My testicle hurts. Just one, the right one. Just a little. I decided I’d worn my underwear the wrong way and the pain would just go away, so I ignored it.
A week later I notice the pain had not gone away and had, in fact, increased slightly. I decide to ignore it some more and it’ll be okay. This is a tried and true medical approach I learned from my parents. You could lose a limb and they tell you not to be a cry baby, it’d stop bleeding soon enough.
The pain continues, off and on, for maybe a month. It hurts, I ignore it, making up some reason it’ll go away. Then one night at two AM the pain wakes me up. I settle in to go back to sleep when common sense intervenes, shouting, “You’ve got pain in your testicle and it’s bad enough to wake you up at two AM. You need to see a doctor.” This makes sense, even to the part of me that wants to stay in bed and go back to sleep.
I like to act on my decisions as soon as possible after making them. I don’t have a regular doctor, so I’ll have to go to the emergency room anyway, why not go now? It won’t be as crowded as the daytime and I’m already wide awake. So I get up, get dressed, put the dog in the truck and head for the emergency room.
Now, locally, there is the okay emergency room and the good emergency room. I don’t know that at the time and end up at the okay emergency room.
I get there, leave the dog in the truck with the windows rolled down slightly and head indoors. Of course, it’s paperwork first. They get all the personal information and then she asks, “What’s wrong?”
“My right testicle hurts.”
“Was this an on-the-job accident?”
“Was this the result of an injury?”
“God, I hope not.”
She looks up. “You don’t know?”
“Well, I just noticed it one day. I can’t really say when it started. Maybe three or four weeks ago.”
“You don’t know when it started?” she asks.
“No. Not really, like I said, maybe a month or so.”
So she finishes up all the necessary paperwork, has me sign a form saying they aren’t going to tell anybody I came in there, that I’ll have to fork over the money for the bill if the insurance doesn’t pay and that if the doctors really screw up, I won’t sue but will accept binding arbitration. I don’t read any of it, it’s useless ’cause they won’t treat you if you don’t sign it all. I get a copy of everything and then am told to sit in the waiting area until my name is called, which might be around dawn.
I sit in the waiting room, equipped with a soda machine filled with nasty healthy drinks, a snack machine inventoried the same way, mutilated magazines and a TV tuned to some shopping channel. The chairs are plastic uncomfortable ones, encouraging you to pace.
Now that I’m paying attention to it, my testicle really hurts and I can’t find a comfortable position to sit, so I spend a lot of time on my feet reading year-old Sports Illustrated, the only reading option beside Home & Garden.
I try to figure out the rules to the shopping channel program but since they have the sound off, I don’t make much progress. I shoulda brought a book.
After a while, I start to worry about the dog in the truck. I brought him along because I just got him a month ago and I didn’t know what he might do to the house if I was gone a long time in the middle of the night. Now I’m worried about what he’ll do in the truck if he gets bored and restless.
I go to the paperwork lady and ask her not to pass by my place in line if they call me while I walk the dog. She says she’ll try. How hard can it be? She’s not doing anything but filling out forms.
Anyway, I go outside and the dog goes wild when he sees me. I let him out and walk him around the hospital grounds for a while. He investigates everything and I have a hard time getting him back in the truck, but I do and he settles down. Good.
I go back inside and ask the paper lady if they called my name while I was out.
“What name?” she asks. Looking at her I can tell she’s a nicotine junkie and break time is coming soon. All she can think about is that pack of Marlboros in her purse along with two lighters (in case one fails).
I go back and sit down in pain and grumpiness. In a few minutes three security guards come in, looking around. One of them points at me and they all come over and ask if they can talk to me.
“About my testicle? There’s some legal problem about my testicle?” I ask. I thought I’d get a nurse at the very least. Are these guys gonna shoot it off or send me to the jail ward?
No. They want to talk outside, where it’s quiet. I go, but I’m not happy about this.
It turns out to be about the dog. While we were walking around, one of the security guards saw us and retreated behind a locked door. He’s scared of dogs. They tell me I can’t walk him around unless he’s on a leash.
This irritates me, but I’m not going to win any argument, there are three of them and they all have guns, so I agree. They leave and I go back in and pick up Sports Illustrated again. Then I put it down, bored by golf.
I look around to see who else is there in the middle of the night. There’s an elderly Mexican couple, both of whom look like they need medical attention for some affliction of age. There’s a young guy, all in leather, who can’t sit still. Despite a dramatic cough, he doesn’t look sick, so he’s probably here in an attempt to get a prescription heavy in codeine so he won’t chew his fingers off.
Over in the corner is a bag lady with a pull-along piece of luggage. She repeatedly unpacks and packs it, checking carefully that nothing is missing. At least she’s occupied.
