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Saturday, July 27, 2002
CAUTION: If you are male, and if you have ever considered having a vasectomy, DO NOT READ THIS POST. If you are female and want your significant other to consider a having a vasectomy, DO NOT ALLOW HIM TO READ THIS POST.

No one to whom this story has been related has ever had a vasectomy.

This story is completely true. Well, OK, I might have embellished some minor details. Judge for yourself. The events described in this story occurred some fifteen years ago, beginning immediately after the birth of my son, our second child.

My wife looked at me from the delivery table and said, “Birth control is now YOUR problem.” (You would think she had been planning that, wouldn't you?)

Being the wuss that I am, I thought of all the years during which she had shouldered the responsibility and taken risks (albeit slight ones) to avoid becoming pregnant until we wanted children, and I agreed that I could shoulder the responsibility for a while.

And I did. I tried various methods. All of them worked. None of them were acceptable.

As a result of the birth control problem, we began to make love less often. That, too, was unacceptable. So I finally broke down and went to the urologist to see about a vasectomy. I asked some friends in the medical profession about the problem (none of whom, to my knowledge, had had a vasectomy) and they recommended a guy in a nearby town, whose office was across a busy street from the regional hospital. I called and got an appointment with him the following week.

I should have known that this was not a good idea from the start. The doctor looked like the Good Humor Man. For those of you not residing within the marketing area of Good Humor, the company markets ice cream. From trucks. My doctor looked like the driver of an ice cream truck. The kind that blasts out "Turkey in the Straw" or some other inane tune at high volume to let all the children in the neighborhood know that he's coming. Hearing "Turkey in the Straw" played thousands of times a day at eardrum breaking volume has to have an effect on the brain. Note to neurologists: There's a research project in there somewhere. Note to trial lawyers: Wait for the research to be completed before filing your class action suit.

Dr. GoodHumor and I discussed the issues involved and he says, “Oh, yeah, we can do this next week, right here in my office.” I reluctantly agree to an appointment the following Wednesday.

The Monday before that Wednesday, however, Dr. GoodHumor calls up and says he has a problem. He never had chicken pox as a child and now he has been exposed to it. He is perfectly fine, but now he is a carrier of the chicken pox virus (bacteria?). There is no problem for me, because I had chicken pox as a child, but his schedule is shot to shit. Can he postpone the Wednesday office visit in favor of a Saturday procedure at the hospital? I have no problem with putting off the day of reckoning.

The appointed day arrives and my mother in law comes up to watch the kids while my wife and I drive to the hospital (they won’t let me drive home because of the anesthetic). It is a cold, gray, rainy March day. The car is reluctant to start. Another warning received. Another warning ignored.

We get to the hospital and go to outpatient minor surgery. “Oh, yes, Mr. Gage, you go right in there and get undressed, and the doctor will be with you shortly.” My wife sits down to read her book.

I sit on the (icy) table wearing that stupid "johnny" waiting for the doctor, who bustles in with a nurse in tow. After a few forced pleasantries, I lie down, he injects the local anesthetic (very definitely NOT a fun thing) and starts to work. A few minutes into the procedure, I look at him and say, “I need a drink of water.” He glances up from my (shaved!) testicles and says, “Sure thing. Just let me finish up what I’m doing right now and I will get you some water.” I don’t press the issue, but about 30 seconds later, I look up at him and say “NOW!”

And I faint.

Dr. GoodHumor feels for a pulse. No pulse at the wrist. No pulse at the carotid. “Oh shit, I’ve killed him,” he thinks (as he told me later). He runs over to the phone and dials the special number that you dial when you call in a heart attack. The operator is supposed to answer that number with two words: “What room?” Dr. GoodHumor gets a new operator. “Can I help you?” The doctor gives her a thumbnail sketch of the situation, hangs up and runs back to me, where he commences to beat me about the face (slap, really), screaming “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”

My wife, a former hospital worker, hears “Code Blue, minor outpatient surgery” and, without more, knows exactly what is going on. Did I mention that my wife is a very smart woman? It turns out that Olga Operator, the new switchboard lady, neglected to give the crash cart team the suite number I was in. She just said that someone in minor surgery was having a heart attack. So the crash cart team comes running in to the waiting room and starts looking around for a body lying on the floor.

My wife, bless her heart, stands up, points to the door of my suite and says, “Over there” in the calmest, most blasé manner imaginable.

In the meantime, Dr. GoodHumor’s gentle ministrations have finally had an effect and I have come to. I wake up on the table, naked from the waist down, clamps hanging off me and blood all over the place.

And seventeen THOUSAND people come running into the room. The crash cart lady is ready. She is determined. She’s been training for this for years. She has the paddles out and she wants to use them. On me. AND NO ONE IS GOING TO STOP HER!

Dr. GoodHumor performs what I consider to be one of the finest slide tackles I have ever seen (especially considering it takes place on a tile floor) and deflects Crash Cart Cathy from her course. He then takes her aside and persuades her that, despite the Code Blue, her services were not immediately required. To paraphrase Michael Douglas in “The American President”, I do not know what transpired, but I am sure that bribery was involved.

GoodHumor then comes back to me and says that he had completed one “side.” (This is a bilateral procedure. Men have two of them. Redundancy, you know.) He wants to send me home and have me come back in another day for the other side. I am not in very good shape, and I really don’t remember my response.

But then GoodHumor makes a very serious strategic error. He goes to discuss the matter with my wife.

He tells her he wants to send me home and have me come back later to complete the “procedure.” (Billy Crystal is right. There are no “operations” for men over a certain age, only “procedures”.) My wife, who is 5’2” tall and weighs all of 100 pounds, says, “No fucking way. He comes home sterile or I sue.”

The doctor is quite naturally taken aback by this, but my wife verbally beats him into submission and he meekly returns to me to get my consent to continue. Not having any desire to repeat this disaster, I agree to completing the vasectomy. Dr. GoodHumor reluctantly commences work again and is done in relatively short order. I do my part by managing not to die. He then makes me wait around the hospital for about two hours to make sure I am not going to keel over on him (again), during which time he relates the story of Olga Operator. He also confides in me that he had considered doing the vasectomy in his office, but thought, “Nah, I’ll be alone, and I really don’t want to do this alone.”

The image that immediately flooded into my brain upon learning this remains with me to this day. All I could see, as Dr. GoodHumor told me that he had considered doing the vasectomy alone in his office, was a picture of GoodHumor with me (naked from the waste down, clamps hanging off me and blood all over the place) slung over his shoulder and dodging speeding cars as he rushed across the four lane street from his office to the hospital.

The best part of the day was yet to come, however. My wife and I return home and my wife relishes telling her mother the entire story in excruciating detail. My mother in law (who has always been madly in love with me for some odd reason) is very sympathetic and criticizes her daughter for callously making me complete the vasectomy.

And then (being a nurse) my mother in law wants to inspect my incisions.

Not today, mom. I have a headache. Maybe some other time.

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