Young, Active and Incontinent: The Inspiring Story of Dave
By Kelly Burgess
Sometimes you have to keep looking to find solutions. That's what Dave, a 49-year-old from Michigan, discovered when he began having incontinence issues more than 25 years ago. It wasn't until he met a knowledgeable, compassionate doctor who finally diagnosed his problem that Dave was able to accept his incontinence and get on with his life. Now he never lets his incontinence interfere with work, hobbies or family.
Dave had his first back surgery when he was around 21 years old. Over the next two years he had three surgeries to his lower back for treatment of chronic pain. During the surgeries, and for a time following as he recovered, he used a catheter. When the incontinence started after the first surgery, Dave's doctor blamed it on the catheter or possibly an infection caused by the catheter. But the incontinence didn't clear up.
Subsequent surgeries also required a period of time where Dave had to use a catheter, and as his incontinence worsened, his surgeon continued to blame the problem on the irritation caused by the catheter and assured Dave that it would clear up. Instead, the incontinence became more serious and Dave became what he calls a "heavy wetter." At that time, he knew nothing about incontinence, didn't realize that absorbent undergarments existed, and was becoming increasingly depressed over his situation.
"The doctors thought it was different things, telling me it was one thing and then another and saying that I would bounce back," Dave says. "I kind of thought it might have something to do with the surgery, but when the doctors said it didn't, I began to blame myself."
Becoming more and more upset over what he perceived as his own inability to control his bladder, Dave finally went to see a psychologist. The psychologist recommended an urologist. Taking Dave's medical history, which included the surgeries, led the urologist to run tests on Dave's ability to recognize the urge to urinate. What he discovered was that Dave had suffered nerve damage during his surgeries that had irrevocably damaged the nerves that control the body's ability to recognize the need to urinate. Dave was incontinent due to a physical problem that could not be corrected. He would be incontinent for the rest of his life.
"Even though that wasn't the happiest news when they told me the results, it really was a load off," Dave says. "All I could think was 'Whew, it's not me.'"
Acceptance and Activity
As soon as the urologist unhooked Dave from the wires and electrodes of the testing mechanism, he called Dave's wife into the room and explained the situation to them both. Dave remembers the doctor's compassion and clarity and what an impression it made on them. He credits that talk with helping he and his wife, who has since passed away, accept and deal with his incontinence.
In spite of that talk, and their mutual acceptance of the reality of Dave's incontinence, Dave went through a period of time where he didn't want to do anything because of his embarrassment over his incontinence. Gradually, he started getting over it, doing a little more and a little more. Then he had an epiphany.
"One day I just decided I didn't care anymore," Dave says. "This is the way it was, and I wasn't going to let it interfere with my life."
At about that time, Dave discovered Depend® disposable undergarments, and he has been using them ever since. He now uses both disposable underwear and an insert, and carries an extra when he goes out. Although he's still disabled due to back issues, he keeps physically fit with long walks. The exercise helps him stay strong for his part-time job as a server at a senior care facility. He really enjoys his work, and says he always tries to give the residents "that little extra friendly touch."
One activity in particular, which he considers both a hobby and a lifeline, is his computer. He keeps up with the online community via e-mails and instant messages. The computer has helped him come to terms even more with his incontinence, because it's shown him that this is a problem many people experience.
"I would tell anyone who suffers from incontinence to remember that you aren't alone and that you will come to terms with your incontinence as I did," Dave says. "Just because you have incontinence doesn't mean you have to stop living a good life."
Dave's Tips for Managing Incontinence
- For heavy wetters, use an hourglass-shaped brief liner in addition to disposable briefs for extra absorbency.*
- Every person's level of incontinence is different, so be sure to try different things to see what works for you.
- Remember that no one can tell you're wearing an incontinence product, so don't be embarrassed and think everyone is looking at you.
- Carry an extra pair of pants and a clean disposable brief in the rare case of a leakage accident.
* Editor's Note: In addition to a variety of garment and shield products, DEPEND® also offers DEPEND BOOST® inserts which are specially designed to increase the protection of your current incontinence garment. Learn more here.