Excruciating Pain

It all started in September 1966, when I had brain surgery in Cleveland to remove a benign tumor (chromophobe adenoma) that was threatening my life. I was just coming out of a coma caused by extreme pain of the tumor pressing on my optic nerve. Unfortunately, when an ill-trained orderly was assigned to give me a catheter, my woozy brain thought that I was under physical attack, and I struggled with him. That only caused him to try all the harder, which resulted in a scarred urethra which is still with me.

Tomorrow, I visit my urologist for a procedure known as a dilation or a cystogram tray. The doctor sends a catheter with a tiny camera up my urethra all the way to the bladder. The only pain which I think is comparable is a spinal tap.

After I recovered from my brain surgery, I found I had trouble urinating. It reached a crescendo several months later, when during a film screening I was putting on at UCLA, I found I had to urinate—but nothing was coming out. A friend drove me across campus to the UCLA Hospital, where the urologist on duty was sent for, and the passage was widened.

For the next several years, into the 1970s, I had a problem with gradual shutdown of my urethra. Fortunately, in recent years, it isn’t quite so bad. However, my urologist wants me to be dilated every six months. Tomorrow at 11 AM, I go in for my semi-annual torture.

Boy Jeezus, That’s a Pissah!

Bacteria in a Urinary Tract Infection

When I was a student at Dartmouth, we all made fun of the local New Hampshire employees, whom we called emmets. The most typical speech mannerism was the same as the title of this posting. At the time, I never realized the irony of that phrase.

After I graduated from college, and days before I was to head out for graduate school in Los Angeles, I got the mother of all headaches and lapsed into a coma. It turns out that I had a pituitary tumor, called a chromophobe adenoma. Making the right diagnosis in 1966 was a flipping miracle: Remember that MRIs and CAT Scans weren’t around then. All they had to go on were fuzzy X-Rays, and sheer deduction based on miscellaneous hard-to-interpret factors.

With luck, I not only survived, but I made medical history. The only problem is that I paid for it with a scarred urethra caused by some ICU staffer who forced a catheter up my urethra at a time when, groggy with drugs, I thought I was being attacked and resisted what I perceived was violence.

Well, boy Jeezus it was a pissah! For several years, my scarred urethra tended to shut down, forcing a procedure variously called a dilation or a cystogram tray. I have undergone that procedure about eight times over the last fifty-five years, and I’m going to have to undergo it again on Tuesday because I currently am recovering from a urinary tract infection.

This weekend, I leaked so bad I went around in Depends adult diapers. I either peed into the diaper, or had to carefully aim my instrument at the toilet while the stream tried to go in every which direction. The dilation will be a sort of quick fix, but it will result in copious if painful urination for about two weeks until the urethral scars tend to close up again.

There is no pain I have endured in this life compared to a dilation. It’s like fifteen or twenty minutes of being whipped with a cat-o-nine tails.

With luck, the pain will eventually go away, and the urethra will open up slightly … until the next time.

Now, wasn’t that fun?