Most people have a talent or characteristic that they’re known for — I am the King of Random Ailments. I’ve had four hernia repairs, a heart attack and something called mallet finger, where the tendon controlling the last segment of my right pinkie finger dislocated and caused it to flop at a right angle for six weeks. So when I went to the urologist because of an inexplicably growing scrotum and the doctor said, “You have a hydrocele that may need to be surgically removed,” I thought: Of course I do.
Draining was only a temporary fix and Googling testicular hydroceles left no doubt that I should have it removed: I’ve heard pay is low for sideshow freaks these days, and I would rather not push around my giant scrotum in a wheel barrow.
While planning the procedure, it occurred to my wife and me that this would be a perfect time to do some reproductive maintenance. Two wonderful and healthy children is the right sized brood for us, so why not get a vasectomy “while they were in there?” Ordering à la carte would mean two procedures with only one recovery, an ideal scenario given the location of the work.
Like most guys, I felt very protective of my “boys” and squeamish at the thought of having them surgically violated. The fact that doctors and nurses can poke, prod and examine those parts with such clinical disregard was a little unsettling. That’s your equipment, man! Your boys, your sidekicks — companions on some of the grandest adventures of a man’s life. How can they be reduced to mere genitals?
At first it bothered me that my urologist had the bedside manner of an undertaker. He was cold and indifferent and left the examination room a few times while I was still talking. But he had a fine reputation as a surgeon, and I thought that precision around my testicles trumped any doctor/patient chumminess I wanted to feel.
While a vasectomy is a relatively simple procedure that can be done with local anesthetic and a bag of frozen peas, a hydrocelectomy is a bona fide surgery that requires an operating room, an anesthesiologist and the profound dread of going to sleep while people cut on your ball sack. That is really no fun. And as much as I’d like to reassure any guy bracing for a vasectomy, my ordeal was a special case, and I can’t provide much comfort.
The procedure went fine, and I was able to recover at home over a long weekend. As I vegged in a mild drug stupor and read and occasionally tiptoed to the fridge to refill the ice pack or get a swig of juice, I recalled an article I’d read in USA Today. Apparently, many men plan their vasectomies around the NCAA tournament so they can recover while watching endless basketball games, causing obvious spikes in urological procedures at the end of every March. I was amazed at the awesome dichotomy of careful planning and indolence, and would have put off my own procedure if the water balloon inside me had been slower to refill.
The bandaging I went home with was a complex buttress of surgical tape that made my manhood resemble a bird’s nest of gauze with a pink egg in the middle. By far, the worst moment was pulling the surgical tape from my shaved taint that had been stuck in place for two full days. As I paced and cussed and pulled off millimeters at a time, my wife offered the best awkward cheerleading she could muster. Removing the tape and gauze revealed the horror-show that was my scrotum. Several days post-op it looked like a bruised peach that had been sliced from top to bottom — the incision where the vasectomy happened was like a small nick compared to the stitched-up seam representing the hydrocelectomy.
Producing your sample is bizarre. You do it on a weekday morning in your work clothes. It feels a little pervy and weird. You kind of look forward to creating the sample but then you take a careful look at the receptacle and plot how you can reasonably get the sample into the small cup. And once you create the sample, you feel unsure of the sample. Is it enough sample? Should I (or can I) rally and give them some more sample? Should I add some tartar sauce to beef it up? Your rational mind knows that they only need a few drops on a microscope slide, but your immature self imagines a panel of young attractive clinicians snickering as they pass around your puny sample.
They give you a brown paper bag, so you can be discreet. When you deliver it to the urology office, you hope that people in the waiting room will think that you’re dating one of the nurses and you’re simply taking her the PB&J she forgot on the kitchen counter. Too bad the look on your ashamed face says that you just jerked off into a cup.
So far, my samples suggest that I’m now a harmless shooter of blanks. And while the water balloon in my scrotum is gone, I have a turkey neck of loose skin to consider. Maybe it’s not too late for the Freak Show after all.