Saturday, June 8, 2013

Funny Things About Surgery

A couple of bouts of severe abdominal pain sent me in to see my nurse practitioner in search of the reason why. After looking at the nurse’s pre-exam summary, Sue walked into the exam room with a very concerned look and asked what was wrong with me.

“You’re the medical expert,” I said, “but you know me well enough to know that I've been on the internet researching and guessing.”

“Yes, and that’s why I’m asking. You know your health and symptoms better than I do.”

Sue and I have an excellent patient to doctor relationship. She never condescends and always takes my own opinions and concerns into account. Gallstones were high on the list of possibilities but Sue also found a slight abdominal tenderness over my appendix. Whatever my ailment was, we were in agreement that it was likely serious and I was off to radiology.

One CAT scan and one ultrasound later I was on my way to see a specialist. I already knew that the common cure for gallstones wasn't a morning after pill for whenever you had an attack. Likewise, when I drove up to the address of the specialist, the sign outside of the building reading Sun Coast Surgical Associates gave a clear enough connotation.

Right away, I knew that, when these people write prescriptions, it is to help you through that pain of what they put you through, rather than for the cure of what ails you.  They strip you naked, shave your body hair and roll you into a chilly little room. Next, they confirm who are and why you are there.

My name is too androgynous for some people. I can just imagine going into surgery for an appendectomy and coming out with a hysterectomy because they had patient mix-up.  Last, they ask if you have any questions before your lights go out. You start to ask for a postponement but your lights go out anyway.

The surgeon was a nice enough fellow. Having done my research, I was familiar with most of what he was talking about. He confirmed, from the CAT scan results, that I had gallstones. He went on to explain the process and procedure for the surgery to remove the gallbladder.

I can’t shake the notion that this surgeon is determined to take out my gallbladder because that is what he does. If he was a cobbler and I walked in with a hole in my shoe then he would try to sell me retreads. It might be more about what the man does than what is best for me.

Try as I might, though, I can’t find any reputable non-surgical cures for gallstones. At the same time, I can find a few people that wish that they still had their gallbladder. That is, if they had it minus the pain of attacks, of course. The medical school of thought is that, though the gallbladder has a function, people can live reasonably healthy lives without one.

I tend to think a little farther outside of the box than most people. This is especially amplified when it comes to laying naked on a table, in a chilly room and succumbed into a drug induced nap, while somebody pokes around in my innards. Why couldn't we have two gallbladders and two livers just as we have two kidneys and two gonads?

It’s a lot easier to be okay with removing an organ if there is an identical one left to take care of things. I know a guy who lost one gonad and he does as well at everything with one gonad as he did with two. It just took him a little while to get accustomed to the hang of things.

When you think about it, a man could get along without a penis, too, but who would want to? Imagine hobbling into a surgeon’s office with a penis inflamed and swollen to the size of a baseball bat. You’d be tripping over the thing and then the nurse would tell you get into a gown. What would be the use unless she had an ankle length version?

“Please follow me down to radiology for a CAT scan… or… do you need a wheelchair?”

“A wheelchair would fine,” I would say. “However do you have one with wheelbarrow or shopping basket attached in front?”

When the doctor looked at the CAT scan results and did the physical exam he would look concerned.

“Well, it’s going to have to come off. Don’t worry, though. A lot people do just fine without a penis.”

“Oh yeah, women, and eunuchs, just to name a couple.”

I’d be sitting there imagining life without the male member. I could sit to pee. That wouldn't be problem unless somebody left the toilet seat up or peed on it. I have another, one only, organ that could keep my partner happy. Though, I’d have to be careful because Michael Douglas got throat cancer doing that.

There would be no more clandestine meetings with Mary Palm and the five sisters. My excitement would be limited to nocturnal emissions. I don’t even know if that still works. It hasn't happened since I was an adolescent. Even if it does work, it would be like spitting with no lips.

This also causes me to recall a man that I once knew who kept his diseased hip bone after a hip replacement. After he recovered, he drove all over the state to tell all of his friends and relatives a play-by-play of his hip replacement surgery. As soon as he started telling the story his wife would say, “Mikie, go out to the truck and get your Dad’s hip.”

The kid would bring back this nasty looking bone in a jar of alcohol or formaldehyde or something and it would be get passed around the group and set onto the supper table. I should also mention that he always arrived near enough to supper time to mooch a free meal.

This started me thinking that maybe, if I do get my gallbladder taken out, I can keep it for a souvenir, too. I could set that prize up on the supper table and tell the story just like I don’t remember it because I was in a drug induced nap. It would go something this.

“Well, they brought me into this chilly room and a nice fellow told me that my lights were about to go out. Sure enough, that’s what happened. Next, they were poking holes in my belly and shoving tools in there to rip out my gall bladder…”

You might also enjoy Funny Things About Medical Tests.


  1. it's kind of daunting all the things we have to go through.

  2. Glad your friend got the "hang of things" - cracked me up!

    1. Thank you for the read and comment, Chris! I'm very glad that you enjoyed it.