Transitioning to Intermittent Catheterization

Edited , 3 users are following.

One of the articles on this forum helped me as I started my catheterization lifestyle so I thought I'd return the favor and see if I could help someone else.

Denial is a blissful state. It’s too easy to deny the inevitable until reality confronts you with limited options. Medically, we think the next pill will alleviate all our symptoms and lead us to glowing health. As we age, one hundred percent solutions become a little more elusive.

Case in point, my bladder problem was not getting any better. Late night “tete-a-tetes with the john”; the occasional leakage when facilities were not immediately accessible; and, the endless delay of slow voiding.

On my 45th high school reunion in 2014, I got compliments from my classmates that I hadn’t changed much. I told them that our family secret was to fall apart all at once, we didn’t believe in gradual aging. That reunion was five years ago.

On visiting my urologist and having a bladder scan showing water retention of over one-half liter, my doctor advised me the best option was self-catheterization.

My mind froze, but I couldn’t deny the reality of the condition any longer.

He told me it would be best to catheterize myself five times a day to drain the residual urine from my bladder to prevent infection and accidental overflow.

This felt like a terminal sentence to an aging Baby-Boomer.

I’ve always joked that as you get older the first thing you ask yourself in the morning when you discover a new ache or pain is “Is this temporary or will I have to live with it?”

I think this one has my name on it.

As a physically active 68-year-old male, I love to walk, be outdoors, and ride my bike.

I just wasn’t sure what this pronouncement would mean to my life and lifestyle.

A myriad of questions began to invade my mind:

• Once I start this catherization regime, would I even be able to void on my own or would I always need my catherization aids with me?

• Would I get recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) from inserting foreign objects into delicate places?

• What would happen if I were somewhere without my plumbing gear? Would this cause painful incontinence or an overflow situation?

• How would life go on normally in various settings with a routine of five catheterizations a day?

As the nurse instructed me through my first self-catheterization, I was sweating bullets. It was everything I feared. It hurt and I badly wanted to go home without these free samples.

I could not imagine getting through a day doing this procedure five times.

More question came to me as I left for home:

• Would I be able to work normally at the office?

• Would I be able to create sterile conditions for self-catherization in work bathrooms?

• How would I get all the equipment that I would need—150 sterile catheters a month?

• What would be the cost for all this stuff I never ever desired?

When I got home and for the next few days, my wife noticed that a pall and a funk had descended on me. Golden years were not looking so golden. I had been hoping to retire in a few years with good health and continue my physical outings.

To make matters worse in the next week, I contracted what I thought was a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). For three days I had a fever and felt weak. Then the symptoms abated. Maybe it was a UTI or maybe it wasn’t.

In the next couple of weeks, a few things began to come together. I started to see a little light in my fog:

• The supplies were easy to obtain. With my primary insurance and Medicare, I only had a $133 copay for the first monthly shipment; the next months were free. The shipments come to my door automatically by Fed-Ex every month.

• In the catherization procedure, you void first and then catheterize, so my fear of not being able to void once I started the procedures was ill-founded.

• Work was not that hard to accommodate.

• The procedure only takes about four minutes and I no longer sweat.

• I’ve continued my physical activity.

About three weeks after starting these procedures, the following routine and somewhat mundane experience helped me see my life wasn’t ending. It was on a Saturday Morning after a drab week of rain. The sun had decided to show it face, and life seemed normal. I casually went about my regular shopping errands.

While waiting for my car to be washed and sipping delicious coffee, I realized that life still had some good moments for me. Somehow, the clouds in my mind of the last three weeks parted just a little.

I’m ok for now--but life has changed: Normal is different. As we age, normal will always be evolving but that doesn’t mean enjoyment, pleasure, and meaning can’t be part of the journey.

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3 Replies

  • Edited

    nice article, Stephan, i just started self cathing and your words are encouraging and boosting confidence. thanks. good luck.

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    • Edited

      Your words are kind. You're encouragement helps me to share. It will get better.

      I don't even consider it a disability. I think most of the pain of catheterization was in my mind. It's actually less painful than an insulin shot or finger-prick for glucose. It only takes me about 3 minutes.



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    • Posted

      thanks for the note, Stephan. i am a 44 years old male from India. all of a sudden my stream became weaker with retention. underwent a surgery but symptoms didn't ease. so doctor put me on self cathing twice a day . initially the thought itself was daunting but luckily found this forum. it gives me a feeling that I am not alone. very glad to see motivating messages like yours which alleviates the fear on self cathing and gives hope on life. may god bless you, take care.

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