surgery

Vas Deferens Post-Mortem

A couple months ago, I blogged about my impending vasectomy, and the most hilarious, um no, horrifying, let’s just say “entertaining” phone call in preparation thereof. I finally got the deed done. Gentlemen readers, if you’ve already had the operation, none of this should strike you as shocking. The rest of you are welcome to stick around, or you can peruse my random sports columns. Like how the first college football playoff worked.

Okay, everyone that’s still around is comfortable hearing about sharp objects near genitals? Then let’s proceed.

My options for operation times were all in the afternoon, so I opted for 3:30. And this is great, because if I’m going to be icing my nuts for the remainder of the day/week, I wouldn’t want to get the first eight hours of that out of the way while the baby is at day care.  Also, why wouldn’t somebody want a full day to look forward to this particular procedure? To savor the anticipation, like the day before Disneyland, right?

Then again, the shaving’s going to take half the day.

But more on that in a little bit. First, I had to go to Target. Why? Because boxers ain’t going to cut it, after they, um, “cut it.” And I don’t own anything snugger. They recommend something with “scrotal support,” which sounds like a 12-step program but actually refers to things like Tighty Whities or a jock strap. The jock strap didn’t make sense to me, since I’m going to have to ice it. I guess I could do the jock strap minus the cup, but if you start there, the next thing you know, you’re a wearing-socks-with-sandals Euro.

I opted for the briefs. Fortunately they do make those in adult size. I wasn’t sure. Regardless, nothing quite prepares you for losing that which makes you a man like desperately looking for the Tighty Wighties at Target. My wife tells me they aren’t white, so I should call them Tighty Bluies or Grayies, but she misses the point. Color’s got nothing to do with it, they are all Tighty Wighties.

Then it was back home for the shaving. With Doctor Evil’s line about freshly shorn scrotums going through my mind, I was ready to tackle some gardening. I figured I needed to do a little weed whacking before I went in for the final lawn mowing. And that worked fine for a bit. But, um, how do I keep this metaphorical.  Let’s just say the Beard Trimmer worked great on the backboard, but not as well on the basketball hoop and net. And yes, I had the guard on, set way out at #4 length, but a bit of skin got through, so it was on to Plan B.

Have you seen that meme going around that says being an adult is just looking up how to do stuff on google? Well, I’m here to affirmatively state that googling “How to shave your scrotum” brings back a lot of info. One link was a YouTube video featuring a very polished looking guy, which I proceeded to scrutinize like it’s the Zapruder film.

“It’s not that difficult,” the guy says, and he has the most precisely-manicured goatee I’ve ever seen so he must know what he’s talking about.  “Because the scrotum is designed to expand and contract to regulate temperature. Due to its elasticity, it’s not going to nick or cut easily.”

Okay, wrong, dude. I haven’t even got to the razor part and I’m already nicked.

“You’re going to want to trim first,” he produces a beard trimmer, “and use the guard because those blades move fast and this is the step you’re going to hurt yourself on.”

Ah, now you tell me.  Just goes to show that meme is right, I should’ve gone to Google first.

Okay, so the earring-clad metrosexual turned out to be correct. Once standing in the shower with mostly trimmed hair, the deed was relatively simple. Way easier than shaving my chin.  And writing now, a week removed from the episode, I can firmly say that the shaving was much simpler than the regrowth. Holy Christ! New pubes growing is must be worse than a teething infant. Sequels are always more complicated, but I didn’t expect “Shaved Scrotum 2: OH GOD IT ITCHES!”

So off to the doctor’s office I went, my balls and thighs conducting NASA experiments about frictionless environments. My briefs and gym shorts are in a plastic bag, because I’m wearing boxers for as long as I can. Hey, I’m about to lose my balls and be relegated to Tighty Wighties in one fell swoop, so let me swagger like John Wayne for a few more moments.

