devices so Tayla’s insights will be really valuable to current and, future projects!

Get in touch to learn more about our approach or discuss how we can help you overcome your design and engineering challenges.

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