Olga Kononenko

The Procedure

Surgeons must be very careful

When they take the knife!

Underneath their fine incisions

Stirs the Culprit — Life!

Emily Dickinson

Some thirty years later, the question remains with me.

“Are you nervous?”

Ummmm nervous? I pondered the question. There I was. A thirty-something-year-old man naked from the waist down with my male questioner’s rubber-gloved hands probing and squeezing around my nether regions.

Ummmm, nervous? I repeated to myself. What a question!! I wondered if the questioner assumed I went through this intimate examination every day and should be calm and relaxed about it.

“No, I’m fine”, I replied in a voice which conveyed anything but that state of mind.

“You are OK on the right side, now let’s see about the left”. My questioner continued to probe and squeeze.

I could not think of a thing to say in reply. I just wished that the talking would stop, and a swift end brought to this whole experience.

My wish came true regarding the talking, but the probing and squeezing continued. What seemed to me to be a long silence followed, adding mental discomfort to the physical pain I already felt.

I, never the optimist, thought he must have discovered something seriously wrong.

My examiner broke the silence, “Good, you are OK on the left side too, so we can undertake the procedure using a local”.

I greeted those words with very mixed emotions. Happy that the examination had not inadvertently discovered some life-threatening condition but nervous that I would now be fully conscious during the procedure that lay ahead.

I knew that many men had undergone this procedure. The more macho dispensed with pain-killing aids, other than maybe self-hypnosis, and then returned to work immediately afterwards. However, I also knew the other side of the story. I knew of men who later could only crawl around on all fours. At the same time, parts of their anatomy required the support commonly only called upon by large suspension bridges.

The examination I had just undergone was to determine how minor or major the procedure would have to be. Before this, I had already attended a ‘counselling’ session with my gruff GP. Unfortunately, it had not been a comforting experience. More an exhortation by the GP of “doing the right thing by your wife”, peppered with quotes such as, “who wants to be a 60-year-old parent with teenage children”. This, along with dire warnings of the consequences of a change of mind after I had undergone the procedure. The counselling also required me to lower my trousers and underwear to my ankles to allow appropriate scrutiny of the relevant part of my anatomy.

This trouser-dropping was becoming a recurring theme. As if I needed practice in this before the main event.

Now that I had successfully negotiated these two steps, I only had to face the procedure. Alas, despite being busy at work, it did not offer much distraction to me in the days before the procedure; in some ways, it was a relief when the day arrived.

I knew from instructions given during an earlier examination how to prepare myself on the morning of the procedure. Therefore, when the day finally dawned, I mentally braced myself for this preparation.

Naked from the waist down (there’s that continuing theme), I watched my then-wife, Veronica, approach with a razor in hand.

“Greater trust hath no man to allow his wife near his unprotected private parts while holding a sharp razor”. I hoped that my wife was not as nervous as I was. I did not want someone whose hand was shaking to perform the required task.

Thankfully, Veronica performed the task with swift efficiency. Moreover, she did not attempt to exploit the advantageous situation in which she found herself by asking for a new dress, handbag, or shoes. Whatever she had asked for, I would have eagerly agreed. Unfortunately, I was in no position to negotiate.

My GP had proscribed some pills to keep me calm during the operation. So, having taken those, Veronica and I made our way to the surgery. However, as we travelled, I did not think the pills had much calming effect. In fact, given what was about to take place, I felt an injection with an elephant tranquilliser would not have had a calming effect.

We arrived at the surgery, and the receptionist asked us to wait. I had hoped to be whisked straight to surgery to avoid prolonging the agony of anticipation of things to come. At least there was no one ahead of me in the queue. I had no desire to watch while a series of men jauntily entered the surgery’s operating theatre and then left with pained expressions and tentative movements.

A voice emerged from within the operating theatre, calling me in. I got out of my chair, gave my wife a quick peck on the cheek, and entered while donning a false air of confidence. Confronted by the surgeon in full regalia, including a face mask, I thought of the punchline to the old medical joke, “so he could not be identified after the event”.

Standing beside the surgeon was a pretty nurse. Knowing what would take place, a lovely nurse was not high on my list of attractions at that moment. I could also see an enormous variety of surgical instruments lined up on a crisp green cloth covering a metal table. Then there was the place of ‘execution’, the operating table covered with a clean white plastic sheet.

“Before we start”, said the surgeon, “we just need to complete the counselling”.