Everyone coming through the urology department this time of day is there for the same thing. None of us have problems peeing.  They might as well just change the sign at 2:00 to read “Spermicide Division.” But I don’t know if I can make eye contact with people. Does urinal etiquette apply here? Better to stay on the safe side and just bury my head in a book. (Just like at a urinal – ahh, War and Peace…)

The guy before me gets sent back out. Evidently he “forgot” the whole “don’t take blood thinners before an operation” rule that was mentioned in the phone call I had to make AND the video I had to watch AND the paperwork I had to sign. He just HAD to have that Advil Cocktail today, and he’s really bummed, he assures his wife. They’ll just have to reschedule, you know, sometime… really soon, even…

Then before you know it, I’m up. The nurse practitioner walked me to my own very special operating room.  It’s pretty expansive as far as doctor’s rooms go. Hell, it’s bigger that a number of hotel rooms I’ve stayed in over the years.  For the next thirty minutes, this is my own little Shangri-La. Or Room 217 of the Overlook Hotel.

Truthfully, the room might have even been bigger than the one my wife stayed in during her hospital stays, but it’s hard to judge because it didn’t have any of the normal hospital amenities.  All it had was an operating bed directly in the center of the room. Not centered along the wall. I mean the dead center of the room. Nothing around it.  It stuck out like that autopsy table the camera pans across at the end of the movie, right before the corpse’s eyes pop open so you know there’ll be a sequel.

The nurse tells me she’s going to leave me a little privacy to get ready, then pulls the curtain across the doorway and exits. I’m supposed to take off my pants, get up on the oh-so-lonely autopsy table, and cover up my lower half with one of those medical hybrid paper/plastic sheets. I make a last minute decision to bring my book with me, because who knows how long I’m going to be lying there half-naked. If it’s anything like waiting for vaccination shots at the end of a well-baby visit, I’ll be sporting some 1970s Porn Bush by the time they come back in.

But ensuring no more children takes precedence over inoculating said children, and the nurse is back in no time at all. My bare ass has barely settled on the chucks pad when there is a knock at the door. The nurse practitioner asks if I’m ready and then pounces through the curtain. The first thing she does after approaching the bed is to bunch the sheet up around my navel, leaving everything underneath open to the world. So glad she gave me that minute of privacy.

I assume some feel that the act of disrobing is the moment that requires the privacy, but once the pants are off, it’s all fair game. I understand the sentiment, but this nurse is about to do things that would cost me fifty bucks in Reno.  So, in the long run, I don’t really understand the need for the alone time.

“Okay, the first thing I’m going to do is cover you with this surgical drape,” she begins and puts another sheet over where the “privacy one” had been. “It’s got a rectangular opening we can operate through.”

Well, okay, then. My junk now appears to be the star of its very own TV show.

“I’m going to tape your penis up to your stomach to have better access to the testicles,” she begins.

Huh? Can you separate those two? I kinda always thought they were a package deal. (Huh, huh, “Package.”) But okay, do what you gotta do. And is it weird that I now want to say “Just put the lotion in the basket”?

“Okay, now I’m going to rub some iodine on it. It shouldn’t hurt unless you have a nick or a cut there.”

“Yeah, I nicked myself.”

“Oh, then… yeah, it’s going to sting a bit.”

Oh joy. But it wasn’t that bad. Just like putting aftershave on after a “normal” shave. Except that it’s on my nuts, of course.

“Okay, the next salve we’re going to put on will warm the region up before starting to numb it.”

Okay, that Reno bill just went up to triple digits at least.

“Okay, the doctor will be in shortly, and I’m supposed to ask if you’re okay with a medical student observing the procedure. The doctor is being shadowed today.”

Um, sure? I mean, we’re going to hit the law of diminishing returns on people staring at my junk, right?

The nurse leaves and I go back to my book, which I had laid down on my chest since there was nothing around the bed. I don’t know what Emily Post has to say about reading a book while people are slathering and/or slicing up your scrotum. I know it’s verboten during blow jobs, so I’m going to follow the same rules.

Oh, you don’t have that version of Emily Post?

The doctor comes in, followed by the medical student. They are both female, and the medical student is a rather attractive blonde in her late 20s. Three women, one of whom is attractive, all looking at my genitals simultaneously? Sounds like a dream.  For most of my life, I would’ve loved to have just one look at them more often.  Hell, I’d have given my left nu… wait a second…

The doctor is very good at explaining what’s going to happen (to me) and what is happening (to the medical student). She starts with explanations to both of us. We are going to do a “non-invasive” vasectomy. Evidently there are two ways to do it. Unfortunately they don’t have a telekinetic on staff or anything, so non-invasive still means they’re going to make a cut in the middle and reach in.  Not really my definition of non-invasive, but at least I won’t need stitches.

