In 2023, Rachel Ingram, a 31-year-old teaching assistant from Ashford, Kent, revealed her journey of welcoming her second child, a daughter, in October 2012. Rachel was now the mother of two, a boy and a girl.
However, just hours after giving birth to her daughter, something unusual happened. While having a baby bump is normal for most women after childbirth, Rachel’s experience was far from ordinary. She woke up with a strange anomaly that left her alarmed. Her situation was so strange and unexpected that she had to rush to the hospital for assistance.
Initially, medical professionals didn’t take Rachel’s condition seriously, with one doctor providing a mediocre solution for a painful problem. Rachel and her husband spent years searching for a solution to her issue, going through various treatments before finding one that finally worked.
Rachel’s journey to diagnosis was a challenging one. A buildup of fluid left her looking six months pregnant when she woke up after giving birth to her daughter, Isla. She was in severe pain and couldn’t urinate, no matter how much liquid she drank. When doctors examined her, they discovered she had two liters of urine in her bladder, whereas women’s bladders typically hold 500 milliliters, and men’s hold 700 milliliters.
Medical professionals were initially unsure about her diagnosis, as they hadn’t encountered it before. One even suggested that Isla’s mother listen to a dripping tap to stimulate urination. Her bladder was emptied, and she was told she was too young to have bladder problems. She felt dismissed by the hospital when they sent her home, only to have the same problem return five hours later. This time, they fitted her with a catheter and informed her that they would consult with urology, but it could take years for that appointment through the NHS.
Rachel used a catheter for almost three years until, in April 2015, she decided to seek a private hospital for a diagnosis. Within a couple of weeks, she was diagnosed with urinary retention, specifically Fowler’s syndrome. Getting this diagnosis was a relief for Rachel, who had spent years in agony without knowing the cause of her condition.
The following month, she was fitted with a sacral nerve stimulator, a pacemaker device implanted into her body to regulate urination. Unfortunately, the device was dislodged when she fell. After a surgical procedure to remove it, in March 2019, a four-hour operation was performed. It left her fitted with a mitrofanoff, a tube created from a part of her appendix to form a channel between her bladder and her abdominal skin. The catheter passed through the mitrofanoff to facilitate urine drainage.
The initial six months of using the new method were challenging, leaving her unwell with a blood clot in her leg and multiple chest infections. She said, “My body was so weak and run down that I didn’t think I’d get better.” However, after years of living a miserable and unfulfilling life, Rachel’s condition had a silver lining. She could finally return to work and even began exercising in public.
By June 2023, Rachel reported that her life was back to normal. She was back to her teaching job and even started going to the gym. She admitted that her new way of life wasn’t without problems, but she felt she had her life back, compared to the time when she didn’t even want to be around after giving birth. She also expressed her gratitude for her family’s support throughout her ordeal.
Rachel Ingram is now using her experience with Fowler’s syndrome to support other women who are battling the same condition. She joined the Fowler Syndrome UK charity to provide the support she never received. The charity’s CEO contacted her before the organization was registered, and Rachel has become an advocate for others facing this rare condition.