In His Own Words: Living with Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)

IMAGETony, who lives in London, England, just turned 50. For his birthday, his friends and family surprised him with a helicopter ride around the city. He even got to fly the helicopter. He is retired due to a serious industrial accident. Eleven years ago, Tony fell from a high-rise scaffolding. It was this accident that resulted in his impotence.

What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?After I fell, I was in the hospital for four months recuperating. I had so many other problems—broken bones, a crushed wrist—that getting an erection was the last thing on my mind. I did notice though, that I never was waking up with an erection. Once I returned home to my wife, then it really hit me that something was wrong…I could not get an erection.Then, your mind gets involved and it becomes a vicious cycle. I would be so concerned about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I asked my wife Kathy to have a look down there, to see if anything looked funny. She let out a gasp—my entire underside was bruised. She said that every color of the rainbow was represented.We decided to wait and let the bruising go away, but that didn’t help. I could still not get an erection.

What was the diagnosis experience like?It was frustrating. When I brought it up to the doctor (which was not easy), he would tell me not to worry about it. After about 6 months, I transferred to another doctor closer to my home. Again, I brought it up to him. He told me the same thing…don’t worry about it. I’d like to see them not worry about it if they couldn’t get an erection.One afternoon (about 16 months after the accident) I was getting ready to go to the doctor and Kathy asked if I was going to bring it up to him. When I said that I had tried, she offered to go with me and do the talking. That was an enormous help. It is difficult to talk about it yourself.The doctor finally referred me to a specialist, who said I had two options. One was to give myself an injection in the penis every time I wanted to be physically intimate. The other option was a vacuum pump that you put over the penis, pump it until blood fills the penis, and then slide a ring down to the base of the penis to keep it hard for physical intimacy. The pump sounded a lot easier than sticking a needle in my penis, but it was not covered by my insurance and I could not afford it. The injections were covered, so the needle it was.Kathy and I went home, but I could not give myself the injection. She had to do it. And it worked. We made love for the first time in 16 months and it was wonderful. However, the next time we went to do it, Kathy started crying and said that she just couldn’t give me the injection. She was so afraid she would hurt me (the injection had to be given just so). I couldn’t blame her; I couldn’t do it either. So we just held each other and cried. We may not have our love making, but we had each other.

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