They shoot me with multiple painkillers.  The first one, she explains, is going to feel like someone kicked me in the crotch for a moment while it takes effect. “Or so I’ve been told,” she says, “obviously I’ve never been kicked in the crotch.” Then she’s going to add additional numbing agents to each vas deferens.

For the medical student, she does a play-by-play of how to grab the vas deferens. How to feel for it, how to hold it between your fingers. How to bronze them and put them on a plaque.

“Does it bother you that I’m explaining all of this?” She asks me.

Honestly, I found it interesting. Plus, if she hadn’t been explaining what she was doing to someone else in the room, it might have been more awkward. Would she have been silent? Would she have been humming? Would I have looked lovingly into her eyes and sang “Eyes Without a Face”?

She regularly comments on what great anatomy I have. Unfortunately, it’s not in the “Ron Jeremy” sense, but in how my scrotum hangs. I guess they sometimes shrivel up or, in her words, become too “elephant-like.” Those make it hard to separate the testicles from the vas deferens. But my sack was hanging just so.

Um, thanks? You’re welcome? I don’t know.

“Most men aren’t this easy,” the doctor informs the medical student.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve never heard that one before.

And then the cutting begins. The doctor informs both of us that the painkiller deadens the nerves, so I can’t feel pain, but it can’t remove the sensation of tugging. And boy is she right. Never once did I feel an ounce of pain. But discomfort? Oh yeah, fifteen minutes worth. It ranges from feeling like I’m sitting on my balls to having them hang down while naked for an extended period of time. And both of those sensations make me want to adjust them. Only I can’t. It’s that itch on your nose during the national anthem. Assuming the national anthem went on for fifteen minutes.

Dammit, it’s probably too late to open my book to occupy myself with something other than the pulling sensation. I mean, I’ve already made eye contact with the cute medical student a few times. She keeps responding with an “Isn’t this fascinating?” smile. At one point she sees the discomfort in my eye and asks if I’m in pain. I respond no, but that the doctor was accurate about the tugging.

And they can’t knock me out entirely for this procedure because….?

Finally, after a few more minutes of vice-grip gonads, the procedure is over. All three of them are about to leave me alone like Alex P. Keaton at prom. Probably going to high-five each other as soon as they’re outside. I’m allowed to get up on my own and put my clothes back on.

“Go slow if you feel light-headed,” the doctor warns.

Um, light-headed? Was she operating on the wrong end?

“You can take Tylenol for pain tonight, but I don’t suggest Advil for a couple of days because it’s a blood thinner.”

“Can I have a couple of beers instead?” I ask.

“Absolutely,” the doctor and medical student both smile.

“Sold,” I say and give them a thumbs-up as they leave the room.

Then I get off the gurney and walk over to my clothes, balls in hand. This is a form I will assume many times over the coming week. On go the Blue Tighty Wighties. On go the gym shorts. Out I go to the waiting room.

As I approach my wife, I look down at my gait. Legs far apart, walking slow. Hey, looks like I’ll continue walking like John Wayne for quite some time now.

Now if only I can stop hunching over.

Losing My Marbles

I just had a phone call that was either the most hilarious or cringe-inspiring in my life. In less than a five-minute conversation, I think I got whiplash from the number of times I oscillated between the extremes. Tennis match spectators had nothing on me. It should have come with one of those Hollywood preview voice-overs: “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll curl up into a fetal position.”

As much as my wife and I love our little peanut, we’ve decided she will be an only child. The complications my wife had with the delivery, combined with a desire to attend my child’s high school graduation sans a walker, made it more or less a foregone conclusion.  So, yay us, doing our part against global overpopulation. Or speeding up the arrival of Idiocracy.

Of course, the route to this particular outcome was still in debate until a few months ago when my wife was told she could never go back on the pill.  Something about blood clotting or blood thinners or whatever. So our choices were reduced to using condoms for the next ten years (gosh, how fun) or else I go in to lose my manhood. The snip-snip. The unkindest cut.

