In Defiance of the Night

Chapter 10

Two weeks after my surgery, I was scheduled to have my catheter removed. There are many celebrations people treasure throughout their lives: birthdays, graduations, weddings, and the birth of their children come to mind. But for a man, there is nothing so glorious, so otherworldly as having a catheter retracted from his schmeckle.  Sure, a first kiss is thrilling, a promotion is grand, but the unleashing of one’s Johnson tops them all. Trust me, you are spirited to climb the highest tower and sing the opening refrain from Barbra Streisand’s hit:

“Free again, back to being free again.

Back to being me again

With all my precious freedom,

My precious, precious freedom.”

It makes me misty just thinking about it.

BUT it did not come so easily. On the fateful day, I ran the gauntlet through two horrific procedures. The first was under a fluoroscope at Kadlec Medical Center. The object was to make a movie of my bladder to determine if there was any urine leakage from the surgery. If seepage were detected, I would be required to retain the catheter for two more weeks. Please don’t make it so.

I was told the procedure was easy. “A walk in the park,” they all said. They lied like a sadistic orthodontist.

I lay on a table with a camera positioned over my bladder, which is not my best side. Then, a perky female technician rolled in an IV pole with a clear quart-size jar of fluid.

I gulped. “What are you going to do with that?” I asked.


The answer came from the radiologist who stepped into view. “I’m Dr. Hatchet,” he said (not his real name, but close enough). “We’re going to stream the liquid into your bladder.”

“To see if it leaks?”

“That’s correct.”

“I see,” I said timidly. “And how much fluid are you dumping in?”

Although I can’t be sure, I think Dr. Hatchet wiped off a smirk. “Not all of it. Only three hundred milliliters.”

Three hundred milliliters! A virtual punchbowl! Before the operation, my average spillage was one third the volume. And now my bladder had even less capacity. “I don’t know if I can take that much,” I said, my voice beginning to quaver.

The radiologist pursed his lips. “Well, we’ll find out, won’t we.”

What’s this “we” business. There was no “we.” There was only me, with a tube jammed into Mr. Willie, who clenched at the thought of becoming an aqueduct.

Dr. Hatchet slipped into a booth with a large window that overlooked the fluoroscope, the sinister bottle of fluid, and me—the ham sandwich. He switched on the microphone. “Open the valve,” he said to the technician.

I expected a slow trickle. What a dope. Bubbles rushed to the top of the bottle. The liquid gushed from the topsy-turvy tureen and into my bladder.

“Fifty milliliters,” Hatchet announced. “Sixty milliliters.”

My bladder was aching. Then as the fluid backed up into my kidneys, my lumbar seized.

“Seventy-five milliliters.”

Now my gut and back throbbed, then pounded, then hammered. “Everything hurts,” I said, my voice a cry for mercy.

“Eighty milliliters,” the doctor said. “Breathe.”

Don’t tell me to breathe, you putz. Breathe this. The pain was a solid nine and heading north. I was huffing hard and fast. People in the waiting room must have thought I was giving birth. “Damn,” I said between clenched teeth.

“Okay, hold on. We’ll go to one hundred and fifty milliliters. Just keep breathing.”

I panted like a heatstroke wolfhound, but it didn’t help. At one hundred and twenty-five milliliters, I was howling.”

“That’s it,” Hatchet said. “We’re stopping.”

The technician immediately backed out the fluid.

“Ohohoh,” I said, the word escaping in sputters. The relief eclipsed the most legendary drain of sewage.

“Good news,” Hatchet said. “There was no leakage. The catheter can come out this afternoon.” The doctor stared at me, his face scrunched as if catching a whiff of something rank. “I’m…well, sorry.”

Somehow, “sorry” never sounded so hollow.


Four hours later, I walked into my urologist’s examination room. His name is Julio Slongo, a young and amiable physician, born in Brazil and fluent in four languages. We babbled in French until we both realized it was a good idea to switch to English when the subject turned technical.

He’s a doctor who dislikes formalities. From our first exchange, we addressed each other by our first names, which is also my preference.

At this meeting, he was happy to hear my bladder had not leaked. “But there’s one other thing we have to do before removing the catheter,” he said.

My sigh was so heavy my chest caved. “What now?”

“When the catheter comes out, we have to make sure you can still urinate.”

“And if I can’t?”

He said the awful words. “Then we’ll have to keep the catheter in for two more weeks.”

“Damn it, I’ll piss,” I said, roughing up my language for emphasis.

Julio chuckled. “We’ll see. I’m going to inject fluid into your bladder.”

“Hold on there, cowboy,” I said. “That’s what the radiologist did. And it hurt like hell.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t get around it.”

I stared into Julio’s brown eyes. “All right,” I said. “But just understand my right hand is very close to your crotch. You hurt me, and I’ll hurt you.”

Julio laughed but not for long. “A hundred and fifty milliliters should do it,” he said. “Stand up.”

I stood on a small absorbent pad in the middle of the examination room, my pants pooled around my ankles.

Using a syringe, he injected seventy-five milliliters of water into a side-port of the catheter. I could feel the familiar pain building—first in my bladder, then in my right kidney. Then, in violation of all that was holy, he reached for a second syringe and pressed down on the plunger.

“Mother,” I thundered, which was not a term of tenderness. Because he was on one knee on the floor. I grabbed him by the shoulder. I’m not sure how hard I squeezed, but it must have caught his attention, because he stopped injecting the fluid.

Then, without warning, he slipped the catheter out of my penis in a single stroke, which was followed by a cascade of clear liquid that puddled the pad and floor.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it. That’s routine.”

“Well, not to me.”

“Yeah, for you too,”  Julio said, handing me a plastic container calibrated in milliliters. “All right. Let’s see how much you can urinate.”

Concentrating on Mr. Willie, I commanded him to piss. Come on, big fella, you can do it. A modest pinkish flow first dribbled, then streamed. It was not a torrent, more like a modest spill, but apparently enough to satisfy Julio.

“Good job,” the doctor said. “You made the cut. You’re now catheter free. But—”

“There’s a ‘but’?” I squawked.

Julio’s eyes turned darker. “Yes, Allen. If you don’t urinate by seven o’clock this evening, you need to go to emergency to have a catheter reinserted.”

With jaw jutted and back straightened, I said resolutely, “I will pee.”

And I did.

Free again, back to being free again.

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