Vince has been having trouble with his catheter. It’s all been pretty traumatic for him these past few days, from the discomfort of going into urinary retention in the first place and the trauma of the catheterisation process, to the horror of finding out he’ll have to keep the catheter in for a number of weeks, at least, if not longer. Vince suffers from BPH – Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. He’s had drug therapies, surgical interventions, and they’ve all more or less helped, but a cure is beyond their remit and he knows he’s looking at ongoing work.
‘The latest thing was stapling’ he says, flapping his dressing gown, as if the mere thought of what the urologist did to him on that table needed releasing. ‘Can you imagine? Passing a probe up the urethra and stapling the prostate right and left. It’s pretty brutal. I mean – good grief!’
What makes it worse is that Vince is a fit, thoroughly independent man in his late sixties. A civil engineer, his whole life devoted to assessing, planning, coming up with solutions. The fact that he has to handover his care – his entire sense of self – to experts in a field he knows little about is obviously difficult for him. And now the catheter’s playing up again. Blood in the bag, pain in the penis. In and out of A and E. It should all be settling down by now. He’s doing all the right things. Nothing seems to work.
When I’ve finished checking him over and making my recommendations, we chat about other things, how he’s coping, his plans for the future.
‘It hasn’t helped with my wife being away,’ he says. ‘She’s tidying up her family’s affairs in Alaska’ he says. ‘I don’t know. We might move there. We’re both retired. It might work out.’
‘I’ve never been to Alaska. I’d love to go.’
‘Well – yeah – it IS amazing,’ he says, a little half-heartedly, as if he’s being forced to admit to something he didn’t particularly want to. ‘I like to see the whales.’
‘Do they get them there?’
‘Humpback. Beluga. Orca.’ He draws a breath. ‘It’s great to see ‘em. The humpbacks especially. They do this thing – breaching – where they rise out of the water in a spiral and then thump back down.’
‘What is that – a mating ritual?’
‘There are theories. Could be play. Could be they’re communicating about food, or a warning. Who knows? Maybe they just like making a big ol’ splash.’
He manages a grim smile, gives his catheter a tug. ‘This’d slow ‘em down though,’ he says.