Wayne and Wanda: When do you tell potential partner about pacemaker?

September 5, 2013 

Dear Wanda and Wayne,

I believe I've found (finally) a wonderful man that I would like to be with. And yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, for all those who think there are no good men left in Alaska.

I have a pacemaker and would like to know what would be the appropriate time to tell this potential mate. I don't think it is a big issue but maybe others do.

I would greatly appreciate your advice!

Signed, Yes-It's-Possible-Over-50-To-Fall-In-Love-Again

Wayne says:

Many congratulations are in order here! Congrats on improving your health! Congrats on finding a potential mate in this wild jungle of dating! And congrats on being brave enough to engage in tough conversations with the person you care about!

You're right -- a pacemaker isn't a big deal -- not with health technology as advanced as it is today. Not if you're living a healthy lifestyle and respecting your physical strengths and limitations. And not if you have a partner who loves and supports you.

If your relationship is going to be founded in honesty, just be straight up with him: tell him why you have the pacemaker and how it may limit activities in your life, if it does at all. Sure, the initial conversation will probably put a scare in him -- no one wants to hear that the person they're falling in love with has a health complication with their heart. But tell him your heart will always be strong enough to love him. That ought to seal the deal.

Good luck, good health, and a happy relationship to you!



Wanda says:

The overarching issue here is, when do we tell the person we're romantically involved with about preexisting medical conditions? There is no simple, single answer and this should be answered on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you and your man are outdoorsy but you're violently allergic to bees and could die from anaphylactic shock, your dude should know where you stash your EpiPen. But you're laid out by migraine headaches once a month? Table that share for later.

Some people have medical conditions that require vigilant management - diabetes, for instance. Why not let him know? Then at least he will understand why you stash syringes. There are scarier, bigger-picture, longer-term medical problems. Say you have MS, and for now, it's controlled, but the possibility exists of spending later years in a wheelchair. That's probably something a prospective long-term love should know about. Or you may have a degenerative eye disease and know that later-life blindness is a potential outcome. If you know your relationship is serious, and has potential to carry into these later years, it's best to discuss these medical issues sooner than later.

In your case, you're wondering when to alert him to your pacemaker. Do you have it to correct irregular heart activity? If so, it isn't as critical; you'll keep ticking even if the pacemaker quits. But is it there to jolt you awake in case of heart failure? That's a bit more serious. I'd say let him know soon, if anything so that he's poised to help you if you need it.

Oh -- and P.S., congratulations on defying "the odds are good but the goods are odd" adage about our men in the Last Frontier. This should give all Alaska women hope.


• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.

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