Meet a user: Ralph

Ralph hates structure – but having a set routine gives him freedom.

“I have realized that structure isn’t a limitation. Quite the contrary, I get the freedom to live the life the way I want, when I have a solid routine.” – Ralph*

*Ralph is a SpeediCath® user who has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person's situation is unique so your experience may not be the same. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether this product is right for you.

With the rudder in one hand and the catheter in the other, it’s full speed ahead! Ralph has sailed most of his life and is an optimist, despite his bladder giving him headwind. Read more about how this sailor has managed to find a good routine, resulting in fewer urinary tract infections.

Ralph proudly shows off his boat, which has been voted the most beautiful of its kind in Denmark. 62-year-old Ralph has been sailing for 34 years, and the length of the boat, which is just over 26 feet, is nothing compared to the container ships he captained in his younger years after he was trained as a shipmaster in a big shipping company. Container freight requires exact logistics and planning – and is therefore predictable and boring if you ask Ralph:
“I would be able to board and be told that six months later – on the fifth of June at 12:34AM – we would arrive at the port of Los Angeles, off load so many containers and leave the harbor at 6:38pm. And that’s exactly what happened! It was like being in prison voluntarily,” says Ralph, who quit his job as captain and became a freelance skipper for wealthy Americans who needed their boats sailed from one port to another – such as from Los Angeles to Hawaii.
That was Ralph’s source of income for 17 years, after which he got involved in advertising for a number of years with his own agency in Denmark, before returning to the sea. This time with his new wife Lone, with whom he started the project ‘Southern Cross’ – a ship with which the family and groups of struggling youth sailed the seas for four years.

Felt like a blow to the head with a hammer

Today, Ralph has a flex job as a teacher because of an old back injury. He has also been affected by some incontinence issues that he has experienced since he was a boy: “I always urinated frequently but I never emptied my bladder. I only really let out the worst of the pressure, so today my bladder looks like this,” says Ralph and relaxes his hand loosely to depict a deformed and lax bladder.

He was diagnosed with incontinence two years ago when he was admitted to the urology department at the local hospital because he was in pain and couldn’t urinate. This was also when he was told that he would be using intermittent catheters for the rest of his life:
“It was like a blow to the head with a hammer. Half a year before that I had been told at some point, I would no longer be able to walk because of my back injury. And now I would have to use a catheter too? We live in our dream home, and now I was going to be semi-disabled. At least that’s how it felt. In the beginning, I made fun of it but that was my defense mechanism, but I was actually really upset”, remembers Ralph.

Talking about it became a turning point

Ralph had contacted Coloplast in Denmark and was therefore called by a Coloplast® Care Advisor at pre-agreed intervals:
“In the beginning I refused to accept the telephone calls. I didn’t feel like talking about it. When you don’t open the envelope, you can’t see the bill! I also had a hard time talking about intimate things with my Care Advisor. But she was persistent and kept calling and asking about my urination, and at some point, she then started to give me lifestyle advice based on my answers: that it shouldn’t hurt when I inserted the catheter, and that there should be no blood in the urine,” Ralph says, and continues:
“That was exactly what I needed to hear. I was brought up to believe that if you break your leg, you wait a couple of weeks before going to see a doctor, just to see if it goes away by itself. But now there was a person at the other end of the line who kept telling me I shouldn’t be experiencing any problems, so slowly I began to think, ‘Well – that really makes a lot of sense’. She carried on until I found the right catheter for me. The conversations also made me feel much better, mentally. It was exactly all the practical things I need to talk about, because I couldn’t talk to my wife about it. At the same time, I also realized that I was not the only one in the world who had to use a catheter. That is how you feel when you are down in a hole, psychologically. So, the conversations became a turning point for me.”

Three great tips from Ralph

  1. Create a good routine from the start. It makes catheterizing easier and means fewer urinary tract infections.
  2. Be open and tell others – family, friends and colleagues – that you use catheters. 
  3. Listen to the nurses at the hospital and the product knowledge from the Care Advisors at Coloplast. They know what they’re talking about! Ralph’s experience is supported by current research literature.

Needed to learn structure

It was the Care Advisor from Coloplast – as well as the continence nurses from the local hospital – who slowly but surely taught Ralph how to master the catheter:
“Do you use the alarm on your mobile as an alarm clock? Have you thought about setting alarms to remind you to catheterize?” the nurse asked several times, Ralph remembers, and adds:

“I politely replied that it sounded like a good idea, but at the same time my brain said she could forget about that. I didn’t need to be controlled by anything. I hate structure.” To give an example, Ralph grabs the shared calendar that hangs on the wall of the kitchen and places it on the kitchen table: “Look, here’s Lone’s column, and here’s my column. It is empty, unless Lone writes something in it”, Ralph laughs.

But three consecutive urinary tract infections caused Ralph to reconsider having some structure.

“I started setting a regular alarm on my mobile phone for 12 pm, because I sometimes forgot about that catheterization. Also, morning, evening and before I went to bed.” – Ralph

Shortly after, Ralph needed to add additional time slots to his cell phone, as a continence nurse at the local hospital found too much urine came out at once when Ralph catheterized, and that he needed to empty his bladder 5-6 times a day. “Now all of the times are in my cell phone. 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, 8 pm and 10:30 pm,” says Ralph, who is very consistent in catheterizing when his cell phone alarm goes off.

“If I am at the fridge aisle at the supermarket when the phone beeps, I use the customer toilet and catheterize” – Ralph

“Recently, I was at a birthday party for one of my grandchildren, and I had to ask if we could please wait with the birthday song until after I had been to the bathroom. Everyone is fine with it because my family and friends know how important this is for me. The disadvantage of structure to me is, that if I don’t do it as soon as the alarm sounds, I easily forget about it until the next alarm goes off,” explains Ralph.

During the last couple of years, Ralph has become known for more than just his sailing skills in sailing circles: “I had a special wetsuit made that has a VELCRO® Brand fastener opening down below. So when we race, I am able to sit with the rudder in one hand and catheterize on the other,” laughs Ralph, and gives himself a pat on the shoulder for having a good catheterization routine.
“I’ve always lived under a lucky star and taken things as they come. So, I am actually quite proud of myself. I have realized that structure isn’t a limitation. Quite the contrary, I get the freedom to live my life the way I want, when I have a solid routine.”

Information from Coloplast® Care is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice and should not be interpreted to contain treatment recommendations. You should rely on the healthcare professional who knows your individual history for personal medical advice and diagnosis.
VELCRO® is a registered trademark of Velcro BVBA. Used with permission.
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