Ah yes, by the title of this new entry in the Fatherhood series, some of you might be imagining a sweet, sentimental piece about me taking the girls to see the classic ballet based upon the legendary Tchaikovsky score, a performance which has enchanted untold millions during the Holiday season for well over half a century. But alas, this is not that story. Rather it is one which recalls the tragedy of how much damage a small three year old girl can do to a man's nether regions. Like the famous ballet, this story will be told in two Acts.
It was four days before Christmas and I was having a fun and loving moment with Elli, the kind of which fathers tuck in their heart and forever cherish. Just me and my youngest little girl, crawling and wrestling around on the floor, hearing her precious giggle that I know can melt the hardest of hearts. Then it happened. I don't even recall exactly how, but Ellie managed to land a blow to the gonads with one of her feet. I cried out in pain for a brief moment, but seemed to quickly recover. As a then forty-two year old man, it was not the first time I had taken a shot 'down there'. Minus some minor lingering discomfort, the rest of the evening went along as usual and ended with me falling asleep on the couch.
It was about 2 am when I woke up, now in a good deal of pain, my chestnuts roasting in an open fire of inflammation! The rest of the night I fought to get as comfortable as possible, hoping that once I woke up in the morning I would be feeling better. For some reason, sleeping with my legs positioned like those of a frog's seemed to help. But when I woke up, I felt the same if not worse. I hobbled to the bathroom to take a shower, because warm water seems to be a cure for, well, everything, right!? That's when I noticed that one of the family jewels was now significantly larger than the other. I mean like the difference between a tennis ball and a soft ball. Now I was definitely concerned.
This began the lovely experience of having to explain this kind of injury and how I sustained it over and over and over again to various medical professionals. First it was to my doctor's receptionist in order to persuade her to somehow fit me in for a visit that day. I guess my case was convincing enough that she scheduled an appointment with a physician's assistant early that afternoon. Between the call and my appointment, I applied, along with a dose of Tylenol, the only thing that seemed to bring some relief: ice. Unfortunately, the ice pack that seemed the best fit was pink with a Barbie doll image on it. Along with something else, I could feel my manliness shrinking.
Before too long, I found myself limping in to the doctor's office. After collecting the usual information--insurance, weight, and vitals--I was left alone, naked from the waste down, covered with a thin peace of paper, pondering the fate of my nutuals. Then the PA came in to conduct her inspection. It's always comforting when the first response from someone in the medical field is, "Oh wow!" She went on to voice her concern that I might have "testicular torsion". Here's the clinical summary according to the Mayo Clinic's website:
Testicular torsion occurs when a testicle rotates, twisting the spermatic cord that brings blood to the scrotum. The reduced blood flow causes sudden and often severe pain and swelling...Testicular torsion usually requires emergency surgery. If treated quickly, the testicle can usually be saved. But when blood flow has been cut off for too long, a testicle might become so badly damaged that it has to be removed.
It was then recommended that I immediately get a sonogram to confirm or hopefully reject this potential diagnosis. Of course this was just a simple doctors office and didn't have that capability. So we frantically tried to see if an imaging center had any openings. When that failed, the PA told me to go directly to the Mercy Hospital about 15 minutes away in Folsom, CA. They called the E.R. to let them know my situation was "urgent". And then I was off, driving down the road of destiny, wondering if it was my fate to be neutered like my cat.
After explaining again the nature and cause of my injury, this time to the receptionist in the E.R. , I was directed to sit in the waiting room. There I enjoyed some wonderful Holiday caroling by some guy who was moaning and crying out the Christmas classic, "Oh God, please help me!" He was accompanied by others who were adding their various parts of sniffling and coughing. Given this was a Catholic hospital, everywhere I looked I saw images not of the nativity but of a human being dying one of the most gruesome deaths ever created by humanity. I mean, I'm a big fan of Jesus, but is this the image I want to see in a place I purposely went to in order to, you know, NOT die!?
Eventually I was called into a side room where a panel of three intake nurses would again take my vitals and, yes, again I would recount my story. You know that look people give when they are wanting to be sympathetic but deep down in side are laughing out loud? Yeah, that's the look I got. Thankfully, after a short return to the waiting room and a second chorus of, "Oh God, please help me!", I was whisked away to get a sonogram. I couldn't help but reflect upon the irony as I yet again got naked from the waste down. Just four years earlier I was going to appointments to see Elli via the same technology, witnessing the miracle of life which was growing, in part, thanks to a healthy contribution from this part of my anatomy that was now severely wounded by her own little foot. Upon completion of my photo session, the technician--who by the way also wanted to know how this happened--confidently told me, "Well, you aren't pregnant!"
Then I returned to the waiting room and waited some more. At least, "Oh God, please help me!" guy wasn't there anymore.
the good news and impossible request
So the good news is that they found out that it wasn't testicular torsion. But it was one helluva contusion and it would likely take a few weeks to heal. Until then, it would mean more Tylenol and Barbie ice packs. One thing they asked me to do seemed a little absurd. "Mr. Lewis, you're going to need to keep the area elevated as much as possible." Elevated!? How in the Hell am I supposed to do that!? Spider walk wherever I go like the demon possessed kid in The Exorcist?
Anyways, before I left the hospital I had to stop at one more place to review my insurance. What is the first thing I hear? "Were you treated today as the result of an injury you sustained?" Once again, I told the story.
The next few weeks would be pretty slow going, spending allot of time on the couch with Barbie. I have to credit Red Box for their comedic timing. The day after the E.R. visit, I get this text message from them...
Sometimes it felt more comfortable to hold myself whenever I would get up and walk around. I wondered if I might eventually rival Michael Jackson for the amount of time spent grabbing one's crotch.
Of course, as the physical damage healed, the psychological damage has remained. Now almost two months later, I still flinch and shield my privates when Elli runs at me, guarding my cojones like Scrat with his acorn. I think I might have P.T.D.S.D...Post Testicular Damage Stress Disorder. Only time will tell if true inner-healing can be achieved after the trauma inflicted on me by The Nutcracker.