I was living in New Jersey, working for a large corporation, when the trouble began. What started out as a bit of tenderness in my right testicle had by nightfall turned into a dull pain that made walking uncomfortable. My schedule for the week included key business meetings, as well as attendance at my wife's graduation?she was getting a PhD from Rutgers University. I went to bed hoping that I would feel better in the morning.
The pain worsened overnight. The only doctor available was the endocrinologist who was treating my wife's overstressed thyroid. Dr. Brown, who met us at the hospital emergency room, was a condescending sort who seemed convinced that I had contracted one of the currently fashionable venereal diseases. He passed me on to a rotund, friendly little urologist named Dr. Schwartz, who performed a competent, if painful, exam. His diagnosis and advice were to the point: 1. "These things can really hurt. If you try to leave, you'll be back on a stretcher within an hour." 2. "If you say it's swollen, I'll have to believe you." 3. "I think you have an infection. We'll put you on antibiotics and give you hot sitz baths." 4. "My senior partner, Dr. O'Neill, will see you this afternoon."
I checked into a room, swallowed an antibiotic tablet and chatted amiably with my wife, hoping she would forget the venereal disease innuendoes of that cursed endocrinologist.
Late afternoon, Dr. O'Neill arrived, looking like a Dublin abattoir worker on holiday. I prayed for hidden gentleness. The exam, sans latex gloves, was excruciating. He attempted to soften the pain by distraction, informing me of the large stock portfolio he had accumulated over the years. (I wonder if Torquemada told his victims about his rare book collection.) The diagnosis was clear to Dr. O'Neill. "I don't know what Dr. Schwartz told you, but you have a testicular torsion on the right side. There is this little appendage attached to the testicle that can sometimes become twisted. I've even seen them turn gangrenous. This usually happens to little boys who ride their tricycles too long, so I'll be damned if I know how you got it. If yours doesn't spontaneously untwist, we'll have to cut it off."
"My God, not the testicle!" I gasped.
"No," he replied. "Just the appendage, you moron."
The doctor indicated that he would monitor my situation in the ensuing days, then make a decision as to the appropriate course of action.
My wife, Merle, being justifiably proud of her academic achievements, had decided to pay a visit to the hospital to demonstrate just how fetching a woman can look in a rented black gown and moth-eaten doctoral hood. My roommate, Isaac, a superstitious gentleman from New Brunswick, was convinced that his kidney condition had turned fatal and that the angel of death had come to take him away. After calming Isaac down, I realized that there was someone else in the room. My wife had decided to bring her mother along, primarily to convince her that there was a rationale for my absence from the commencement exercises.
Since an honest description of my condition might have proven jarring to the dear woman, she was simply told that I was suffering from a terrible case of the flu. As a demonstration of her well-documented concern for me, she told me not to worry since she had had the same illness just a few weeks earlier. It didn't surprise me.
In a few days, the pain began to subside, although the condition had spread to the adjacent gonad. This gave the lie to Dr. O'Neill's mono-lateral torsion theory and landed us back in the world of infectious medicine. After two more days of hospitalization, Dr. Schwartz appeared one morning and ordered my release. He indicated that no special follow-up would be required, but that it might be wise to wear a scrotal support for the next few weeks. Imagine my pride when he wrote a prescription specifying a scrotal support, size LARGE. I presented the prescription to Mr. Rabinowitz, our kindly local pharmacist. "Gee fella," he wheezed. "I don't know if I have your size. Do you think you could use an Extra- or Double Extra-Large?" I bought the Extra, hoping I'd grow into it.