Sunday, January 13, 2008

The V word

In today's Sunday Times' newspaper there is a column by Phil Haberland about his vasectomy. His was done with a laser-beam instrument. Quick, efficient and painless.

I reflected on my vasectomy performed at Port Moresby General Hospital in 1974.

We were stationed at Popondetta Vocational Centre in the Northern Province of PNG and as Manager of the centre I was to fly to Moresby to buy a new tractor for the centre. I had a Filipino agricultural teacher working at the centre and he told me about his vasectomy done in Manila. It sounded good, so we (Joan and I) thought I should get it done.

Before departing for Moresby I rang the hospital to book in for the op. I talked to the registrar, and Indian chap, who told me he couldn't do it because...'I am katolic'. He did say that there was a English doctor there who could do it. I made the appointment and a couple of days later flew in to Moresby.

The tractor purchase was made and I also bought a small motorcycle which I was to take back on the plane. On the day, I rode the motorcycle to the hospital and parked it in the parking area and entered the hospital and was introduced to the registrar and the Brit. doctor. We walked to an open area which had a banana-lounge type of operating table. I got up on the table and then the Indian bloke came in with some 30 trainee nurses to watch. His religion didn't stop him using me as a teaching aid!

It turned out that the doctor doing the job had never done one before. In fact he was just past his internship in Britain and was a VSO; a British volunteer abroad. Great! He started on me with a local anaesthetic and scalpel. I was interested to see it all and it was quite easy because of the elevated operating table. He made an exploratory slash with the scalpel and dug around in the mush trying to find the luck. This went on for about 15 minutes and the nurses and the registrar left as nothing was happening. The Doc was embarrassed and I was pained.
It took maybe twenty minutes for him to find the tube to be cut and when he did he grabbed it with some forceps and gave it a yank. That little tube seemed to be attached to my neck and my toes as it curled me up with each pull. Having chopped a bit out of the tube he moved on to the other side and with a bit of experience he located the vas deferens in no time. Before I knew what was happening he had left and a native nurse was soaking up the mess and I was left on the table alone in the room. 10...15 minutes passed and nothing. I tried to call out, but all I could manage was a pathetic squeak. So I decided to leave and with a bit of a struggle, got off the table and made my way to the change room and got dressed. I was a bit offside at this stage and walked out to the parking area without paying the 20c outpatients' fee.

I was in no condition to kick-start the bike and asked a local bloke if he could kick it over for me. No success! Port Moresby hospital is in about the flattest place in the town and I had to walk the bike several hundred metres before enough elevation was gained to get on board and do a rolling start. The bike started and I was off. I should have gone immediately back to my accommodation at a friend's unit, but no, I decided on a motorcycle tour of Moresby and surrounding villages. Wrong! It took me three months to get over that 20c operation.

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