I’ve been meaning to post something for a while but, well, let me put it this way. My mother came to visit and after a few days she asked, “Have you ever heard of Folie à Deux?” For those of you not versed in foreign terms for extremely rare psychiatric conditions, she was referring to a syndrome in which two normally sane individuals become psychotic when together. And she was referring to Eva and Zoe. So I’ve been busy.
I am now going to tell you a tale about Otto’s scrotum. Yes, I know that one day he will likely read this and get very angry with me. But I’ll simply explain to him that by sharing his story, he might save a testicle. Which is a worthy cause, don’t you think?
So last weekend, I opened the baby’s diaper to discover that his right scrotum was very swollen. Which was a bit of a shock, to say the least. But he didn’t seem bothered at all. No crying, no vomiting (other than the usual), nothing out of the ordinary. Except for what was inside his pants. Dr. Zibners ran through her quick list of things that make a baby’s scrotum blow up while Mommy freaked out a bit. And together we decided to practice what’s called “watchful waiting,” meaning we’d just observe over the course of the day. But by that evening it was bigger. So Dr. Zibners removed herself from the case and Mommy called our pediatrician. After talking about how well Otto was otherwise, we decided that it was most likely a fluid collection (hydrocele) and he could see the surgeons on Monday.
Except on Sunday it looked worse. And Otto started to cry.
I called the pediatrician back and within an hour I was at the hospital. 30 minutes later the pediatric surgeon was examining him. An hour after than I was holding my baby while the pediatric anesthesiologist gave him an injection to put him to sleep. And then the surgeon went on a little trip known as a “scrotal exploration.” It sounds terribly exotic, doesn’t it?
Of course, I was terrified. Worst case scenario was that I had missed a twisted testicle, called a torsion. If a testicle twists on it’s blood supply, there is a very short (6 to 8 hours) window to return the blood flow before the testicle dies and has to be removed. This can cause impressive redness and swelling but usually children are extremely uncomfortable as the condition is (usually) very painful. If I had missed that, well, I guess we’d be back to a conversation about my psychotic 4 year-olds, wouldn’t we?
Next worst? An incarcerated hernia, meaning bowel had slipped down into the scrotum and gotten stuck. If not returned to the belly, it can also lose blood flow and part of the intestine then dies and needs to be removed. Again, not good.
The only good part of this whole day was that their father was left at home with the girls. It’s good for him to see what’s that’s like sometimes, don’t you think?
About 90 minutes after I had left Otto in the operating room, I picked him back up in recovery. He was completely drunk after his Michael Jackson style nap and was a sobbing mess. But mostly fine. And the best news?
Epididymitis. An infection of the epididymis, which is a little sac connected to the testicle that helps with sperm maturation one day far, far in the future. The surgeon had cleaned out the infection and even brought me pictures she’d taken during surgery to show me how healthy the testicle was and how angry his epididymis was. (I wasn’t allowed to take them home and hang them on the fridge though. Big bummer.)
So there you go. Otto’s got a little row of stitches in his scrotum but doesn’t seem to mind very much. He’s on antibiotics for a week. And he’ll need an ultrasound of his kidneys to make sure there was no reason for the infection other than plain old bad luck.
And the lesson here? If you open your kid’s diaper and his scrotum looks really weird, call your doctor. And if your baby is screaming and you don’t know why, or your son is walking around like he’s been on a horse for 3 days and refuses to explain himself, take a look down there. Sometimes an ultrasound of the testicles is enough, sometimes the surgeon needs to take a look just to be certain. But either way, it’s his testicle, people. His testicle.