Do Not Touch The Tools

Joe Gregorio

"Do not touch the tools."

That was the last thing the nurse said as she walked out of the operating room. And she said it rather forcefully, as if from previous experience she had seen grown men, naked from the waist down, high on valium, wander around an operating room touching the surgical equipment. And yes, here I was, naked from the waist down, on valium, lying on an operating table, alone.

Warning, not the usual tech stuff.

Let’s backup and cover how I got here in the first place. I have been married for close to 13 years now and Lynne and I have three lovely biological children ages 3, 7 and 9. Having all three of them was quite an adventure. In the course of events having had: one mis-carriage, Lynne ended up on bed-rest for 2 months during one pregnancy, one child was born six weeks early and spent 3 weeks in the NICU, one spent most of month 3 to month 6 of his life in the hospital having brain surgeries, and one has had six sets of tubes in his ears. Now I’m not telling you this in a “have-pity-on-me” way, but more in “veteran-showing-his-scars” kind of way. If your a parent that has gone through any of these things then you automatically join a club, and if you‘re in the club, you know what I mean.

Anyway, we wanted to have a fourth child and given our track record with biological children we have decided to adopt a baby girl from China. Having moved through all the paperwork and now being in THE WAIT for our referral from China, we decided to make permanent the decision to have no more biological children. Now as for permanent solutions, the choice is either an invasive surgical operation for Lynne that would probably take a week for her to recover from, or an in-office procedure for me that would take at most the weekend to recover from. Not much of a choice, eh?

So the night before, I have to shave. Not my face. And not with an electric razor. The doctor was very clear about that. The nurse re-inforced that later during our pre-operative visit. Yes, there is a pre-operative visit, where you watch a video and both of us have to sign a waiver that says, “Yes, we know this is a permanent procedure.” Given the number of times we had that statement made, the number of times it was printed on the pamphlets they gave us, and the number of times it was repeated in the video, leads me to believe the reversability of a vasectomy is a powerful urban legend.

So, during the the pre-op visit the nurse reinforced that the shaving must be thorough, and must not be done with an electric razor. “And believe me, you don’t want us to have to do it for you, all we have are those cheap disposable razors.” So I am shaving. It is difficult. Shaving with a razor pretty much mandates the skin be taut and firmly supported. This skin is neither. It takes a long time. And I went into this with the idea of “Okay, I am going to be shaved“. In the end, the effect is more like, “Okay, I look nine years old“.

It is the only operation that I have ever had that the doctor prescribed a valium for me to take an hour before the surgery. Now I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, never have, so that valium hit my system pretty hard. By the time I got there I was feeling pretty loopy and a little dizzy. Once in the operating room the nurse told me to strip from the waist down and get on the operating table, covering myself with, well, a paper towel. Now it’s a big paper towel, about a yard on a side, but still, basically, a paper towel. After I strip and get on the table under the paper towel, the nurse returns. “Ok, let’s get you ready for surgery.” Getting ready for surgery consisted of taking said paper towel off of me, folding it into a one foot wide strip and wrapping it around my waist, ensuring full exposure of the area to be operated on. She then sprays me with a surgical disinfectant.

That doesn’t quite cover the effect. Let me try again.

This was a large bottle, the kind you keep window cleaner in, that was sitting out on the counter in the air-conditioned office. I am shaved. No insulating hair to be found anywhere. She stands back and blasts me four of five times in the crotch like she’s cleaning the window of her car.

“I didn’t get quite enough valium to cover that.“, I said.

As she leaves the room she says, “The doctor would be in to operate in a while. Do not touch the tools.”

She’s gone, and here I am, naked from the waist down, dripping ice cold disinfectant, high on valium, shaved, on an operating table a good three feet off the ground, waiting for surgery. So what do I do? Fall asleep.

Half-an-hour later the doctor arrives to do the surgery, his arrival being what wakes me up. The procedure consists of removing a small portion of the tube that carries sperm away from the testicles. First an anaesthetic shot is given, and really that’s the worst part: valium or no, that needle hurts. After that things go very quickly. Both ends of the severed tube are cauterized and then everything is stitched back up. He even showed me the pieces of removed tube. The surgery was over in less than twenty minutes. Two days of bedrest and a week of no heavy lifting and I should be back to full speed. And no, I didn’t touch the tools.

I don’t remember any of the details of the actual event. What I do remember is what happened afterwards.

I was completely out of it. I had expected that my spouse would come pick me up, and take care of me, and be sympathetic.

Instead, one of our children picked that very day to get so sick that they had to go to the hospital. So my spouse picked me up, took me home, and abandoned me. She told me to call the neighbor if I needed help.

One other thing I remember – when my wife picked me up, the combination of the motion of the car and the drugs caused me to throw up, right there in the front seat. The event was so dramatic that it left an imprint on the ceiling of the car that remained there until we finally got rid of it some nine years later. (After my wife told them the story, my kids delighted in pointing the stain over and over again. “Look, dad, there’s where you threw up!“)

Posted by I'm not telling on 2003-06-15

When I had mine done, my doctor – Dr. Weiner (I SWEAR TO GOD!) was very polite and unctuous. When I, under the influence of the drugs asked “Why would someone go into this field?” his response, after several seconds of cutting-filled concentration, was detailed and complete about relative difficulty of training, lower demands on time, blah blah blah – and then, in a deadpan voice, the coup de gras:

“My patients don’t usually DIE on me” (significant pause) “...usually.”

Dr. Weiner was one funny guy.

Posted by macguiguru on 2003-06-15

Maybe the surgical equipment weren’t the “tools” she was talking about.

Posted by Filip on 2003-06-15

For future reference—not that you’ll need to know, but someone else might—the female “permanent solution” doesn’t put a gal out of commission for anything near a week these days.

