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Dealing with Sex During Hospital Stays and Rehabilitation

B.J. and Abby Jackson describe talking about sex with service providers.


Dealing with Sex During Hospital Stays and Rehabilitation

Robert "B.J." Jackson enlisted in the Iowa National Guard when he was 19. Four years later, he was deployed to Iraq. On August 7, 2003 -- his first day off in over a month -- the Humvee that B.J. was driving through Baghdad hit a landmine. B.J. was severely burned and as a result of his injuries he lost both his legs below the knees. B.J. and his wife Abby live in Des Moines, Iowa with their three children (with a fourth on the way). Abby works with people with developmental disabilities and B.J. is a national spokesperson for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.

Sex has so many layers of importance in our lives. Sometimes it’s the thing we want more than anything, other times we could care less. And then there’s all sorts of pressures from society about when its important and when it isn’t. Do you guys remember when sex first came up for you after B.J. was injured?

B.J.: When I first woke up in the hospital I was 102 pounds. I had lost 70 pounds and my legs were amputated below the knee and I had burns on my arms and legs and the small of my back and flash burns on my face and my head. In the hospital it was more being loved on by my wife, holding my hand, and I think that fulfilled the needs I had at the time. It’s kind of weird but it was more of a mothering instinct I guess because when you get injured you kind of get set back and you have to rely on people to do stuff for you until you’re able to do it on your own. So I just wanted to heal and get out of here. I really didn’t give sex much thought until I actually left the hospital and was able to get into the house where my wife and kids were staying with me. I think the pain has a lot to do with it. I had a couple catheters that got ripped out, so really it wasn’t until I started getting healthier and then I thought how am I going to get back into the normal routine of doing what everyone else is doing.

Abby: For me it was probably when he went to the step down unit. He was in ICU for a long time and sex wasn’t a thing but of course he was overseas for close to a year before that. So you go that long without it and you can’t wait until they come home. Sex was not the first thing on my mind but when he got to the step down unit we were like, can we even have sex? Can we do this? And then we discovered that it hurt him, because of his skin being burnt and being stretched so I think I was ready way before him.

Abby:We didn’t really get any support, I don’t think sex was touched on at all when we were in the hospital. I don’t even think physical therapy touched on it which is kind of upsetting now that I think about it. Even when we asked about him hurting and should it be looked at, they just said it’s probably because he hadn’t had an erection in such a long time and the catheters. They had all the medical reasons that were why. But even after I asked that question I don’t think anyone ever said anything.

B.J.:The mental health professional that I was sent to for a TBI (traumatic brain injury) test, always ask the sexuality questions, and I didn’t really put two plus two together. They ask more about being addicted to things like sex. There’s one guy and it’s one of the first questions he asked. He asks if you have more of an urge or is your sexual drive gone. I never gave it much thought other than thinking the guy was kind of weird.

Read the complete interview with B.J. and Abby Jackson.

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