Gonorrhea Maybe

There are a number of things you expect to sacrifice by being in the mission field. You know you're giving up being close to your family. You know you're giving up the comforts of your home culture. You know you're leaving friends behind. But, and I think I can speak for all missionaries here, you don't expect to give up a testicle.

Now this may be more information that you'd like from a blog about missionary experience and theology, if that's you, feel free to move right along. The other option is lots of detail about the nitty gritty of what you might be sacrificing.

Four years ago I had gonorrhea and I all-but lost a testicle as a result.

Well, it might have been gonorrhea, it might also have been the mumps. Apparently two things cause the swelling I had—and the following atrophy that will be with me forever.

I sat in the doctors office after he had done an exam and found Luigi to be about two times the size of Ramone and the doc said, "Hrm.... are you married?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Are you being faithful to your wife?"

"Yes."

"Is she being faithful to you?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure?"

".... well shit. I was." So I pulled out my phone and called her right there in the doctors office. When she picked up I asked her if she had been sleeping around. I expected an incredulous voice, but she calmly asked me to repeat the question (perhaps assuming she misunderstood me), and so I did, and she simply said, "I'm going to hang up now."

The western doctor was a bit befuddled about my condition but we were at a local kidney hospital and he said, "You know what, there is a doctor two doors down, all he does is look at testicles all day long. He'll know what to do." So he stood up and I followed him (slowly, because standing was excruciating) down the hall. He popped in a door while I stood outside. There was a line of men about 50 people long out the door and down the hallway. Each of them in varying states of visible discomfort. Whatever my doctor said got the foreigner bumped to the front of the line and the testicle doctor asked me to come in.

No sooner had I dropped my trousers than the doctor bent down, took a look, popped up and said, "Testicular infection, give him antibiotics, he'll be fine."

And that was that. We walked out and back down the hall to the western clinic. My doctor then said to me, "Man, I wish he had given more of an explanation, but like I said, all this guy does is look at balls all day long. If that's what he says to do, I'm going to trust him. I mean, all he does is look at balls."

I took the prescription and returned home. This was at day 7 of excruciating pain. And the reason it took so long for the diagnosis is another story altogether that may or may not involve the Singaporean woman who sat next to us in church every week holding my testicles unable to discern that one was indeed infected. But the antibiotics kicked in and the swelling was gone about three days later. If the antibiotics cured it, it was gonorrhea. However, when this happens as a result of the mumps (a viral infection), it runs its course in 10 days. Meaning it may have been bacterial and the antibiotics helped, or it may have been viral and the antibiotics did nothing—I simply recovered around two expected timeframes. I was never tested, and in retrospect I really regret not knowing what took Luigi from me.

You don't realize how much having two feels like an insurance policy until you're down to one testicle. Once Luigi was dead, I spent about a month in constant fear that I would lose my last remaining hope and be on artificial testosterone for the rest of my life.

At the time I did have a friend with the mumps. On the other hand two days before the infection reared it's head, I had visited a spa (hot tub, sauna, steam room, cold pool) near my apartment complex. If mumps was the cause, my sick friend is the explanation, if gonorrhea was the cause, the spa explains things (although none of my friends who went with me that night got anything). But I still don't know which it was—I could have gotten tested to find out before I took treatment but I was in so much pain I just wanted treatment.

Laying flat on my back on couches and propping my feet against the wall for a week was humiliating (especially in the office). Riding an electric bike down bumpy roads to and from the doctors office with one leg on the seat, or hovering just above it was humbling and excruciating. Being told by the first doctor I saw, "They look the same size to me, you'll have to wait four days and come back when the male doctor is in," was actually terror inducing. But not knowing to this day what caused all of this is the pain that has lingered. Had I had gonorrhea, I would at least have bragging rights.