Multi-ethnic, middle-class, Midwestern.
Two-parents (male and female), two-children (male and female), pet-less.
We are your average American family, and we plan to remain that way. Well, at least until we move to China next month and become your less-than-average Chinese family.
For a while now, we have been considering our family planning, what with our work goals and planned travels back-and-forth across the world. In fact, even during our regular drives across country from state to state, this has been a constant topic of discussion.
While our son Silas has loved traveling, his sister Joy has deplored it. Screaming 75% of her time within the car, she’s driven May quite loony. May’s regular end-of-trip refrain has never been “Home sweet home!” or “What a lovely trek we just experienced!” but rather “Elliot, you’re getting a vasectomy.”
For this reason, we added the big “V” to our pre-move checklist and scheduled the ordeal for January 2, just after the New Year and just a month before our move. With minimal experience regarding this procedure, we took much stock in the “testimonial” of my brother, José, who’d enjoyed his own “V” the Thanksgiving before. While sore, he didn’t look much the worse for wear and was playing Darty Pool with the best of them by Day Two. Thus I figured I’d be recovered enough to give a speech on January fifth and party like a wild armadillo on my birthday, the sixth.
I drove myself to the clinic that morning and met my doctor and his nurse. It’s funny how medical professionals have free-reign over a patient’s body. Within minutes I was lying disrobed on the operating table, the Little Chairman being blinded by the heat lamps above, while the nurse prepped him for the operation. The doc came in, chatted through our decision for sterilization, and then dug in.
As far as “V”s go, mine was apparently a clean ordeal. Local anesthetic, minimal bleeding, and chatting about China throughout. Though I could feel some pinching and tugging, gagged at the cauterization, and absolutely hated watching doc’s arm move as he finished the stitches, it was all over and done within the hour, and I was free to go home. They mentioned that I might have some swelling, that I should take some ibuprofen, and that I shouldn’t let Silas and Joy jump on my lap for a few days, but that was really the extent of their warnings. I really wasn’t prepared for much.
I bought a celebratory Starbucks on my way home, jumped into my La-Z-Boy and prepped for a relaxing weekend. I hoped to organize my file cabinet and remove all the doubles from my baseball card collection while catching up on some Mythbusters and Take Home Chef on Netflix. And for the first two hours, I did just that.
The swelling began early. I’d lift up my shorts and say, “Wow. That’s a bit more than I expected.” Yet alarm bells had not yet begun to ring.
As the third episode of Take Home Chef ended, so did the local anesthetic. A throbbing soreness surrounded the Little Chairman, accented by sharp pains in all the wrong places. Another peek told me that the Little Chairman was starting to change colors, to darken, which is something that he’s simply never been allowed to do. I became a bit worried.
Ibuprofen 800 did nothing to dull the pain, so I thought up another idea, which José later called very “cowboy.” I drank some alcohol. Not having it regularly available, I was happy to recall that Archy had gifted me some when he and Kam visited us for lunch with their son Jeeves over the Christmas break. I winced out a request for May to bring some to me, and she begrudgingly did so. She gave it all, and somewhere between the first sip and later, I must have really overdone it in the partaking. Soon the stabbing pain ended. Soon the throbbing ceased. Soon my mind fogged up, and I apparently became a motor-mouth. With senses deadened, I didn’t know enough to stop, so I kept on going. And the events following are pretty much lost to me.
Apparently, at about 4 pm, I stood up to use the bathroom. I’m not sure why, because my “region” couldn’t even fit in my pants let alone on a toilet. May tells me that I entered the bathroom and closed the door. She wasn’t yet worried, because I had kept telling her how great I was feeling now that I had some “over-the-counter pain reliever.”
Once alone inside the bathroom, however, I must have dropped my pants before promptly passing out, because after May realized that I wasn’t responding to her calls, she came into the room and found me draped over the bathtub, unconscious, pant-less, and with a gigantic black softball between my legs.
I’ll tell you now that I really don’t know how best to describe my swollen scrotum pleasantly, so I’ll just say that: I had a gigantic black swollen scrotum, about six inches in diameter. And I’ll also add that you could imagine these things: black-and-blue elephantiasis. Or the equipment of the fattest black ox you’ve ever seen. Or a swollen horse’s eye after a 10-round boxing match with a dude who hates horses.
