swollen lymph node

The misconstrued swelling

Regular visitors to this site will recall my serious brush with death several posts back.


The details aren’t important. I flatlined. Twice. Second time had the sense of being lifted, and joined with my paternal ancestors. I’m guessing it was them based on the amount of crazy babbling that seemed to echo all around me.

But, really, I’m fine It was nothing. Just a humungous swelling in my groin area that even had the medical community perplexed for a few hours. Needless to say, Jacquie and I had never seen anything like that anywhere near my groin region, ever. Many of the doctors wondered how that would be scientifically possible, given my grotesque physical state. One intern who arrived late wanted to call the time, until the resident proved to her that I wasn’t dead, by holding a mirror under my nose.


It was this intern, among all the staff that had a look-see around my no-no zone, who first made the observation, “what do you know? Three testicles.”

Excuse me if I’m waxing a little too puerile for your sophisticated taste. But it pales in comparison to the real 400-pound vulgarity in the room here: the New Zealand health care system. No-good pinko-commie degenerates.

When Jacquie and I went to the ED, we had no idea we were supposed to bring along proof-of-residence. New Zealand will charge you for a visit to the ED, if you’re not qualified under national insurance. And if there’s blood dripping out of every one of your orifices, screaming “I want my blankie”, they will send you packing, with a bill.


But some patients who owe are given an alternative payment method. And so, when I checked out last week, I agreed to occupy an exhibit in Auckland Hospital’s Museum of Medical Oddities, Curios, and Abominations.  Under the terms of the agreement, I would be “the guy with three testicles”, until the antibiotics got rid of the infection in my lymph node, which turned out to be the problem all along, by the way.

It’s been 24 hours now, since the node returned to normal. Funny, I’m already starting to miss the gang, down there at the old curio exhibit. But I think I’m going to miss Guy Coming off Heroin the most.


Frederick Wiseman is my favorite documentary maker.

You could have read about him if you’d clicked on the link to his Wikipedia page.

But you didn’t.

Interior, Ernst & Young building, Takutai Square, Britomart

Was that because you’re intellectually lazy? Or, just too cowardly to test your own convictions? Or perhaps it is that you have the tractability of a cult member, blindly accepting as gospel whatsoever proceeds from the brilliant minds of experts and influencers such as myself?

We may never know the answer to these questions. But whatever the reason, one thing’s for sure. I spit on you and everything you stand for.

You’ll have to forgive me if I’m blunt. Sorry to have hurt your feelings. But guess what? Nobody goes to the hospital over hurt feelings. They go for hurt groins.

Take it from me. Last Wednesday, I woke up in severe chills, with a swelling in my left groin. Actually, the swelling had been there since Saturday. After first discovery of the swelling, I googled my symptoms only to find the possible causes running from inguinal hernia to serious vascular clutter to lymphoma. But these swellings in my groin area happened all the time, typically passing quickly, leaving me little the worse for wear. Surely this swelling would too.

But days went by, and on Wednesday, I had violent chills and fever.

Taken the day I went to the hospital.

Taken while waiting for Jacquie to do her make up before our trip to the ER. Note the world’s tallest Dalek under construction, to the left. (Joke made of 100 percent recycled material).

Jacquie rushed me to the emergency department at Auckland City Hospital.

Which brings me back to Frederick Wiseman. Going to the emergency department reminded me of Wiseman’s documentary, Hospital. Going to the hospital was almost as real as watching a documentary about one.

And I learned a lot about what makes the New Zealand health care system differs from the one in America.

For example, the system as a whole is very efficient. The admitting nurse took all the important information. Her questioning was thorough, and thoughtful.

“And how are your balls?” she said.

“Fine, fine,” I said. It made a good impression on me, this keen interest the staff were taking. The admitting nurse summoned an orderly to guide us to the ED registrar where I was immediately assigned a room. While neither of them asked after my masculinity, I was visited by several doctors and nurses who needed to “have a peek at your privates”.

At this point, I was absolutely thrilled by the New Zealand medical care system. Nobody in the US, in or out of the health care sector, ever asked about my privates. My enthusiasm for the New Zealand way of life swelled, and I began to wonder if I didn’t seem just a little too eager to pull down my underwear so a professional could “see what’s going on with the old stick and pebbles”.

They drew blood to rule out more serious things, dosed me with an antibiotics drip, and sent me away with scripts to take down the swelling, which turned out to be an infected lymph node, probably due to me scratching my dry itchy skin like an animal. Just like in the movies.

Vince was originally blamed for a rash of ringworm in our health district.

Vince was originally blamed for a rash of ringworm in our health district.

The one thing they missed, though, was the ringworm on my right wrist. Jacquie later assumed I’d gotten it from holding Vince, with the fungus taking advantage of my preoccupied immune system. But the vet said Vince didn’t have ringworm. Jacquie wondered how else I could have contracted it.

“Has he held a hedgehog lately?” the vet said.

That’s exactly the kind of magic that happens in Wiseman’s movies. The lack of narration, and utilitarian titles, would lead one to believe that Wiseman is pretending to objective narration. But that isn’t the case. Because he takes many more hours of footage than he will need in the final cut, his perspective comes out in editing. The result is something like how a musician might softly riff on a theme. At least that’s what some guy told me.

And what my experience with the New Zealand health system tells me is I may have suffered a week of fever and chills due to a terrible infection in my groin, my balls were never once in any danger. And some day soon, I’ll be able to say the same thing about much of the rest of my body.