I had mine done on a Friday, noonish, was home by 4:30 that afternoon, and was back teaching Monday. Honestly, no big deal.

And if some of the stuff in the pipeline makes it out of clinical trials, it may get even easier. Impressive.

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 2003-06-15

No waiting, no valium, and less shaving in my case. A little unnerving, but not really traumatic.

Posted by Adam Rice on 2003-06-15

My operation went smoothly, except that I’ve since learned that redheads need (on average) 20% more anasthetic than everyone else. So when the urologist started his first incision, I nearly punched him. You‘re right about the anasthetic being terrible since they inject it directly into your testicles – I wasn’t warned about that – but at least he wasn’t sawing at my skin while I could feel it. So we stopped and re-injected and waited. Things went smoothly. So starting on the other side, one would think that the doctor would remember that I need more dope-em-up, but no, he starts his incision without enough juice again. Sigh.

The really terrible part, for me, was when he was presenting the bag of gauze and ice-packs and whatnot at the end. The nurse had stuffed it all into a ziploc bag, and in trying to open it, it became clear that the doctor had some sort of nervous condition that made his HANDS SHAKE UNCONTROLLABLY and he ended up ripping the sack to get it open. Shouldn’t a urologist with the shakes have a giant sign on his door that says, “Abandon all hope…” or something?

Posted by Jemaleddin S. Cole on 2003-06-15

Ouch. But very interesting read.. I found a much easier way to not have kids. I’m really lousy at trying to pick up girls ;-)

Posted by Adrian Sevitz on 2003-06-15

No valium, forgot the shaving (but got shaved by the doctor), done on a friday late afternoon in a “normal” doctors office. We chatted the whole time and it was a rather good experience – until he slipped and the cut tube retracted into the scrotum. He swore and went hunting for it… Luckily he found it and was able to tie it up correctly. He apologized – also for the blue balls I was going to take away from the slip.

My wife drove me home and I spent the weekend taking it easy – not easy with two kids (5 and 3).

After the waiting period (was it two months? 50 ejaculations? I don’t remember) dutyful abstained for a week and then brought the sperm sample back to the doctors.

And ever since then: more sex and more fun… (with my wife of course)

Posted by Jens-Christian Fischer on 2003-06-15

I’m not a red-head, but I apparently needed the extra injection as well. The doctor started cutting and I almost jumped off the table. It felt like he’d ripped a muscle out of my groin. I got in and out of cars very slowly for quite some time…

Posted by John Klassa on 2003-06-15

Interesting to read as that table is waiting for me in the near future. But in regards to reversibility, well, I’ve got a half-brother that’s proof that it can be done. But I gather that it is a matter of luck. No guarantees and all that. I suspect that they exagerate the permanance to avoid hoards of men looking for temporary measures.

Posted by ucblockhead on 2003-06-16

I was actually told that the success rate of reversal is about 50%. The weird thing was how adamant they were that you knew it was not 100% reversible.

Also, the doctor required that Lynne be present at the pre-op visit, and she had to also sign a consent form to the operation.

Posted by Joe on 2003-06-16

My surgeon was Dr. Stopp (no, really), he was famous in the area (and not just for his name). He did a fine job but he talked about every little thing he did (“now I’m retracting the <something> so I can expose the <something else>“). I thought the whole idea of the valium and anesthetic was so you didn’t have to know exactly what was going on.

Posted by Tom on 2003-06-16

I had my vasectomy done three months after our third child (eight years ago), on about the hottest day of the year, and after waiting for the doctor I had sweated through the paper under my legs. I didn’t have to shave before, he didn’t wait long enough for the anaesthetics to take effect. After 30 minutes, it was all done. I even went to a friend’s BBQ that same evening. After the second sperm sample (or is that a no-sperm sample? ;-) the procedure was declared a success.

Posted by Beat on 2003-06-16

There are reasons they‘re so adamant about non-reversibility, Joe. One is CYA versus idiots who will swear in court that nobody told them, when somebody did tell them and they either spaced it or didn’t think it through.

Another reason is a very bad and ugly history of non-consensual sterilization this century, mostly on minority women. Given that, I didn’t mind them repeating the non-reversibility mantra to me, even though I didn’t need it.

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 2003-06-18

My advice: GET GOOD DRUGS!

I scheduled the appointment, and was not offered any type of "father's little helper". So I called my PCP and he gave me some Xanax. This did not do the trick AT ALL. I was told that the doctor would do the actual shaving, so I went in there completely lucid, trying not to kick the doctor in the face as he shaved as necessary.

Then he needed to do some exploratory fiddling to make sure everything inn there was lined up. That's where this whole thing came to a grinding halt. I could not stop squirming. I mean, here's this dude goofing with my nuts like he's changing the oil filter on his Volvo. He told me that it wasn't going to work out and that I should try to get general anaesthesia approved by my insurance company.

It has been a few months, and I haven't called the insurance company. the whole idea just freaks me out now. Condoms really don't seem so bad anymore!

Anyhow, maybe I'm just being a wimp. Keep in mind, though, that I had both a quadruple wisdom tooth removal (they had to crush them to remove them) and a hernia repair with local only. And it was not traumatic in the least. It's just that particular area...

So, in summary, make sure you get Valium AT LEAST if you're gonna do this. Xanax and other mild anti-anxiety drugs may not help. And if you are extra-sensitive (as I guess I am) ask your insurance company for general right off the bat.


Jimmy Hat 4 Life

Posted by Corky on 2003-06-27

Interesting reading, thanks for sharing your experience. Some try to avoid what others are trying to achieve. Infertility treatments require a lot of patience (frustration implied). I believe in the end such peculiar experiences just reinforce a couple's bond. C'est la vie.

Posted by R on 2004-02-21

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