As told to Femi

As men, our testicles are the mainstay of our reproductive system. Asides from sperm production and storage, they’re also responsible for producing a hormone called testosterone, which is responsible for our sex drive, fertility, and the development of muscle and bone mass. Needless to say, it’s quite important to ensure they remain safe and healthy. Tunde* reached out to me to tell me his excruciating experience with testicular torsion, which almost destroyed his testicles and his dreams of having biological children. Here’s what he had to say.

Before 2014, I never thought I’d have any problems with my sexual organs. I was the average 20-year-old, focused on being young. Of course, that meant having a decent amount of sex. 

It was a regular Thursday afternoon when I felt a sharp pain shoot from my testicles up to my abdomen. I didn’t think much of it until it happened again a few minutes later. This time, it was non-stop. It felt like someone had grabbed my balls and was twisting them violently. I rushed to the hospital with my dad and after four days of tests and excruciating pain, it was discovered that I had a condition called testicular torsion. It’s a condition that occurs when a testicle rotates and twists the spermatic cord that supplies the scrotum with blood. It is usually fixed by surgery but in some cases, the testicle would’ve been deprived of blood for so long that the only option would be to remove it.

Cases like mine.

The doctors told me that my testicle would have to be removed immediately. I didn’t even have time to process the fact that I was about to lose a testicle and might never have biological children. I was wheeled on a gurney into the operating ward and surgery preparation commenced all around me. As the nurses prepared solutions and took my vital readings and the attending doctor did surgery prep, I lay on the table wondering how this came to be. 

My father had also suffered from testicular torsion. He had a testicle removed when he was 55 years old. I later discovered that most males who get testicular torsion have an inherited trait that allows the testicle to rotate freely inside the scrotum. This inherited condition often affects both testicles.

A consultant doctor walked into the ward and examined me for a few minutes. When he finished, he spoke with the attending doctor for a bit before turning to me and saying, “We might not need to remove your testicle. We should be able to manage it with drugs and a proper diet.” 

I was awash with relief. Losing my balls at 20 wasn’t a palatable option to me and I was glad that I’d be able to have kids of my own. I was discharged and placed on a drug regimen for six months. The pain remained but the drugs were helping.

Things were going well again. I was back to my old self, doing the things I enjoyed. I had almost forgotten everything until 2017 when my dad and I went on vacation to South Africa. We were having a great time on holiday when a familiar pain hit me in my nether regions. The invisible hand twisting my testicles was back with a vengeance. I was rushed to a hospital in Cape Town and the doctors’ verdict was instantaneous — I had to lose my testicle.

It felt like I was living the same nightmare on repeat. I was only 23, still unmarried, and without kids. How could this be happening to me again?

But there was little time to think. The doctors were prepping me for surgery. My dad was beside me, devastated but knowing there was little he could do. It seemed certain that I would lose my testicles this time, in a foreign country, no less. I saw my dreams of having my own children disappear in a cloud of smoke before my eyes.

The doctors were preparing to anaesthetize me when the head surgeon arrived. He examined me and asked me a litany of questions. Was I sexually active? Yes. Was I into any sexual fetishes? No. Did I have anal sex? No. Do I ejaculate when I had sex? Yes. Have I ever had a sexually transmitted disease? No. 

After some deliberation with other doctors, the head surgeon decided that my case could be managed with physical therapy, along with drugs, and a diet change. I was overjoyed. I would have danced on the operating table if I could. They encouraged me to consume a balanced diet and to avoid unhealthy lifestyle practices like smoking and drinking in order to prevent a recurrence.

After a few weeks of physical therapy in Cape Town, I returned home to Abuja. I found a hospital where I could continue my therapy and completely changed my diet. I avoided oily and processed foods, opting instead for fruits, vegetables and dairy. Occasionally, I still get painful flare-ups but they are easily manageable with medication. Now, my sex life is a lot more restricted. I only have sex once in a while to avoid having a reoccurrence of the scariest moments of my life. 

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