‘I wound up letting my body determine what I could do’; nerve simulator helps control bowel issues

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

The urge to use the bathroom is a very real issue for millions of Americans, including Laverne Leahy.

As a former school superintendent in Chicago, Leahy is a go-getter. But it was a ‘going’ problem that stopped her from enjoying life.

“I am in really good health, with the exception of these intestinal problems,” Leahy said.

The Naples resident said the issue was embarrassing and debilitating. “It controlled my life. I wound up letting my body determine what I could do.”

I was in tears. And I said ,’I need a miracle’ Laverne Leahy

Wanting to regain control, she sought help from urologist Dr. Elliot Blau.

“We’re talking about fecal incontinence, which is something that some people don’t really want to talk about but is very prevalent,” Dr. Blau said. He is part of Precision Healthcare Specialists working in Southwest Florida.

Dr. Blau offered Leahy a stimulating solution: a tiny device comprised of a small battery and lead wires. Implanted in the upper buttocks, it sends a mild signal to the sacral nerve, which controls the bowels and bladder.

“You can see there are four separate electrodes on this lead wire here, and each one of these lead electrodes can be utilized to stimulate the nerve,” said Dr. Blau, demonstrating the device.

Nerve stimulators are used to treat a variety of health conditions. Everything from chronic pain and epilepsy to incontinence and more. All work off the same principle of disrupting nerve signals that are overreacting.

“The device itself is actually just calming the aberrant nerve signals down, right, so the nerve still functions as it normally would. What it’s doing, again, is just diminishing the hyperactivity of that nerve,” Blau said.

It was an instant success for Leahy. “Everything worked. It was like a natural way of living.”

It’s estimated that 18 million Americans struggle with bowel control to some degree. For many, this could be a huge relief, Dr. Blau said. “There’s over a 90% reduction in overall urgency, frequency and leakage.”

The battery lasts around 15 years, empowering Leahy far into the future.

The device is FDA-approved and may be covered by insurance, provided patients have failed other treatment options.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.