Hold on, let me go back and think about that condom option. I’ve also heard pulling out is fun.

Alright, fine. Vasectomy it is. But wait, there’s more. I can’t just walk into the hospital, find the closest scalpel, then drop trou. No, for this procedure, I need to officially don my serious hat. And sign papers with this serious hat. And do interviews to make sure I’ve thought this thing through. Because there seems to be a large contingent of guys who get vasectomies on a whim. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the morning and thought, “Nothing on the agenda today? Maybe I should go get my nads chopped off.”

So a month ago I had to schedule a phone interview, and last week was the first time they were available to call me. Now that I’ve done that phone interview, I have to watch a video and sign a waiver. Then they will allow me to schedule an appointment at least two weeks out. To buy a gun only requires a 72-hour waiting period, but to shoot blanks, you’ve got to REALLY want it.

“Hi, I’m calling about your upcoming vasectomy,” came the way-to-chipper voice when I answered the phone.  “Do you have time to talk about the voluntary sterilization process?”

Look lady, I don’t mean to critique your bedside manner, but I hope you’ve never used that as a pick-up line.

“Okay, first question: Have you ever had surgery or any other medical procedure on or around your scrotum?”

I guess we’re done with the small talk.

Wait, is this a trick question? Are you trying to get me to admit that, yeah, I’ve already had multiple vasectomies because I get a rush off of sharp objects near my nether regions?  Yes, I know that testicular cancer is a thing, but is it so common a thing that the first question is about history of scrotal surgery?

I don’t know how many questions or comments went by while I think of all the different types of scrotal surgery. By the time I had recovered from that first doozy, we were already discussing how the day of the procedure would go.

“Okay, you’re going to need to shave your pubic hair that morning. The entire scrotum and base of the penis need to be completely bare.”

Don’t black out. Don’t go catatonic. There might be something in this conversation that will be important or useful. Or, failing that, might at least provide for a funny blog post.

                But I’ve met myself. I’ve seen myself handle sharp objects. I don’t care if it’s a safety razor, if I try for the upside-down shave of that particular body part, I might as well save my money and your time. Because the surgery will already be completed, in a less than sanitary manner, by the time I show up. And I know that hair might make it difficult to get through, but do you think a freshly scabbed-over coinpurse with gauze attached is going to be easier?

Maybe I can just find and olde-tyme barber with a straight-edge razor and give him an extra couple dollar tip. Okay, nurse practitioner, you were saying?

“Make sure you don’t take any blood thinners, including aspirin, for two weeks before the procedure, because we don’t want you to bleed excessively from your scrotum or testicles.”

Cringe. At this point, I’m guessing any male readers have given up on this article. Except for the ones who have had a vasectomy and are now nodding to themselves like the fraternity sophomore that finally gets to see someone else getting hazed.

“Eat normally the day of the surgery. Some people come in with an empty stomach, but that’s unnecessary.”

“Well, I didn’t assume you’d go in through my stomach,” I joked. The rest of my comments up to this point had been internal, accompanied by an “uh-huh” or “okay” out loud. But this one I said back to her.

Her response immediately made me decide to keep the rest of my comments internal.

“If we were going to put you under, you’d need an empty stomach, so I guess that’s what most patients are thinking. But you’ll be awake for the entire procedure.”

Oh, joy. At least when I had my wisdom teeth taken out, they had the decency to knock me out. I’m sure this procedure isn’t nearly as complicated, but isn’t there some sort of professional curtesy? Failing that, can I have some popcorn and a mirror, maybe? I mean, to quote Dr. Evil, there is nothing more breathtaking than a freshly-shorn scrotum.

Then it was time to discuss the post-procedure.

“Bring a jockstrap or biker shorts or some other garment to keep your scrotum close to your body and continue wearing it for a number of days.”

Nope, sorry. I’m a Gottfried Leibniz guy, therefore I hate Isaac Newton and refuse to believe in gravity. Much like the people who deny the moon landing and dinosaurs and vaccines. My boys’ll be fine in my boxers. Or maybe I’ll just walk around nude, because I also don’t believe in your silly decency laws.

