‘They found nearly two litres of urine in my bladder’ – Meeting with Dolphin’s Tale star Winter inspires young Stevenage woman to speak up

Katie Strong from Stevenage meets Winter the dolphin.

Katie Strong from Stevenage meets Winter the dolphin. - Credit: Archant

A meeting with a movie star dolphin has inspired a young Stevenage woman to reach out to a worldwide audience and change perceptions about bladder and kidney problems.

Katie Strong from Stevenage with Winter the dolphin.

Katie Strong from Stevenage with Winter the dolphin. - Credit: Archant

Katie Strong has suffered with complex urinary issues since the age of two, and by the time she was 18 she was unable go to the toilet.

“I went into hospital with stomach pains and they did a bladder scan,” said the 24-year-old.

“They found nearly two litres of urine in my bladder – so it was quite extreme.”

In 2011, Katie had the Mitrofanoff procedure, which saw doctors make a new channel out of her appendix which led from her bladder to her navel. As a result, she was able to empty her bladder through a catheter and gained her confidence back after years of infections.

Katie Strong from Stevenage is raising awareness about bladder and kidney problems.

Katie Strong from Stevenage is raising awareness about bladder and kidney problems. - Credit: Archant


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But earlier this year, the catheter got caught in the channel and meant she was left incontinent and having to use stoma bags and pads.

“At the age of 24, it’s not the lifestyle I expected to be living – I’m just trying make the most of a really bad situation,” she said.

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“A lot of people are afraid to talk about it because they aren’t comfortable with it. It’s so isolating, for ages my confidence hit rock bottom. When I started to talk about it, I found people my age that have similar problems.”

As well as meeting other people through bladder-health charity The Parnell Fund, Katie met marine megastar Winter – whose appearances in the Dolphin Tale films have earned her millions of fans across the globe.

Katie Strong from Stevenage hands over a cheque to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida after r

Katie Strong from Stevenage hands over a cheque to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida after raising funds from her hospital bed. - Credit: Archant

The films, which also star Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jnr, mirror Winter’s real-life story of being tangled in crab trap line and having her tail amputated. Now in the care of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, Winter has a new lease of life thanks to her prosthetic tail.

As they have both had to overcome life threatening experiences, Katie was all the more excited about meeting the dolphin.

Katie said: “It was the best time of my life. It was great because people aren’t allowed to meet her – she’s a celebrity and they have to take really good care of her. So the meeting was very special – you can’t buy an experience like that.”

Katie even raised money for the aquarium from her hospital bed and presented staff with the cheque for more than $1,100 when she arrived.

Back in the UK, Katie is continuing to raise awareness of her condition. She said: “I want to get the word out there that you don’t have to be in your 80s to have problems with your bladder.

“Since I posted the story to The Parnell Fund they’ve had so many emails from young women that were in a similar position to me from all over the world – be it the USA, Canada or Australia. I’m replying to them to make them feel confident about their situation.

“It’s nice to hear the positive feedback although I’m not really doing it for me – I’m doing it for other people.”

Katie – who has set up her own www.weeneedtotalk.org website – is awaiting further surgery and hopes it will be another step in the right direction. She added: “This my life now and I’m always going to be faced with problems – I’ve just got to try to solve them.”

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