There’s the moaner, over in the corner, hands on his knees, occasionally moaning quietly. The rest are the standard fare for emergency rooms at three AM. Tired, in pain, some coughing, whispered conversations among the group they came with. Kids kick the chairs and beg for snacks from the snack machine. It won’t do them any good, this is a hospital and all the snacks in the snack machine are healthy versions of chips and popcorn, baked instead of fried with oil; boring, tasteless food, no Oreos or Fritos.
Once in a great while, a nurse comes out from behind the green double doors and announces a name. The lucky patient gathers all their stuff and heads for the back, sometimes with a helper, possibly leaning on them. The rest of us watch jealously, then settle back to watch some more shopping network. Time drags on. Life drags on. One group decides waiting is more painful than what brought them there so, packing up several grocery store bags, they leave, to the delight of the rest of us. One less person in line before us.
The guy in leather gets called and he hurries in coughing constantly. A little bit later I hear his voice, arguing with the doctor. In the end he comes storming out, empty-handed. So, if I’m right, the doctor refused to give him something heavy-duty to keep him calm. He’s probably headed for a liquor store, second best for him, but at least something.
The nurse comes out and calls my name. Relief floods through me. I follow her in. She puts me in my own little roomlet, privacy ensured by curtains all the way around.
She reads the paperwork and says, “Pain in your testicle? Just one? Your sure nobody kicked you or you ran into something?”
I tell her no, it just started out of nowhere.
“All right,” she says and takes my blood pressure, temperature, pulse and other useless tests.
She says the doctor will be with me in a minute, but I’ve enough experience in emergency rooms to know I could sit there for an hour, completely alone. The nurse instructs me to take off my shirt and put on the hospital gown. This is dense because any exam is gonna be below the waist, where I’m still wearing jeans and and not above my waist, which is required to be covered with the hospital gown. I don’t point this out because it won’t get me anywhere. Arguing with medical personnel is like arguing with the cops. They always win because they don’t care about you and want you to do what they say before they decide to make your life even more difficult.
I don’t argue with the police. I don’t argue with nurses. You will not win and if, by long chance you do win, they do something to get revenge and teach you victory is not worth the price.
As I watch people zombie-walk around the emergency room, it becomes apparent that there are two doctors. One is a guy around fifty or so, so that’s okay. The other, however, is a young good-looking woman. So the question is, which one do I want fondling my testicles? By that I mean fondling in this situation, not somewhere private with soft music. That choice would be easy.
The guy doctor would be less psychologically complicated, checking stuff out professionally and dispassionately. On the other hand, I rather enjoy young, good-looking women talking about and touching my testicles. But this is a woman I don’t know, she probably won’t care and any fondling will be painful.
The doctor comes in. It’s her. She picks up the chart and reads through it. “You’re sure no injuries?” she asks.
“No,” I say, “it just started hurting.
She looks at me, tapping the chart. “We’re going to need a sample, we’ll run some tests and then see where we are.”
Sometime later, the nurse comes in and gives me a little cup to fill and shows me where the bathroom is. I provide a sample and then return to my curtain condo to wait probably another hour. During this time, a little kid is brought in, screaming like a ghost was chasing her. They put her in the exam room next to mine and try to calm her down so they can examine her. No dice, she’s ready to cry and, by golly, that’s what she’s gonna do. I resist the urge to go next door and take over. I know I can shut her the hell up.
A little later in forever the doctor returns and tells me I have an infection in a small organ just behind my testicle. Some antibiotics will clear it up in a week or so and she’ll prescribe some pain pills so I can get around. I thank her and get up off the bed.
“However,” she says,”I’d like to do a physical examination also.”
There it is. She said she’d ‘like’ to. How should I interpret this? I say, “Okay,” and undo my jeans dropping them and my underwear to the floor.
Next we play a game of stare down. Both of us have decided we’re not going to be embarrassed, not going to be the one to blink and blush. She fondles around for a while with a professional face; I keep a straight, blank face. It’s not a pleasant experience because it hurts and she’s being a little rougher than I generally like. Is this revenge for something in her past?
She finishes up and says, “Everything seems normal, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Does any of this have any double meaning? Should I ask her out and maybe talk her into a more detailed, longer examination?
But no, it’s almost certainly professionalism. I thank her and put my pants back on. She leaves; on to the next patient. I wait to be told to go home, which happens after another quarter hour or so.
I go out and pass through the early morning patient group, a more active selection of problems. Cut hands from bagel slicing. Others who got no sleep due to one problem or another and have now decided to make the trip in.
Outside, I stare down the security guard and let the dog out to pee before we drive home. I’m still thinking about that exam, though. Was it really necessary? Was it an invitation or just a chance to embarrass me? I’ll never know.
I put the dog in the truck and we head off to the 24-hour pharmacy, another mystery added to my life.
Cruise on over to Amazon.com and get a copy of “Closing Night, Thank God”.