Or maybe I need to go invest in a jockstrap.

“They will be enlarged. You will want to cool them with a pack of frozen vegetables.”

Rumor confirmed. Not sure how that works through the supporter cup, but I’ll figure it out. As an added bonus, I’ll have some thawed veggies. Hey Honey, guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?

“You’ll want to limit your movement for a few days.”

With the stitches and the enlarged testicles, to say nothing of the chafing from the re-growing hair, that shouldn’t be a problem.

“In two or three days you should be able to return to work and resume non-strenuous activity.”

Okay, reports back from those who have gone before me say that, while this is technically correct, the stitches will still snag on my underwear at inopportune times.  My daughter also likes to kick in that region, right after she’s done giving a tittie twister to momma, so that should be fun.

“It is important that you not engage in sexual activity or ejaculate until the stitches have dissolved, which is about seven to ten days.”

Is this really a problem? I know my libido is not what it was when I was eighteen, but I think even then, the whole “stitches and icepack” thing would have dampened the hormones. I can wait a week, I would have thought, that Cindy Crawford poster isn’t going anywhere.

“Sometimes the procedure doesn’t work, so you’re going to have to continue using some other form of birth control until we can test you.”

Can I get one of the procedures that works, please? Fine, fine. When will I have to jerk off into a cup?

“You’re going to have to wait until two months have passed and you’ve ejaculated at least twenty times.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Two months AND twenty ejaculations? Not or? I did mention that I was married, right? That I have a nine-month old at home? Seriously, who the hell has the time to ejaculate ten times a month? And that’s not even the correct ratio, because the first 7-10 days are a no-no. Let’s be conservative and give myself two full weeks before my wife wants to jump on what will look like Franken-wienie. That’s twenty ejaculations in six weeks, or once every two days.  Even when we were trying to conceive, that sort of schedule could only be maintained for a week or so at a time.

And did I mention all of this sex would be with a condom? Even the twenty-year old me would have found this to be a chore.

Now, sure, these ejaculations can be, um, “self-inflicted.” But even that takes five minutes of alone time. Hell, I can’t even post a blog entry in the same week that grades are due. How am I going to find the time to make a withdrawal from the spank bank?

“Oh, I forgot to mention,” she says as I’m processing the last bit of information. “When you’re icing it down, make sure you use those vegetables, not an ice pack. With an ice pack, your penis might catch frostbite.”

Um, yeah. That sounds important. You might want to write that little note into the permanent script. Because when you mentioned it, my brain had equated frozen vegetables with anything cold. And Frostbitten Penis, while a great name for a punk-rock band, would definitely put another wrinkle on that whole twenty times thing.

And just think, if the test comes back positive after the two months emulating Ron Jeremy, I get to do the whole thing again.

Is it too late to look into a decade of coitus interruptus?

Happy Hospital Hell

I always assumed we were pretty far along the historical spectrum of medical knowledge. Long gone are the days of leeches and bleeding and humors. Can the days of Star Trek scanners and nanobots be that far away?

Then my wife went into the hospital six times over a four-month span. And I now realize that, while we might have progressed beyond whiskey as the primary antiseptic and painkilling tool, we’re still a long way from holographic doctors phasing through your body to grab the kidney stone before solidifying to pat your ass on the way out the door.

I’m going to try very hard to not turn the Happy Wombat blog into vitriol. Let’s see how good my fiction-writing abilities are.

Prior to the 1:00 AM wake-up call my daughter gave us a week before the agreed-upon arrival time (“Hey, what’s all this water doing in my way? Push!”), my wife had never been in a hospital. Other than “just visiting.”  And really, Monopoly needs to change the jail to a hospital. And what the player needs to roll to get out should change every turn.  “Oh, I know yesterday we were paying very close attention to the doubles, but these test results indicate that dice adding up to seven will put you back on the path to Marvin Gardens this turn.” Besides, how many people really visit jail?

The delivery went fine. An hour after they gave her some Pitocin, she was pushing, and an hour later, we had a healthy six-and-a-half pound daughter. The baby, thankfully, has been the picture of health. But once she was out of her mom, things went a little sideways.