My memory is spotty now, as I was moving in and out of consciousness, but I can recall May sitting over me and slapping me in the face. She kept repeating, “Elliot! We need you! The kids need you!” Truthfully, her fears of what was happening to me are far worse than I make them out to be, for we both know a widow in China whose husband died from a simple fall in the shower in 2007, and this had to be running through her mind at the moment.
I recall hearing her on the phone describing my situation. “I’m losing him!” she said at one point.
I recall hearing a siren and seeing ambulance lights. I recall the EMT coming into the room and trying to revive me. Five guys, apparently, though I can recall three. They saw my swollen balls. They kept calling my name and hooking me up to wires. They sat me in a chair and dragged me into the cold. They hefted me into the ambulance. At this point May was asking delirious me who in the world she should call, and I told her “Bob.” An EMT with long hair shut the door.
Inside the ambulance, the scruffy EMT with glasses hooked me up to an IV. The one with glasses talked with me. I asked him, “Can I let go?” He responded, “Let go of what?” I mumbled, “Consciousness,” and he told me “No.” I asked them not to tell anyone that I was drinking—that’s not really something I do. “The pain was just so bad.” They said they understood, and that they wouldn’t tell anyone about it. In fact, they weren’t even allowed to know my name, they assured me. “Big Balls Guy,” I said. They laughed.
The next thing I knew I was being hoisted onto a gurney in the ER. I asked again, “Can I let go?” And they responded, “Yes. You’re in a safe place now.”
I woke up at 6:30 pm, though honestly I thought it was the morning. José’s wife, Carla, with her three kids had arrived to help me get home. A doctor sat in the doorway and described to me my condition. My blood alcohol level was high, but that’s fine since I’m an adult, he told me. He talked about the swelling, but I forget his explanation. He had spoken with my doctor who was shocked, but both agreed that I should suffer at home instead of the ER. My doctor, having never seen such a response to a “V” before assumes that in giving me local anesthetic, he must have burst a blood vessel, causing the excessive swelling––an obvious bruising.
A nurse wheel-chaired me to the door where Carla would pull up, and along the way he said he’d love to learn my niece and nephews’ names. “Good luck,” I said still tipsy. “They’re all Slavic names.” Carla chuckled and corrected me: “Scandinavian.” I thought to myself, Shoot. Maybe I’d make a mean drunk. I certainly hope I wouldn’t.
Once home at about 7:30 pm, Carla gave me some proper pain medication, and I pivoted myself to bed, where I wouldn’t fall asleep until about 4 am. The family left, May put our own kids down, and I puked my night away, half the time in bed, half the time in the cool bathtub. I kept on apologizing to May for being so stupid, and assuring her that I had no idea what had happened. My balls had stopped growing by now. They’d reached their capacity, and I was assured to remain in the greatest amount of pain for at least the whole coming week. I slept from 4-8 am and remained in bed the entirety of January third.
Urinating the next day was a feat unparalleled in my time—and please recall that this was not the Little Chairman’s first rodeo. In “A Spot of Tea,” I spilled boiling lava all over the Chairman and was left stinging for two whole weeks afterwards. But trying to pee through in this condition took some talent. It took some scavenger hunting, first, to find the opening. And second it took some creativity in aiming. Actually, I didn’t aim. I kneeled in the bathtub, let’r rip, and hoped for the best. I’ll not describe how I figured out “Step 2” a day later. Use your imagination on that one.
I have spent the last four days feeling like a pregnant woman. I stand up like one. I walk like one. I’m swollen in all the wrong places like one. I’m gaining weight like one, since to walk twenty paces exhausts me!
But in May’s words, this is a pretty loving trade. I’m suffering so she doesn’t have to, and if I think of it that way, it becomes easier. While my operation and recovery have not been normal, they have become bearable, because I love my wife. She is the best, and her care for me during this time—while dealing with Silas and Joy to boot—has been exemplary and I couldn’t ask for a better wife than her.
I would dedicate this story to her, but I think she’d probably rather have a steak dinner. When I recover and before we move to China, Dear, we’ll do just that.