Connecting While Connected or "Hooking up on Hemo"
This is my first contribution to the very informative Home Dialysis Central website. Just a little information about us: my incredible spouse, Lucy, and I were married on June 1, 1968. Our sexual activities have produced four very special daughters. Lucy did most of the work, I just had the fun part. Two of our girls were born in Florida and the youngest two were born in Colorado. The five-plus decades have all been wonderful. We never had to overcome any "Downs," but we sure enjoyed a million "Ups". We met when romance and respect went hand-in-hand, love songs had words you could understand, dancing involved hugging, and sex was enjoyed after marriage. Jesus has been at the center of our marriage and we honor our promises to Him.
So, before I begin my first blog post talking about starting a new relationship, I must admit it has been five decades since I started my last one! Here are my thoughts on Dating while Dialyzing.
In today's social atmosphere, with the presence of the dreaded pandemic, meeting someone is already difficult. Adding the complexity of scheduling four or five days a week treatment makes it even more challenging. Since many things have changed since I was in the dating pool I interviewed a few people who are “still looking.” One comment that was shared by each of them was that they were afraid the appearance of the very complex machine and the presence of real blood would put off many of their potential dates. No doubt some might be put off. A couple of people said they had given up meeting Mr. or Ms. Right. Another home hemodialysis patient said he was afraid to even mention dialysis. It is tough to build a lasting relationship without total honesty. Another single seeker said she thought she would have to date "someone else who was on dialysis."
Fortunately, the remainder of the group I interviewed said that dating on dialysis was " no problem at all." They met potential mates on even ground and only after the romance had progressed to a positive level did they mention their special talent. Their experiences were such that their significant others became competent care partners or just displayed a deep understanding of their special needs. Most people who are benefiting from the freedom of HHD can do even more after they start treating than they could before.
In actuality, many of the concerns expressed existed in the mind of the HHD patient only. There are very few—if any—limitations caused by ESRD. Every restaurant serves menu items that are right in line with our renal dietary requirements. Very few physical activities, sports, or hobbies are limited by our lifelines. As patients we already know the “Do’s and don’ts" and they don't change on the romance train. Regarding fistulas and catheters, they may be concealed with clothing. HHD or HPD put absolutely zero negative effect on; Kissing, Hugging, Cooking, Fishing, Camping, Hunting, Singing, Dancing, Dining, Movie nights, Nature walks, Cycling, Kayaking, Star-gazing or a million other dating activities. We are, for the most part, "Foot Loose and Fancy-Free."
We are programmed before birth to seek companionship. "Lonely" is a horrible feeling and one that can be cured. See someone you fancy? Go for it. We all have doubts about our appearances, even the most attractive among us. Never let kidney disease affect others around you. CKD and ESRD are physical, and must not be allowed to produce doubts and fears. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, "Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs—don't doubt your beliefs and believe your doubts." As an invisible disease, it is only our actions that can cause ESRD to be a hindrance. Sexual desire is produced by the mind, not the body.
Doing Lifealysis at home provides the opportunity to fit our machine time around a very active love life. My relationship with my spouse is a permanent one, and we manage to find all kinds of things to do together while I am pumping. If anything, the passage of time while treating allows us to slow down and share. Our lives have become so complex that quiet conversation is often absent from our busy days.
I believe that we as Lifealysis patients must remember that our hearts can be affected by our pump rate and excess fluids, but there is no effect on our ability to enjoy "Heartfelt" affection. There is nothing that is negatively affected by our time on the pump or the procedures needed to begin and complete our treatments. If anything, our forced time in the chair may help us to slow down and enjoy our love lives even more. I have friends who confess that on many of their first dates they have difficulty thinking of things to say. Why not explain the miracle of being able to perform a very complicated health procedure in the comfort of your own home? I wouldn't open the conversation with "Guess what? I suck all my blood out and pump it all back in five times a week." That could be a bit intimidating. Start slow and easy and let your date determine how much detail he or she wants to hear. I am often accused of "TMI." I never know how to behave in public. Lucy keeps me straight.
When it comes to physical activities, outdoor or indoor, I have never experienced any problems associated with my ESRD. Lucy and I enjoy lots of activities that require good physical fitness. Mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, and even workouts on our SoloFlex three days a week. And yes, we still enjoy horizontal dancing. I have been a drummer for most of my life and my sticks move as quickly as ever. We also enjoy all types of water activities. Swimming, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving are all possible unless you have a PD catheter or HD chest access. It is my understanding that they must be kept dry. There is no reason to halt physical activities, just follow the guidance of how you feel and what your Nephrologist and vascular surgeon advise.
Making out, petting, making love, are as enjoyable as they always were. In my case being 75 years old and on many prescription medications has changed me from a "Sprinter" to a "Long-distance runner." I always reach the finish line but it takes me a lot longer to do it. (No pun intended) They say our most sensitive sex organ is our brain. There is zero effect on that organ. Even if love-making is a lower priority in your romantic relationship, it gives you more time to explore the other ways of showing love and affection. Please don't let your medical requirements deter your romantic conquests. Many times, the intimacy we share with potential mates has a very positive influence. Honesty is the new sexiness.
I would love to hear your romantic success stories and your unsuccessful attempts. Please comment and share. We are ALL in this together. In the future, Lucy will be sharing her experiences of life as a care partner. Stay safe and well everyone!