My wife had a massive fibroid that we found during the pregnancy. “Massive” must be a medical term, because every nurse, doctor, and ultrasound tech who saw it said, “Wow, that’s a massive fibroid.” Or “I’m surprised you could get pregnant with that massive fibroid.” Or “Seriously, it’s blocking a fallopian tube, so your eggs weren’t even making it to the uterus half of the time.”

This information might have been useful when we were trying to get pregnant. Instead, I had the pleasure of, um, pleasuring myself into a cup. With that came an affidavit that probably made the last Pope resign – “I, the undersigned, promise I masturbated to produce this sample.” The rest of the rules were extensive and comical: do not collect specimen into anything other than the cup, do not put in your pocket, do not expose to light, do not pass Go!, do not slow down for any yellow lights, do not make eye contact with the tech you deliver it to.

So we knew there might be some issues because of the Massive Fibroid (trademark pending), primarily a risk of excessive bleeding. There was supposed to be extra blood on hand, but it never showed up. The baby’s fault for showing up on a Saturday when the main OB/GYN was not on call. What we didn’t foresee, which in retrospect we or someone with a day or two of medical experience should have, was that perhaps the fibroid and the placenta might not play nicely with each other.

Nobody is sure what happened next.  Either my wife tried to deliver the fibroid, which we had been warned ahead of time would be bad, or the placenta was stuck to the fibroid. The result was lots of blood and no placenta. The placenta seemed to bother the OB the most, but everyone else was concerned that the blood wasn’t stopping. This was the moment I was very happy we were not still living with 19th century medical technology, because I’m sure my wife would have bled out.

But instead, I was being asked to make some momentous decisions. My wife was going to be separated from the baby, meaning that I was in charge of the half-hour-old. Because the law and the hospital and health insurance companies don’t know what to do at this point, I could either admit the baby as the patient or having her admitted as an abandon. Naturally I opted for the former.

Unbeknownst to me, this triggered a health insurance nightmare.  The plan had been to put the baby on my insurance, not my wife’s. But once the baby became a patient at the hospital, well-baby went out the window. This double my wife’s deductible, so we had the joy of paying for much of what happened next. As far as I can tell, the baby’s currently covered on both of our plans, but who the hell knows?

Because my daughter was the patient, my next twenty-four hours were spent in pediatrics, not post-partum. This meant sleeping in a toddler bed about three inches longer than my body. I was also wearing jeans, having thought that I would have time to go home and change after the birth. Add in the two hours of sleep I was operating on, plus quickly learning why it is called a mothering instinct, not a fathering instinct. One fun part, though, was seeing the nurses not quite sure how to deal with the father in charge. They kept asking me how I was feeling and if I wanted any Jell-o or water. “No, I’m fine, my body didn’t just suffer through a live birth. Do you have any beer?”

But my day was a piece of cake next to the recipe for my wife. A dash of ultrasound, a dollop of sedative, swirl in a little radiation, and set to baste in the ICU. The radiation lab stopped the bleeding. The ultrasound checked for both the fibroid and placenta. Turns out the ultrasound needs blood flowing to the region, so the results were inconclusive after the radiation. Probably should’ve done those two things in the opposite order. Oops. As for the ICU, nobody seemed sure why she was there. But where else would you put the woman who has been awake for twenty hours, recently gave birth, and is now beside herself because she can’t see her baby, other than right next to somebody that is up all night with paranoid delusions?

The next day, my wife was allowed to move to pediatrics to actually, you know, see the baby she had birthed. Three days later, mama and baby were released. I was at work, so I missed the whole thing. Had we known more than an hour in advance, I would’ve tried to be there. When a patient is going to be released is an amorphous target, but once it’s set in motion, it’s fast. “We want to keep you here, we’re going to keep monitoring you,” changes to “you’re released, now get the hell out of here because we need that bed” faster than a Denny’s waitress. Turn and burn, baby!

Two days later, she was back in the hospital.  Her body really wanted to deliver that fibroid! When it started coming out on the toilet, she freaked out a bit, but then calmly decided to go to the emergency room. At the emergency room, they asked her a whole bunch of questions based on her medical history (“so we notice your hemoglobin was a little low after delivering the baby”) but nobody seemed concerned with the bodily tissue dangling from her lady-parts.

