Posted Tuesday November 11, 2008
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Advances in surgical techniques have been impressive.
Brain surgery is done with a small hole to allow access for tiny instruments and cameras. Kidneys, liver, gall bladder, heart, lungs and miscellaneous other parts are routinely repaired or removed using minuscule access holes, high density cameras, robotic instruments, computers and teams of skilled technicians.
So, why is my surgical scar for a radical prostatectomy so long you could have slipped bricks inside and never touched skin?
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. The morning of the surgery, they couldn't locate a man to shave me. Recognizing the need to shave in places where the sun doesn't shine, the nurse inquired if I'd mind having a woman do it.
"Bring her on," I said.
Soon, a wiry, middle-aged, I-dare-you-to-contradict me woman appeared through the curtain, took two quick steps to the bedside, flipped up my gown and declared, "Don't worry, sir, I've seen it all." She produced a set of electric trimmers, like the ones barbers use.
For a few moments, I was relieved, not having to risk a razor blade in this woman's hands, but my relief was short lived; because, instead of setting the trimmer's smooth running surface against my skin, she stood the reciprocating cutting edge straight up against my flesh and began dragging it across the surface in short, aggressive strokes.You must imagine all the places the woman traveled with those clippers, knowing the surgical point of entry below the navel. It was as if she couldn't get her mind off a layabout boyfriend, with every surge against me striking a blow to his lazy butt. Wanting to avoid conflict, I just took it, staring at the acoustical ceiling, clinching the sides of the narrow bed and wondering if the actual surgery could be any worse than this ordeal.
Women in child birth are often given an epidural procedure to minimize discomfort during delivery. In addition to putting me blissfully to sleep, I awoke with one of those, a needle in my back attached to a machine that automatically renewed the medicine every few seconds. Weird doesn't describe the experience. For a couple of days, I could see my legs, feet and toes, but they might as well have been on somebody else, because to my brain they were absent without leave. If you're going to be violated below the waist, get an epidural.
Later that day, the surgeon appeared to give his post-operative reassurance. He was confident about having removed all the cancer and, as he was leaving, he remarked that my prostate was over four times normal size, having been that way most of my life.
Four times normal size! Glancing at my wife, for me the perfect nurse, I grinned and said, "Told you." In return, I got a sarcastic grunt. We heard the doctor laughing as he left.
One concerned nurse inquired, "Is your stomach always this round?" I had to admit that it is.
Prostate removal requires the surgeon to mess with one's bladder and urethra more that he'd like to. This results in incontinence for all patients, temporary for most and, in a small percentage, permanent. They keep close track of this during post-operative care.
About a month after surgery, over the course of a weekend, I went from flowing uncontrollably to barely flowing at all. It was as if somebody turned a faucet down to a trickle. "You have a scar tissue obstruction and we have to fix it," said the good doctor, as he had me lie back on the exam table and proceeded to "fix" it.
I can't get too graphic, but when was the last time you had a plumber stop by and run a plumber's snake down into your drain lines. Get the idea?After a trip up there with a scope, to see what was going on, he went in again, all the way to my bladder, with a tube designed to stretch the tissue. About now I'm thinking how wonderful that pre-operative shave felt, but he was only beginning. He did it four more times, each time with a larger tube. Having skipped breakfast that morning, somewhere along the line I fainted in a puddle of sweat.
Compared to this, Roto-rooter is high tech.
Not being content with having it happen once, I developed a second obstruction a couple of weeks later, but this time it was going to take six men and a hank of rope to hold me on that exam table. Conceding that he'd lost the element of surprise, the doctor agreed to let me sleep through the second drain clearing. I did so, with gratitude.
On the next follow-up visit, I had to report a continued loss of control, something the Depends company thrives on, but unwelcome news for me and the doctor. After three invasive procedures, the nerves and muscles programmed to deal with control had taken a beating.
"How long will it take, Doc, before I'm back in my boxer shorts?"
"As much as a year, maybe sooner, but in the meantime, here's something you can wear." Looking into my hand, he placed there a device labeled a "Cunningham clamp."
It might has well have said Craftsman, because, folks, a clamp is a clamp.
"Wear this as much as you can, until more internal healing takes place."
For a few months, I was seen around town carrying a diaper bag, but with no grandchildren in tow. In the bag was my backup, in the event of clamp failure.
So, there you have it, apparently cured from cancer, using the technology of the Industrial Age, instead of the Space Age.
Slice him open huge. Dig around in there and cut out the offending organ. Don't sew him up, use staples like you'd find in a box labeled Bostitch, creating a belly scar that resembles Arabic graffiti. Use Roto-Rooter techniques to clean him out, once while he's wide awake. Then apply a Craftsman tool-like clamp to seize the flow.