Testicular Ultrasound, Muscat, The Sultanate of Oman
In some circles, I’m certain the prospect of a smartly-dressed Indian chap rubbing lotion on your balls would be met with utter delight.
Okay maybe not.
I’m struggling to think of any upswing to my current predicament — lying here in an Omani hospital bed with a testicle ultrasound impending. The pain in my nuts however is thinking otherwise, and when reality becomes too much to bear, my brain is the one overwhelmed by wanderlust. It reminds me of that famous Tolkien quote: “Not all minds that wander are lost.”
See I did it again.
It all started a few weeks prior. One morning I woke up feeling like someone had kneed me in the groin. And that knee-in-the-groin pain, well, it just stayed. Day and night. So I did what most guys in this situation would do — I did absolutely nothing about it.
Except complain like a champ.
LB (Left Ball) was being uncooperative. Red as a beet and hot as a tamale, LB was in agony. A “don’t-touch-me, don’t-even-look-at-me” kind of agony. And no amount of over-the-counter pain medication was going to convince it otherwise. I thought about scoring some weed (you know, the benefits of cannabis for chronic pain and all that), but considering my locale (The Middle East) and that drug-related offences “technically” carry the death penalty, I surmised I valued my head more than my balls, so I suffered on.
My father survived prostate cancer, so the worst-case scenarios were already percolating in my noggin. Testicular cancer? Twisted dangly bit that holds your ball in place? Ball Rot? (That’s a thing, right?) But after two weeks with no relief in sight, the “What Ifs” lost out to the “Maybe I Shoulds” and I finally coaxed myself into seeing a doctor.
KIMS Hospital, Darsait, Muscat, Oman
The setup of KIMS hospital in Muscat is pretty straightforward. Head to the front desk, tell them what ails you, and — after taking your money — they direct you to the correct department and doctor. A sort of triage cashier if you will.
One thing I found interesting is that you pay before any procedure. Or at least as a foreigner with no local health insurance provider, I did. Pay for the initial consultation with the doctor. Then pay for any procedures he or she requests. Then pay for any further follow-up consultation with a specialist. Then pay for what you need at the pharmacy.
I headed to the chap at the front desk to relay my tale of woe (there’s a lady there too, presumably so ladies don’t have to relay their lady-bits problems to a gent), paid him the 10 rials (about $25 USD) for the consultation, and then made myself at home in the seating area, waiting for my turn to be called.
The language of Middle Eastern hospitals is oddly comforting. When Omanis mix with Indians and Pakistanis and Filipinos and Westerners in a collage of cultures, every conversation has a subtle “tiptoe” decorum attached. A graceful verbal dance — an unlikely result when religions and cultures collide.
Doctors and patients here refer to nurses as “sisters.” As in, “Sister, where is the radiology department.” “What time will the pharmacy close sister?” Or, in my case, “Sister, where do you keep the morphine?”
I waited about 30 minutes to see a doctor, and after taking a peek at the boys and determining it wasn’t the worst-case scenario — testicular torsion, a twisting of the testicle that causes blood-flow to the testicle be cut off — he ordered a testicular ultrasound to take a closer look for any abnormalities. Used to long wait times in Canada for things like X-rays, ultrasounds, etc., I was mentally preparing myself for days — possibly weeks — of more testicular pain.
“How long will that take?” I asked.
“If you hurry, you can catch him before he leaves for lunch, otherwise you’ll have to wait an hour.”
Turns out, Oman is a pretty good place to get sick. At least when it comes to wait times to get medical help.
I rushed to the front desk, paid for the ultrasound, and headed on up to the fourth floor.
Now an ultrasound of one’s testicles is a delicate affair. It’s an uncomfortably intimate moment between strangers, laden with the potential for all manner of embarrassing outcomes and scenarios. You know what I’m getting at. But thankfully, the technician (and Ray Jr.) handled it like a pro.
If you’ve never had an ultrasound of your balls, or perhaps, have no balls to speak of, here’s how the process works.
The Testicular Ultrasound
Step 1: Lie on your back on the table provided.
Step 2: Hike your pants and underwear down.
Step 3: The technician will spread some gel on your scrotum (I’m pretty sure mine used K-Y jelly.)
Step 4: The technician will gently rub a magic wand (AKA transducer) over your balls.
Step 5: Sounds waves are converted to electrical signals and sent to a computer where the technician takes snapshots (called sonograms) that are sent to the doctor.
Step 6: The technician hands you a towel and some wet naps to clean the K-Y gel off your balls.
Step 7: You smoke a cigarette, or roll over and go to sleep (or whatever else it is you do after you wipe personal lubricant off your genitalia.)
The whole process took about 15 minutes.
The images taken during an ultrasound look like patterns on a weather map. Right Ball looked like a sleepy night at sea.
Left Ball, well, he looked like Hurricane Katrina.
After the ultrasound I was sent back down to the front desk to pay for my follow-up appointment with the doctor, who would interpret the results.
Turns out the culprit behind this whole assorted testicular pain ordeal was a condition called Epididymo-orchitis.
- Epididymitis means inflammation of the epididymis (the structure next to the testis that is involved in making sperm).
- Orchitis means inflammation of the testicle itself.
Epididymo-orchitis is when the inflammation spreads from the epididymis to the testicle. So basically, since I waited so long to seek treatment, the condition was worse than it had to be.
There are a number of causes of epididymo-orchitis, some of them nasty (STDs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, of which I had neither — phew!), and some of them perfectly simple, like trauma to the nuts or urine flowing backward into the epididymis. So in reality, it can happen to anyone. Well, those of us with testicles of course. And epididymitis does happen to 1 in a 1000 men every year.
A script for antibiotics and I was feeling much better within a week.
So how much did my visit to an Omani hospital cost?
For the initial consultation, the testicular ultrasound itself, the visit to the specialist, and all of the prescription medication, the cost was 71 Omani rials, or about $180 USD. And I was in and out of the hospital in under 3 hours. I can only imagine how much that would have cost in the United States, and how long I would have had to wait for it Canada.
My travel insurance reimbursed me for the money out of pocket, but honestly, pain-free balls are a bargain at any price.
Have you ever been to a hospital in a foreign country? I’d love to hear your story in the comments section below.
* all black and white medical images courtesy of Shutterstock