They also asked if she felt safe in her home. I assume this question is required by law, and that is a good thing.  However, they asked her that question with me sitting right next to her. This certainly violates the point of the question, if not the letter of the law. The comedian in me wanted to crack my knuckles, look menacingly at her, and say “Oh, you feel safe.” Fortunately, right brain convinced left brain to save it for the re-telling.

Once admitted, we stood around waiting for her OB (her actual one this time, not the on-call one) to finish office hours. One tech did take an ultrasound – a vaginal ultrasound five days after giving birth. It showed nothing, probably because the thing it was looking for was HANGING OUT OF HER. I could see it, one of the nurses could see it, but somehow the tech who stuck a wand up past it didn’t notice.

By the time the doctor showed up, we had been in the emergency room for five hours. She then, still without looking at the area in question, assumed it was the placenta and began making plans to admit my wife to the hospital for placenta accreta. Then she looked at it. Oops, turns out it’s not the placenta, it’s the fibroid, something we silly non-medical types had assumed a while ago. The doctor then decided she needed more time to figure out what she’s going to do, so she put the fibroid, which had been hanging between my wife’s thighs for a quarter of a day, back inside her. I wondered if this was the most sanitary thing to do, but again, figured I should just keep my stupid plebeian thoughts to myself.

Around midnight that night, they removed the fibroid without much problem. Bear in mind this was something we were told repeatedly, both during the pregnancy and the delivery, could not happen without so much blood loss as to potentially kill my wife. Everything we had been through that week was to keep that fibroid from coming out. And now it was out, as if nature and the human body knew better than medical professionals.

But we still weren’t done. She kept having fevers after coming home from the fibroid procedure, so she returned.  This was the only time out of the five post-partum trips to the hospital when we didn’t have to go through the emergency room. I had assumed the emergency room was for, I don’t know, emergencies.  You don’t call 911 because of a jaywalker, right? But the emergency room isn’t 911. Most of the doctors cannot admit people to the hospital. So they send you to the emergency room. And the person that’s there for a legitimate emergency, like a fibroid hanging from her hoo-ha, is just going to have to wait because Dr. Not-in-Network really wants a temperature check.

This trip, the OB decided to bring in an Infectious Disease (ID) doctor. Over the next five days, he put her on about fifty thousand different antibiotics. Thus began the hospital procedure we’ve come to know, and why I’m convinced the medical profession still doesn’t know shit. The phlebotomists come in to take your blood about 4:00 in the morning, the doctor comes in at 7:00, looks at the results, says “well that didn’t work,” changes one thing (Antibiotic #6 for Antibiotic #5), then waits twenty-one hours to see if that magically worked. If it didn’t, they change one thing and wait until the next day. Of course, they hadn’t diagnosed her with anything other than fevers. Nothing was in her bloodstream, but why should that stop them from randomly prescribing antibiotics? He’s an ID doctor, so he will use the ID treatment regardless of whether or not the patient has an ID. We don’t ask running backs to pass the football, do we?

After a few days of this, the OB went back into the uterus to make sure there was no lingering fibroid or placenta. Neither of them was there, but afterward my wife’s fever went down. While the doctor was checking around, she cleaned up the uterus with an antibiotic spray. She later explained that the uterus is, understandably, sealed off from the rest of the body. So unlike, say, the kidney or the liver, where bacteria or other contagions would enter the bloodstream and be seen in the daily blood draws, if they were in the uterus, they would stay there. This also means that no amount of antibiotic delivered through an IV would reach and cleanse the uterus. I guess the ID doctor didn’t know that. Or maybe he just thought there’d be no reason for a uterus to be infected just because it had a fibroid that had been hanging out in the open for six hours put back inside. He’s an infectious diseases dude. You wouldn’t expect a Senator from California to pay attention to what happens in Nevada, would you?

