Still reading? Probably poor judgment, but here goes. (Oh, wait! If you're my daughter, go read something else.)
After last Monday's heart procedure, I came home for some quiet recuperation. The discharge instructions said I could resume "normal" activities after 48 hours. That "normal" came with a wink and a nudge. In the next sentence, I was also permitted to fly jets and to play concert-level piano. Wink-nudge.
Sometimes, even the Mayo Clinic takes a divot not called for in the manual. So I discovered Wednesday night when my left thigh suddenly swelled up like a purple watermelon. You know how a ripe watermelon sounds when you thump it on the side? I took that as a bad sign and signed myself into the Largo Medical Center. Thus began the grand tour of Newt's groin.
The watermelon problem was quickly isolated to a leaky artery that was dumping blood into my thigh at an unacceptable rate. Any rate above zero, as you might suspect, is unacceptable. SPOILER ALERT: I'm still alive and only mildly disgruntled as I write this. More on that later.
First thing you do at LMC, like any other emergency room, is shed both your clothes and your dignity, donning instead an opens-too-wide-in-the-back johnny. Of course, the site of my leaky artery was not in the back; it was in the front, tucked into that darkly private little crease betwixt thigh and belly. In principle, I suppose, I'm not too sensitive about that rarely seen crease, but more so about some other junk that I keep nearby. "Let's take a look at what you've got," is the way the first nurse put it. I decided not to challenge her phrasing.
What followed was a whole lot more peeking, prodding, ultrasounding and general Brownian motion that left any previously unshed dignity in a heap on the floor. "Are you experiencing any discomfort, honey?"
In the next hour, I entertained a parade of doctors, nurses, ultrasound technicians, cleaning ladies, and even a couple of drunks getting a jump on New Year's Eve. Everybody wanted a "quick peek." Several actually phrased it that way.
Now, there is a whole subculture that thinks nothing could be more titillating that being free to waggle their willie in front of an appreciative audience of (mostly) young, (mostly) attractive women. Richard Gere and Kevin Bacon leap to mind. Right. Not in their class, not at all. In fact, in a little-acknowledged function of male anatomy, the willie in question had retreated to the general vicinity of my pancreas, leaving its two brethren to fend for themselves. I wanted to say, "But wait! There's more." Billy Mays would have.
An itinerant "interventional radiologist," who remains to this day nameless, managed to plug the critical hole using some bovine-byproduct clotting stuff, and that put an end to the actual medical emergency. But the casual tourists kept coming. The marquee outside the LMC had my name in lights and was promising to show the movie trailer (somewhere most of this exists on digital video, so watch for me on YouTube).
What's deeply disturbing about this whole sordid incident is how quickly the utter absence of personal privacy becomes normal. At one late stage of the proceedings, an anonymous but youngest-of-all ultrasound girl was repeating the by-now routine groin probing. As she pressed the cell-phone-sized U/S probe into my once-private crease, she casually and - alas - innocently rested the edge of her working hand on my, uh, junk. The soul-seering pain came not from the casual groping but from the innocence behind the gesture. Ah, the pain of being judged - in the final analysis - irrelevant.