Intimacy With a Man Going Through a Health Crisis

dialysis photo by newslighter


“When you walk into the Dutch Dialysis Center you see blood everywhere.” Sherri Rosen accompanies a male friend to dialysis and learns about herself in the process.


His name is Henk. He is 59 years old. He lives in Holland and is dealing with a health crisis, and he is my friend. I would describe him with a Yiddish expression as a “mensch”, someone who is really nice.

I went to visit him in Amsterdam, Holland a week after New Years. We had met on the internet over 10 years ago, and this was the first time we were to meet in person.

He has been suffering from kidney disease for over a year, and has to go to dialysis 3 times a week. Before I came over he asked me if I would like to go with him. It’s a 4 hour process. I thought about it and said I would go. He goes from 3 pm until 7pm.

I went with him on the first day I arrived in Amsterdam. A taxi service has been arranged to bring him to the dialysis clinic and be there when he needs to go home

When you walk into the Dutch Dialysis Center you see blood everywhere. Not in a violent or messy sense, but people attached to machines where you see their blood traveling through tubes to be cleansed and help them stay alive. They are each in private cubicles separated by curtains.

Beforehand Henk asked me if I wanted to watch a DVD during the long process with him, so we chose to watch “Dr. Zhivago”.

I told Henk that I just did not want to see the needle injected in him and taken out. I asked him if it was painful when they put the needle in and take it out and he said yes. They keep using the same vein to make it healthy and strong to undergo such weekly treatments.

It seemed like such a natural occurrence for me to be there with him, and he was so very appreciative of my support. He even asked me what food he should buy for me ahead of time so I could eat while there. The center gives each patient supper if they are there in the early evening consisting of protein, starch, a vegetable, yogurt for dessert and juice.

I kept nodding off because I was so tired from the seven and a half hour flight. My friend kept thanking me for coming. He was surprised that I would actually come and I was surprised that it seemed the most natural thing to do.

I’ve never had such an appreciation for blood—and such an appreciation for all these lives that were being saved and seeing my friend so well taken care of by the nurses. The people see one another every week so a community is formed with one another saying hello, sometimes joking with nurses or sometimes feeling very depressed and not wanting to talk. My friend told me many feel hopeless, but Henk has this wonderful youthful spirit full of hope. He also told me he is not afraid to die.


 I had another male friend who had to go thru dialysis many years ago before he got his transplant, but would never allow his wife and 2 children or anyone of his family or friends to see him while he was hooked up to the dialysis machine.

The dialysis machines make these funny sounding noises if everything is okay and another sound if a patient’s machine needs regulating. The nurses are very aware of what is going on and are constantly checking the patients. There is also another sound when the patient’s 4 hour treatment is up. My friend would look at his machine and occasionally he would have to make adjustments. Before the doctor knew what my friend was suffering from he almost died. Could not walk and had to depend upon his friends and his brother to keep him alive. Such a challenge for a very independent man who was never in any kind of long term relationship. He said that, “I would now like to come home to someone to share my life with.”

When his doctor says he is ready for a kidney transplant his name goes on a list or Henk’s brother may donate his kidney if he is in good health at the time. My friend said, “I would do the same for my brother.” His younger brother was so scared of losing him, because the rest of the family is deceased and they love one another.

While there, Henk would check his cellphone, watch the film, look at me and smile and continuously say, “thank you for coming with me.” I would also witness his energy become more vibrant as his blood was being purified. So much so that after the taxi dropped us off to go home we went to a local cafe for a coffee and dessert, and the next 2 days we toured all through Amsterdam.

How many men do I know that would allow me to see them in this most vulnerable state? Not many, but when they do I feel their courage and strength and it’s not only healing for them but for me as well.

Photo: newslighter / flickr

About Sherri Rosen

Sherri Rosen began her own publicity firm in NYC more than sixteen years ago. She gives a powerful voice to people that are doing great things in the world. Sherri also writes for Redhead's Rap at Sherri Rosen Publicity Intl, NYC, Mr. Bellers Neighborhood and Elephant Journal. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Bravo to the people – friends and loved ones – who are supporting their men through health crises. Although, according to statistics, it’s women who really need more support from their men:

    Gender disparity in the rate of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness:

  2. Dear Louise Cliff and Amy R you just both made me cry when I read what you guys wrote. Bless you both. Yes, Louise when I was with Henk in dialysis it showed me not to give up hope if the kidneys aren’t working. Never give up on being alive. Much love to both of you.

  3. Wonderful article. Being open and vulnerable with each other allowed you to connect and be supportive. How healing is that, on so many levels. Your experience offers so much hope.

  4. Louise cliff says:

    I have had kidney problems now for 12 years,having had many operations my kidney gave up,i am not in need of dialysis at this moment,but my doctors say its a possibility for the future,very scary stuff..Thank you for posting this article,it has opened my mind to what dialysis is about,and that it is about hope not something to be feared,thanks Sherri and Henk xx

  5. Regina and Joan I appreciate your feedback. I myself have gone through a lot and it’s great to give back.
    I truly believe that is the biggest reason I am supposed to be here in this lifetime is to give and receive love and to plant lots and lots of seeds, and to create magic for myself and others. 🙂

  6. Regina Maria de Jager says:

    Sherri, a very good human article…You give Henk (Y) support

    Sherri, a very good human article…You give Henk (Y) support !! You’re a great lovely woman <3

  7. Joan Brunning says:

    A great indepth article, Sherri, you must have given Henk a much needed support to get through this procedure, you really do great work.

  8. Channa, I sincerely appreciate you lovely feedback. Thank you so much.

  9. This is such an insightful article. I have never read an article like this anywhere else. Much needed and appreciated eye opener. Thanks for the great article.

    • @Channa,
      thank you for your wise words. It was impressive having the warmth of Sherri’s company there when I was having dialysis.

      @Joan, @Regina,
      thank you ever so much.

      thank you so much for what you have done.

      “May the paths you walk always be enlightened.”

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