For the third time, she was released from the hospital and, this time, we actually felt like we were clear. Until she got a 104-degree fever accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. This was new. But hey, at least we weren’t abusing the emergency room this time. And the good news didn’t stop there – this  was entirely unrelated to the pregnancy, the fibroid, and the uterus.  Woo-Hoo! Unfortunately,  it was C-Diff, which is potentially deadly. What is C-Diff? It’s when you overuse antibiotics, so you kill off all of the good bacteria in your system. Oops! Who could have guessed that randomly throwing medicine at an undiagnosed problem might have bad consequences? Well, you came in with a runny nose, so we amputated your foot. Hopefully you don’t mind.

Want to know what they use to treat a problem that was caused by overuse of antibiotics? If you answered more antibiotics, congratulations! You can be a 21st century doctor! If you answered whiskey, go back to 1860, you Neanderthal!

We earned almost a month of reprieve after the C-Diff joy. Since then, she’s been back twice. The first time was because her gall bladder was passing stones, which allegedly is common in new mothers. Something, something, when pregnant, the body does something, something, which causes the gall bladder to something, something stones. They needed to endoscope out the gallstones, then remove the gall bladder in a separate surgery.

But nobody would touch her because she was on blood thinners. Why was she on blood thinners? Oh, did I forget to mention she had a blood clot? She got it on the C-Diff trip when they put a picc line in, which is like a surge protector for multiple IV lines. She needed it because both arms were bruised from too many IV’s.

This was also where the proprietary bullshit between the different branches of medicine reared its ugly head again. The hematologist doesn’t want to take her off the blood thinner, the surgeon won’t touch her until the gallstones are already out, the internist won’t remove the gallstones until blah, blah, blah. And a new ID doctor’s wearing a trench coat in the corner, saying “Hey, I got some great antibiotics over here for ya.”

Meanwhile my wife is turning yellow enough to get a walk-on part in The Walking Dead because a gallstone is blocking her liver. And all anybody will do is wait until the next blood draw at 4:00 AM tomorrow

Somehow the magical Oracle brought the warring factions together to remove everything gall related, and nine days later she was back home, having already missed a quarter of her daughter’s life. But dammit, that jaundiced look didn’t go away. Why the heck isn’t the liver getting better now that the evil gall bladder that was bullying all the other poor organs was gone? It couldn’t be that they had just been guessing at why the liver was overproducing bilirubin like it was cornering the market on canary-colored crayons.

One more trip to the hospital for “observation.” Once again through the emergency room. Hey, she’s already missed Fourth of July, our anniversary, and our baby’s first day at daycare, what’s one more indefinite hospital visit?

As always, the true heroes of the medical profession, the nurses, provided an answer.  The off-hand remarks made by the people that actually spend their days in and out of the patient rooms are much more helpful and enlightening than the Almighty Edicts delivered from upon high by Hugh Laurie wannabes once a day.

“They’ve got you on Xarelto while you’re having liver problems?” one asked.

Why? Is that a bad thing? Yep, blood thinners can cause liver problems. Have I mentioned “oops” yet?  So the hematologist reluctantly takes her off of Xarelto and, magically, her liver gets better. So she is released with… Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?… Another blood thinner! This one, we promise, won’t affect the liver. But it did. And as a bonus, she also had to shoot this one directly into her stomach.  Fun stuff.

So she gave herself shots for two weeks and the yellow came back to her skin. No relation, whatsoever, the hematologist assured us. I’m sure a liver specialist would blame it on the nonexistent gall bladder. And the ID Doc would have some pure antibiotics straight off the boat from his guy in Thailand.

With family photos approaching, she tried something kookie-crazy and took herself off the shots for a few days. What do you know? Her skin color faded. The hematologist actually said there was no connection. Now, I might’ve hyperbolized a few things for storytelling purposes, but I guarantee you this is legit. When confronted with a clear pattern correlating blood thinner to skin color, she assured us that there was no causality whatsoever.

Uh huh, whatever you say. Just like your body can’t deliver a fibroid. And antibiotics cure everything. Thank God we’ve come so far in our medical knowledge.

So now my wife is just going to take some aspirin to keep the blood flowing, while hopefully giving the liver a chance to get better. If that works, she might be able to go back to normal. Maybe even knock back a little whiskey. I hear that cures everything.