Many years ago I met Henry. He was a med surge patient of mine. A man in his 80's who was alert and spry, and love to joke with the staff. I was a new nurse, and Henry was a welcome relief compared to some of my other patients.
As a new nurse, I wasn't as outspoken as I am today, I was rather shy, and not as inwardly confident as I would have liked, but I hoped I portrayed an air of confidence outwardly. I went in to introduce myself to my patient, and noted that Henry was there, with his wife sitting next to him, they were holding hands and watching television.
Henry was in for DVT, as such, he couldn't get up and walk about freely. I went in to do my assessment and both Henry and his wife smiled brightly and shook my hand. I instantly liked them both.
Henry was patient while I listened to his lungs, bowel sounds, checked his legs and measured his calves, and finished by checking his pedal pulses and cap refill. I noted his wife and he remained touching each other in some way throughout my assessment, and they even snuck in a kiss. I put on his ted stockings, asked if I could do anything for him, to which he replied "No young lady, but thank you!" I gave him his call light and moved along to my next patient.
I noted, as the shift went on, that he and his wife were very close, and obviously, very much in love. Instead of finding this "cute", I found it awe inspiring. I assumed they had both lost spouses and were fairly newly married - as I had never seen such an elderly couple so physically affectionate with each other in public and done in such a classy and respectful way.
As bedtime neared, Henry's wife, Rose, said she had to get home before dark, as her vision "isn't what it use to be" and they both chuckled. They hugged and embraced and kissed each other and said "I love you" to each other before Rose left. Henry finished with a very gentlemanly kiss of his brides hand. I felt so warm that they felt comfortable enough for such tenderness in front of me.
After Rose left, Henry said "I have to urinate, could you help me". I looked around for a urinal, and couldn't find one, so I excused myself and went to the clean utility room and grabbed one and brought it to Henry. He just looked at me and matter of factly stated "Oh dear, that won't be of any help to me, you see, I had penile cancer and had my penis removed 25 years ago, I'll need a bedpan." I was shocked, as this rather important fact had not been mentioned in report. I recovered quickly so as not to embarrass Henry, and grabbed the bedpan in his bedside stand and helped him onto it. I told him to ring when he was ready to get off the pan.
I left the room ashamed that I hadn't known this history, and I prayed I hadn't embarassed my lovely patient.
Soon the bell was ringing, and I went in to help him. He had taken himself off the bedpan but I noted no tissue paper. I emptied the pan and then offered Henry assistance with HS care - which he gladly accepted - I think more for the company than anything else.
As he was washing his face and hands, my curiosity got the best of me, I just has to ask "Henry, how long have you and Rose been married" he said "Forty wonderful years!" I wasn't expecting that answer. I was even more curious, as much as for myself, and for the nurse in me. I said, "I don't want to offend, but I would like to understand. You and Rose appear so close, how have you kept the 'spark' alive, since the majority of your marriage you haven't had your penis". Not only was he not embarrassed, he seemed to welcome the question, and motioned for me to sit on the bed.
As I sat down, he looked at me and said "Babs, intercourse isn't the only way for a couple to show their love for one another. Why, Rose and I are closer now than ever before. We hug and kiss often, whisper sweet nothings in each others ears, leave each other love notes and have learned the art of sensual touch." He reached up and stroked my face and said "There is more than one way to pleasure each other you know?" I smiled sheepishly. Henry said "That was a perfectly legitimate question, and I'm glad you asked." I said, "My husband and I barely made it 10 years, and we were physically intact, I'm just awed by how hard this must have been for the both of you". He said "Not hard, just different. We learned never to take each other for granted, to cuddle every chance we got, to never go to bed angry and above all else, to be grateful for what we do have with each other." I finished helping him with care and I said "Thank you for your tolerance of my ignorance." He took my hand, held it to his face and kissed it" I felt myself choking up, he said, "Thank you for caring enough to ask." So I tucked him into bed, and said goodnight.
Years went by, and I thought of Henry often. He was such a class act, so kind and loving, and I felt I had learned something very important from him, but I didn't know how to apply it to my life until many years later.
My husband and I were married in 2000. He occasionally had problems with erections in bed, but not often enough that I was really concerned.
Over the years, it began to happen so frequently, that I felt "It must be me, he doesn't find me sexy anymore", often he would cry after a failed attempt "I don't even feel like a man anymore." I begged him to go get help, I said "This is affecting us both, and I don't know how much more I can stand".
He went to see a urologist, and was given Viagra. This helped for awhile, but even the mighty Viagra became less than 50% effective after a while. He tried a couple of other drugs that didn't help at all. I felt like our marriage was over.
One night in bed, after another failed attempt, I remembered Henry & Rose. I laid there quietly thinking of them while my husband cried silently next to me. I knew then what to do. I said "Honey, I'm sorry that I feel like this is my fault, I realize now that it isn't - it isn't your fault either. We've been given a chance to strengthen our marriage and I think we should take it." At first my husband looked at me like I was nuts, but I told him about Henry and Rose, and he got the point.
Now, when we want to be intimate, if it ends with intercourse - that's great, if intercourse works, even better, but if neither occurs, we find other ways to connect and please each other. It took some practice, but we are growning stronger as a couple. My husband is very open about his ED, we've even spoken at couples groups about it.
About a week ago, as my husband and I were lying in each other arms, I said "We owe all this to one of the most classy, kind and loving gentleman I've ever had the pleasure to meet." My hubby said "Henry?" I said "Yes, Dear Henry."
Thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it or felt is was relevant, please take the time to scroll up to he top of the page and vote. It would be appreciate. Always love hearing your comments as well. Thank You. BabsLast edit by Babs0512 on Aug 13, '08
Babs0512 has '20' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Med surg, Critical Care, LTC'. From 'Just North of Somewhere Else'; 53 Years Old; Joined May '08; Posts: 1,644; Likes: 1,617.
Must Read Topics1Aug 11, '08 by kburns0016I can only say this was beautifullly written as I ended it in tears....it is nice to see a reminder of where the true strength of a relationship lies...not in the bed but in one anothers hearts!
Thank you Babs , thank you so much for sharing..I needed this right now in my life~2Aug 12, '08 by lpnstudentin2010Someone knew that you needed henry in your life, before you knew it. He was put into your life for a reason. And you realized it when you needed it most. That is an amazing story. I think a lot of times we have the people we need in our lives we just don't realize it, you were lucky enough to figure it out.1Aug 15, '08 by gnomik79What a beautiful story! I loved it! Very well written. I choked up a few times. This reminded me in a way of the "Notebook" movie. I agree with a previous post, everything happens for a reason, and it's great that you found new appreciation for all you have. I think everyone needs a wake up call like that, every now and then. Keep these stories coming, everyone! :typing Thank you for sharing! :wink2:1Aug 19, '08 by ellifantI really needed to read your story right now. My husband has been working insanely crazy hours lately and I have to admit I have been complaining about not seeing him. TThis made me realize there are many ways to express love for your spouse and family. We need to value the time we have no matter how little there may be and just appreiciate.