What? I thought. He must be joking. Indeed, he’s not going to ask me, do you still want to go through with the operation now that I’ve seen the instruments of torture?

The pills must have answered “yes” on my behalf when the surgeon asked me, “do you wish to proceed”; afterwards, I had no recollection of my answer.

For support and comfort after the procedure, I had been instructed at an earlier examination to buy some y-fronts two sizes too small. The nurse asked me whether I had the requisite garments with me. I handed them to the nurse, and after vigorous inspection, she confirmed them as appropriate for the task.

“Would you remove the clothing on the lower part of your body, please”, asked the surgeon, “and then get up on the operating table”. This was medical speak for “get ’em off and brace yourself”, I thought.

I did as asked and soon lay flat on my back on the plastic sheet that covered the operating table. Lying in all my glory and awaiting the surgeon to wield knives, needles and goodness know what else over a highly vulnerable part of my anatomy. At least looking up at the ceiling, I could not see what was about to happen.

The surgeon approached me holding a syringe, which looked enormous to my tranquillised mind. At this moment, I was convinced the surgeon would utter, “just a small prick”, to which I was ready with my reply, “sorry, I can’t help it; it’s the thought of the cold scalpel that has me worried”. But instead, I heard the surgeon say, “you’ll feel a small scratch”, and the procedure began.

I soon realised that the nurse was only there to perform one role. That was to distract me from what was happening further down the table. She asked me about my family, children, holiday, and work. Anything other than how do you feel right now? Although, I did have to admit it helped me from dwelling on what might be happening below.

A profoundly unpleasant sensation then surged through my lower body and captured my full attention. It felt like the surgeon was trying to extract my bladder through a hole a little bigger than a penny. He then did something which brought me an intense and deep-rooted numbing sensation and at which I could not help giving out a low but heartfelt ughhhhhhhhhhhh.

“Sorry about that,” said the surgeon, “I should have warned you there’d be some tugging”. ‘Tugging’ is one of those words used by the medical profession to mask the true extent of what was occurring. For ‘tugging’, read extreme discomfort. Another one I discovered was ‘oozing’. Surgeons use ‘oozing’ when anyone else would say bleeding. ‘Oozing’ conveys a slight loss of blood that is of no concern, while their use of the word ‘bleed’ has much more severe connotations.

The’ tugging’ soon ended. My attention shifted from the peripheral conversation with the nurse to activity in my nether regions. When I looked down the table, I saw a strand of thread that appeared a metre long, emanating from my anatomy. At the end of the strand, the surgeons’ hands were a whirl of activity above my prone figure. I was disconcerted to think that all that thread would end inside me. However, I was soon relieved that the surgeon only needed room to work, and he cut away the surplus.

“I know that technique”, I thought to myself, “I use the same one when I sow on a button”. However, I felt it best not to share this parallel with the surgeon.

I thought the stitching signified the end of the operation. Overall, the discomfit had not been too bad. Alas, I did not escape so swiftly as the surgeon walked around the operating table and again picked up the scalpel. “Now for the other side,” he said.

My lack of familiarity during the first part of the operation meant no anticipation of discomfit, such as the unexpected ‘tugging’. This time I would now anxiously wait for the moment in question. I knew that no matter how pretty the nurse was or distracting her conversation was, it would come at some point.

It did, but as before, other than a prolonged ughhhhhhhhhhhh, I endured it and once again, I saw the surgeon finish things up with much whirling of hands and extended lengths of thread. “That’s it. All done”, said the surgeon, “once the nurse has cleaned you up, you can get off the table and get dressed”.

The relevant ablutions duly performed with a business-like efficiency and appropriate decorum, I tentatively eased myself off the table. Once I had two feet back on the floor, I, unfortunately, made the mistake of looking behind me.

My eye fell on the once pristine white plastic sheet now stained deep red. The nurse noticed my startled reaction to this sight.

“Don’t worry”, she said, “a teaspoon of blood goes a long way”.

The pills taken earlier must have again kicked in because, somehow, this statement brought me massive reassurance. I turned away from the operating table to put on my undersized underwear.

Once clothed, I walked gingerly out of the operating theatre. “Are you OK, dear?” Veronica asked. Tactfully not sharing with me what sort of appearance I offered. “Yes, I said with all the bravado I could muster as, with legs akimbo, I slowly made my way to the car. All the while thinking — maybe being sixty and having teenage kids, might not have been too bad!

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