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When Potty-Training Isn’t As Simple as Rewards and Charts

An Arkansas dad recounts his daughter’s experience with an uncommon condition that often leads to frustration with toilet training in girls.

By Adam Franks

When Morgan was three, we were well on our way to potty-training her, but she kept having wet underwear. We tried everything. We bribed her, we put her in big girl underwear so she would feel the wetness when she had an accident and did all the other things you read about. At one point we would set an egg timer out and every 30 minutes she was supposed to go to the bathroom, but there would usually be a dime-sized wet spot, even if we shortened it to 15 minutes. There were times in frustration that we would even get mad at her for being wet.

Then one day I was putting a diaper on her before bed and I noticed a small amount of urine trickling down. I got mad and said, "Why are you peeing? You just went to the potty!" She replied that she wasn't peeing. That is when I knew something was wrong.

She was close to being four, so we waited to talk to the doctor at her annual checkup. He didn't think much of it and said she would figure it out, but I pushed and he referred us to Dr. Patel. We saw him a couple months later and they did an ultrasound. That is when we found out not only what an ectopic ureter was, but that Morgan had it. Essentially, she had an extra tube coming from her kidney and it wasn't draining into the bladder. Dr. Patel was incredible at explaining this, our options, and calming us down. 

The first big decision we had to make was if we wanted her to have an MRI so they could 100% confirm it and map out the procedure. Dr. Patel was pretty certain what the issue was and where they would need to do the procedure, but he wanted to be sure before going into surgery. I was very nervous to put my little girl under so she could have an MRI, but after weighing the clearly laid out options, we felt it made the most sense. The MRI confirmed the initial diagnosis and surgery was scheduled.


Wheeling my daughter away for surgery was the most nerve wracking thing I have ever done.  The surgery lasted 3-4 hours and it felt like a lifetime. The minute it was over Dr. Patel explained everything to us and showed us pictures of what they did. We spent the next night in the hospital and Morgan was released the following day and almost immediately was having no accidents. No longer did we have to worry about her smelling of urine or the constant rash or the embarrassment of wearing a pullup when all her friends were in big girl underwear. I also felt terrible as a parent for getting mad at my daughter for something she couldn't control. 

I cannot speak highly enough of Dr. Patel, his team, and the entire Arkansas Children's Hospital staff. Everyone was amazing and worked hard to not only explain to confused parents what was going on, but also to our precious Morgan!  

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