The Smell of Vasectomies
Ye who know Brian and I well enough to know what goes on in our knickers (and given our general openness about this and all things, that means, "ye who have had the misfortune to while a beer from brim to bottom in our company...") know that we've been working on getting his vasectomy reversed.
Vasectomy itself is a simple, apparently (and counter-intuitively) painless procedure that a surgeon can perform in an outpatient facility, its duration measured in mere minutes. It is also, by medical standards, cheap: if you have insurance, it might as well be free (as it basically was for Brian 15 years ago). The patient strolls out of the office snipped and good to go, without even needing pain-killers.
Vasectomy reversal, on the other hand, is somewhere on a sliding scale from pretty-to-very complex and painful, often requires hospital facilities, and takes half to all of a surgeon's day to prep, perform, clean up, etc. -- and all of that adds up to, yep: expensive. Usually between $6000-$8000, from the estimates we got. After the surgery, the patient is incapacitated for a couple of days, and sexually incapacitated for quite a bit longer.
The cost daunted me, while the cost and everything else daunted Brian, until we found a fellow online who claimed he could do the job for under $4000. Oh yes we were suspicious. We read all the fine print. We determined that the "fellow" was indeed a qualified surgeon. We also discovered that he travels all over the state of Florida doing low-cost vasectomies for poor men in need of family planning (the price gets lower the poorer you are and the more kids you have: work for minimum wage and have 8 kids? This guy'll snip you for free!) ... and this gave us the do-gooder narrative we were looking for. Being do-gooders ourselves, we are always particularly attracted to this narrative.
So this afternoon, we drove up to meet the doctor and get a pre-surgery consultation. He was in WPB working in another doctor's office, doing those low-cost vasectomies. The building was quite a ways back from the road, but we were able to spot it because there were hot-pink poster-board signs at the driveway that read, "Low-Cost Vasectomies, Here, Today!" -- Looking a bit like an ad for a garage sale.
Uh oh, I thought glancing protectively at my one true love's beloved crotchital region, perhaps we should've held onto that suspicion. As we approached the building, I noticed it looked a bit like an apartment building -- uh oh, I thought, gripping his upper thigh, it's a bathtub kidney operation! But as we neared I saw small signs for medical offices and those lock boxes in which they store medical samples for pick up. I relaxed a little until we got yet closer and I saw that the boxes were rusted out, and a baggie with a medical sample lay on the sidewalk.
Any surgery makes one nervous, but some are more nervey than others. Brain surgery. Spine surgery. Boob surgery -- esp. boob removal. One's reproductive organs. And then, coming in a sound fifth, right before my eyes and a full heart-lung transplant, my one true love's birch-like nexus of physical affection. It's in that order. So I was nervous.
The waiting room had four other men in it when we got there, and three other women, at least one of them very pregnant. One of the men was giggling uncontrollably. One looked like his woman had marched him into the place in a headlock. The one with the very pregnant friend looked guilty and ashamed. And that last guy, sans woman, sat grinning in sun shades, looking just like Glen Quagmire.
It was an hour before we got in to see the doctor, but just think of that pace! Another man permanently prevented from procreating every 15 minutes! Each strolled out looking somewhere between entirely at ease, and, at worst, a little surprised. Finally, it was our turn. The doctor welcomed us with a hearty wave before his nose: "whew! It smells like vasectomies in here!" I took a little sniff -- oh, is that...? "all cauterized skin and sweat!" he said, and laughed. I was smelling it. Yes, a bit like burning skin, and ball sweat, and a little something extra -- burning hair? But just the faintest whiff of it in the air. Apparently he'd kept up that pace all day: a better fixer than any vet!
From there we got down to business, and I have to say that (in part not despite but because of his sense of humor) he came across as very competent. My worries about him abated and new worries emerged: the odds of success are not good. He pulled out a chart of his past patients and their success rates: getting sperm, not getting sperm; getting someone preggers, not getting someone preggers. And Brian is right in the "dark spot." If he'd gotten this done a few years ago, his odds would have been much better. But a 15-year-old vasectomy is a surgery pretty set in its ways, it seems, and it does not want to be reversed.
What are the numbers? Well, in a nutshell (sorry), he's got a 70% chance of getting some sperm back and only about a 30% chance of getting someone (uh, hopefully, me) pregnant. Over the long term, there is usually damage to the epididymus, from extended exposure to the white blood cells that attack the sperm that flows out into the body (where it goes because it's no longer flowing -- er, erupting -- out the ol' standpipe o' love)... and he mentioned that in some rare cases there might be nodules that would indicate the infection's been going on higher up, sparing the epididymus, and that could mean a better prognosis... "but that's very rare," he said again.
Let me not get too graphic, dear reader, but if you've come this far, you like it, you know you do, so just quit pretending, stop blaming me, and just sup it up. :-P Needless to say both he and I had knowledge (intimate knowledge one might say) of nodules fitting just that description. The doctor's exam confirmed not just the nodules but also a soft (un-hardened) epididymus: another good sign. He felt and felt to confirm it: "yes, yes," he said, "we can add a couple points to your odds because of this!"
And I was so overjoyed I thanked him and shook his hand.
With which he'd just performed the exam.
And I had to wait until I got to my parents' house to wash it.
But boy, were they happy to hear! :-)
Labels: vasectomy reversal