"So many women live with this issue," says Melissa Der Manouel, who found relief for severe incontinence from UCI Health urogynecologist Dr. Felicia Lane. "But it’s embarrassing so we don’t talk about it." Photo: Ambient Art Photography for UCI Health.
For years, Melissa Der Manouel suffered from urinary and fecal incontinence and the limits that imposed.
She had to quit her Pilates classes and long walks due to her perpetual need to use a bathroom. She turned down most social invitations and feared she was becoming a recluse.
Then in October 2018, under the care of UCI Health urogynecologist Dr. Felicia Lane, Der Manouel joined a two-year study and became the first U.S. patient to receive the Axonics® sacral neuromodulation (SNM) implant. The miniature device works by sending mild electrical pulses to nerves that help control bladder and bowel function.
The study’s results, published this year by Lane and her team, were overwhelmingly positive — 93% of the 129 patients studied experienced significant relief.
Today Der Manouel, 56, a retired pharmaceutical company district manager who lives in Fresno, is thrilled to have her life back.
Der Manouel shares her empowering story:
"My incontinence issues started about 20 years ago, shortly after I gave birth to my second child. People can’t imagine how embarrassing and frustrating incontinence is and how much it affects your life.
"I don’t know if depressed is the right word, but it does dampen your mood and how you feel. So many things just come to a halt. I even missed my kids’ sporting events because I couldn’t sit through them without getting up all the time.
"Nine years ago, I had another type of implant, but it didn’t have a rechargeable battery, and the battery had already been replaced twice. I didn’t want to continue replacing it every few years.
"Then I found out I could become the first person in the United States to receive the new implant, which has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 15 years.
"The procedure was performed under local anesthesia. And the best part was that it took less than 30 minutes to remove the old device and 30 minutes to implant the new one.
"The new device is slightly larger than a quarter. I don’t even feel it. There are no wires. It works on a battery and you charge it like a phone.
"My whole world opened up.
"Without the implant, driving 500 miles round trip from Fresno to Orange County, I’d have to keep stopping to use a restroom. Now driving one way, I don’t have to stop even once.
"After I had the implant, I went to a medical conference with another woman who also was in the clinical study. We were both amazed that we could be there and not have to dash to the bathroom constantly.
"I’m beyond grateful to Dr. Lane and all my UCI Health doctors. They are fabulous. They gave me my life back. And I feel like a million bucks.
"So many women live with this issue. But it’s embarrassing so we don’t talk about it.
"Every time I see one of the ads for incontinence products like pads and adult diapers, I’m sad because there are so many people who don’t know this implant is an option.
"I’m happy to talk about my experience. If it helps other women, then it’s worth it."
Learn more about urogynecology at UCI Health.