Gauze Pads

A song that really resonated with me toward the end of 2022 was Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December,” probably because one of my testicles almost didn’t. 

I woke up one morning early in the month with pain emanating from ol’ Lefty. When the issue persisted for a day or so, I went in to see my doctor, who ordered an ultrasound. After the technician had a look inside the Zac sac, she immediately escorted me to the emergency room for surgery. 

It turns out I had what’s known as testicular torsion, which is when your nut gets twisted around the wrong way, cutting off blood flow to the poor organ and thoroughly ruining your week. I’m no physician, but I imagine the scene inside my scrotum looked something like the end of a game of tetherball.

As my urologist explained (I have a urologist now), a big point of concern in my case was that I sought treatment well after the 4-hour mark, putting me at risk of losing the testicle. I repeat: LOSING THE TESTICLE.

I wasn’t on the ball about my ball, and now I could end up left without Lefty. 

The surgeon’s plan was to go in there, untangle everything, and then secure both testicles in place somehow so that this wouldn’t happen again. If, however, it was discovered during the procedure that the affected ball couldn’t be saved, the surgeon would have to swap in a prosthetic (I’m guessing a large walnut?). 

Attempting to process these possible outcomes along with the usual onslaught of disquieting hospital business (IV, anesthesia risk factors, paper gown, Covid swab), I felt bewildered to a dizzying degree, as if my brain were getting batted around in, well, a game of tetherball. Is that the perfect all-purpose metaphor?

The medical establishment, for its part, prefers to use the image of a bell clapper to describe my style of balls. Unlike in other, snugger scrota, my guys evidently swing around in there more freely, merrily pealing away as if it were always Christmas morning. 

Bell-clapper balls can get twisted, though, and that’s what happened to me. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, etc. The problem usually occurs in teenagers going through puberty, however, not in perimenopausal 43-year-olds such as myself. 

In fact, the postsurgical care instructions I was sent home with were clearly written for the parents of adolescents. “In a couple of weeks, your son should be able to return to school, but he better hope his P.E. teacher doesn’t get the notion to do a unit on the pommel horse.” That sort of thing.

The hospital also discharged me with painkillers and what can only be described as a medical-grade jockstrap. I was supposed to keep the operated-on area well-supported and, for the first two weeks or so, swaddled in gauze.

At this point, about 8 weeks have elapsed since the onset of the ordeal and I feel pretty much back to normal. 

I would still like to know why this whole thing happened, but my urologist was unable to offer a satisfying explanation. He theorized that the twisting could have occurred in my sleep, but beyond that, he said, “There’s no rhyme or reason.” 

In his defense, I’d probably develop a nihilistic worldview, too, if I spent every day looking at urogenital ailments.

Besides, when it mattered most, the doctor did manage to answer my most pressing query about my predicament. The first thing I remember after coming out of the anesthesia is being visited by the physician for a post-op debriefing, but in my groggy state I could hardly follow what he was saying. 

Finally, I interrupted him. “Do I still have two?” I demanded. 

Reader, I do. Against all odds, Lefty made it through December. 

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