Male infertility: Procedure done, recovery underway

NOTE: You may want to start at the beginning of this series. All posts can be found here.

We are a week out of my varicocele embolization procedure, and we're almost back to normal. Astonishing.

Everyone at Candler was wonderful. I'm not going to name any names, though, because I'm going to talk about drugs and wimps and what we expect from comfort.

Before the procedure, my wife thought to ask what we should do about pain relief. A physician's assistant told her ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as they would not send us home with narcotics.

I've heard the Bell brothers say ibuprofen and acetaminophen together work as well as or better than opioids and are not addictive, so that was my plan going in. I had some 500mg and 200mg ibuprofen tablets in the house, and I picked up some 500mg acetaminophen tabs as well.

Otherwise, I planned, per the PA's orders, to wear comfortable clothing, not eat or drink anything after midnight and to come in at 8am.

I stopped with the food and drink at 11:30 Tuesday night, finished working at 3 a.m. Wednesday, went to bed, woke up a few hours later to take the dog out and grab a quick shower.

At the hospital, I put on the lovely open-backed gown, got my prep talk, signed my waivers and a nurse offered me a Xanax to keep me calm until they got the Fentanyl into my veins.

Quick aside: I was journalistically curious about Fentanyl. It kills a lot of people, including Prince, Tom Petty, Slipknot's Paul Gray, Jay Bennett of Wilco, pro wrestler Anthony Durante (Pitbull #2) and a whole bunch of other people.

I declined the Xanax; I was already tired and pretty chill and, frankly, the fewer drugs they can give me the better.

The doctor stopped by to say hello, give a quick overview of what was going to happen and he promised to swing back and let my wife know when all was good.

The short version of what was going to happen: Give me an IV, stick a catheter in a vein in my neck, drop in springs to block blood flow in the wrong direction in the affected vein, let the blood find another way to get to my testicle that didn't involve a varicose vein and send me on my way.

They stuck the IV into my hand (not connected to anything), wheeled me into the operating room, had me scoot from the cot to the table, and then they did some stuff like shave part of my chest, put a tent over my face and tell me to turn my head to the left (I was all good with that stuff, but I guess some people at that point are freaked out, which is why the Xanax). Then they started the Fentanyl drip.

And let me tell you: I get it. I was aware of everything that was going on and I did not give a shit. And I guess it doesn't take much to kill you. I vaguely remember the doctor really liking the length of the springs so he didn't have to send too many in.

Apparently the doctor then left, told my wife he wished he could relax as well and as quickly as I did (I don't think anyone told him I'd had maybe three hours of sleep), and pretty soon I was awake and they were asking me to scoot from the table back to the cot.

They wheeled me back to hang with my wife. I had the IV in my hand, still, with nothing attached to it, and I was hooked to a machine reading my vitals. They told me they'd need to keep me two hours; after 10 minutes I was (in my head anyway) ready to go.

And then I had to pee.

They handed me a pitcher, and then began what might be the longest 45 minutes of my adult life to date.

The nurse told me I was supposed to lie flat, but that she would prop my head up a little because men typically have a lot of trouble urinating while lying flat.

That was 20 minutes of my life until a different nurse came by and took the thing measuring my pulse off my left hand and told me I could try rolling on my side.

And that was 20 minutes of my life until my wife figured out how to pull down the rails on the bed so I could get a foot on the floor

She's a life-saver, that one.

After about an hour and a half, my vitals had settled. My pulse was back at 54, which is a little higher than my normal resting rate, and my blood pressure was a high-normal 130/68, but considering I'd just had a procedure and was resting uncomfortably in a hospital bed, let's call that normal-normal.

They offered me the opportunity to walk myself the 15 feet to the restroom rather than take a wheelchair ride. I handled it just fine. Afterward, they sat me in a wheelchair, pulled out the IV, handed me a prescription for Percocet (despite the fact the PA mentioned they wouldn't give me narcotics) and wheeled me to my wife's car.

I was left with some gauze on my hand where the IV was, to come off in an hour, and a patch on my neck where the catheter had been, to come off in 24 hours.

Well that’s not my fave way to spend Wednesday morning but home and doing fine.

A post shared by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

Now, unlike the Fentanyl, I had no curiosity about Percocet. I know it makes my mother vomit, and I know that codeine makes both my mother and me vomit, so there was a good chance that Percocet would make me ill as well. I also know it's highly addictive, and I have the sort of personality who totally got Fentanyl in under three minutes.

I spent the rest of the day just hanging out. My neck was a little stiff, like I'd slept funny, and I didn't have a lot of mobility thanks to the patch, but otherwise, I felt pretty good.

I took some ibuprofen and acetaminophen before bed, and then again when I woke up.

Thursday, my first full day out of the procedure, was a day of alternately relaxing and pacing. I took the dressing off my neck at about the 24-hour mark as prescribed, and I was moving slowly but I was moving.

Friday, I was moving a little better for a while, but I usually have the family over for dinner on Fridays and sitting in our wooden-seated kitchen chair for a while proved to be a mistake; Saturday I woke up with some soreness in my groin.

I worked both Saturday and Sunday, sitting on the recliner rather than at my desk, getting up every 20-30 minutes to move around, sometimes working from a standing position for 10 minutes or so at a time.

Monday came with no pain for the first time. I took the dog for a long walk, and when that was done, I drove downtown (the first time I'd driven more than about 50 yards), and walked for another couple of hours. I felt great.

Yesterday, I got to the gym for the first time, but took it easy. After taking the dog on a nice long walk before it got hot (you try being a black dog in 85-degree heat), I hopped on the elliptical for 15 minutes, lifted a bit (much lighter than I normally would lift) and walked on the treadmill for another 15 minutes. I managed to sit at my desk for work, with no pain other than a 13-inning Red Sox loss.

What's Next?

Now, we wait. Over the next few days, I should get back to normal; hopefully by the weekend I'll be able to get a short run in; I may have to take another week off racquetball and it'll take some time to get back to lifting full strength, I'm sure.

Since it takes about three months for new sperm to generate, I'll schedule a new seed test in late August, maybe early September.



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