If you’re about to have a vasectomy, you might not want to read any further.
It’s not that it’s bad, a vasectomy – it just sounds bad. There are words in this post that you never want to hear in the same sentence. Like how “roach” and “my cupcake” should never be said within seconds of each other. But, to tell this story honestly, there are things that need to be said. And I have no idea whether my story is typical. I am not part of a genital-surgery support group. So this is not a universal tale. This, dear reader, is what happened to me.
Hospitals are not the best places to be ill. Doctors are great, nurses even better. But hospitals? They’re too busy, too many things all going on at once, too many sick people to help. It feels like nothing’s really a priority; everything’s important.
Everything except men who have made the brave, selfless decision to refrain from re-populating the world. These brave heroes are, not surprisingly, way down the to-do list.
On the lift ride to the first floor, it’s just me and three nurses. Nurses watch medical shows, apparently. The really gory ones. And they talk about them in lifts. “And they didn’t sew her back up properly, and there was a gap in her stomach this big . . .”
I think I am the only one of the group of pale-looking men in the Ward 4 waiting room who was relieved to be there.
And then I am the first one on the list. No more waiting. No pretending to read my newspaper. No going through the torture of having to watch those who have gone before, dragging their abused genitalia towards the door. I’ll be home in time for Richard & Judy.
The nurse, big, motherly, a smile on her face constantly, hands me a gown. “It fastens at the back,” she says, and herds me into a toilet to change. I take off my clothes, including the slip-on shoes and extra-supportive CK boxers I thoughtfully chose this morning, and slip on the comedy gown, arse flapping out the back. This is where some men make the decision that they’re not quite ready for what they imagine comes next. Ask any nurse – “doing a runner” is not uncommon. One nurse I talk to remembers well a man, in arse-flashing gown, sprinting down the corridor, never to be seen again.
Nurses like those stories almost as much as they like the A&E stories of men who “fall” on thin objects that somehow get lodged in their rectums. Nurses have seen it all, and they like nothing better than to get the chance to tell their stories. The best dinner parties should always have at least one nurse.
The room my operation is to be performed in is a little larger than a broom cupboard. A man stands nervously inside. He’s a GP, “just watching, if that’s OK.”
“Fine,” I say. I suppose this is what doctors do all day if they don’t play golf.
Apparently the usual location for this kind of surgery is being decorated or updated or something (I wasn’t really interested in the finer details at this point), so they’ve had to relocate here. No-one knows where anything is. They need an extra cart and can’t find one, so a tray is rested on top of a bin. Everyone seems hurried and tired. Suddenly my vasectomy seems like a political act; a tiny example of what’s wrong with the NHS. I begin to feel angry.
And then the doctors walk in.
They too are in a hurry. I lift the gown up to my waist and they begin to splash on the antiseptic. It’s bloody freezing. And they’re not gentle. They wash my bits like you’d polish an old, unloved ornament. It’s the least erotic thing that’s ever happened to me, ever. Well, up until they inject anaesthetic into my right testicle.
See what I mean about it sounding bad? Inject…testicle. With a needle.
They stick a needle into my testicle. Needle…testicle.
There’s no getting around the fact that this can never sound good.
And it doesn’t feel great, either. Worse than a needle in the gum, but, to be honest, not much worse. I lie back and think of . . . nothing. Absolutely nothing. I try not to listen as everything they ask for has to be retrieved from another room, as they make arrangements to meet another surgeon tomorrow, as the older doctor advises the other one to “really give it a good scrape”. I try not to think of the younger doctor as “being trained”.
You can ask for a general anaesthetic, but then everyone laughs at you, not just the nurses.
When they say, “That’s that one done,” I’m amazed. It hadn’t really hurt. After the needle, there’s some pulling, some internal tugging that feels unpleasant, but it’s hardly childbirth. And it had only taken what felt like ten minutes.
Then they say: “Now for the other one.”
That’s right; I’d forgotten (probably on purpose). There are two tubes . . .
So, the same thing all over again. The needle, the tugging, the conversation.
By now, I know the worst. I’m feeling relieved. I’m beginning, remarkably, to feel a little cocky. As it were. So I do something stupid. I lean forward a little, just to take a look.
Don’t do that.
Do not do that.
Unless you’re the kind of person who likes looking at pictures of roadkill on the Internet. And you’re not that guy, right?
A vasectomy is nothing to be afraid of. Nine times out of ten (not a scientific statistic), it’s completely problem-free. Mine is one of those, one of the easy ones. In a not-too-long span of time, tube number two is done and I am free to go. As I climb down from the bench they are using as an operating table, a nurse brings in two boxes of testicle supports. “I have two sizes here, I think they’re ‘small’ and ‘large’.”
“No,” says the older doctor, smiling for the first and only time. “Large and extra-large. No man in his right mind would want a small testicle support.”
I slip on the large (rather than extra-large) support. A net now tenderly keeps my testicles from slipping around. Fastened tight, it pulls everything up and out, like a Wonderbra for men. Keep this, if you get one, for parties and public swimming opportunities.
They deliver me back to my nurse. She is still smiling. I change out of the gown and back into the easily-slipped-on clothes I’d arrived in. After the talk about “still not being safe to have unprotected sex”, and receiving the bag with two ridiculously large sample cups (you can ask if you have to fill them to the top, but remember that nurses hear that every damn day), I’m sent back to the waiting room “to rest” before I can go home.
An old man (no idea what he’s there for, maybe he just likes the ambiance) waits until the nurse leaves, then he leans over. “If I was you, I’d not wait around . . . from what I remember from mine, it’s best to be at home before the anaesthetic wears off . . .”
When an old man in a hospital offers you advice like that, take it; they’re always right.