It may be the ultimate in male bonding: a pact between male friends to bid farewell to their fertility en masse. Turns out having a pal to share the pain of a vasectomy isn't so unusual, say doctors.
Penn Holderness, who recently scored viral video fame with his family's "Christmas Jammies" rap, went with four friends he dubbed Team Vasectomy. In mid-December, Holderness showed up at Dr. Jerome Parnell’s urology clinic in Raleigh, N.C., with pals Jake Fehling, David Sonntag and Derrick Minor.
Holderness, a local NBC anchor at WNCN, had the, er, balls to break the news of his vasectomy in the holiday video where he, his wife and two kids in red and green-striped pajamas rapped about their 2013 exploits.
The idea of a group snip-and-clip materialized after Holderness and Fehling were told by their wives: No. More. Kids. Too chicken to make an appointment separately, they clung to each other for moral support. Sonntag soon opted in too, as did Minor. “Strength in numbers,” says Holderness.
About half a million vasectomies are performed in the U.S. each year. A word to the wise: Don’t make the snip until you’re certain your seed-sowing days are done. Vasectomy is considered permanent, though it can be reversed about 50 percent of the time, according to the American Urological Association.
It's unclear how many men across the country go for a group-snip, but Parnell says that up to 20 percent of his vasectomy patients book their appointment with at least one other person. It helps ease the anxiety about the procedure, which involves three injections to the scrotum. “A lot of men can’t stand the thought of having their boys cut on,” says Parnell. “They find it easier if there’s some co-misery. It makes it a little more light-hearted.”
The joint approach to medical procedures appears to be unique to men, says Kathy Rowan, office manager for The Vasectomy Clinic in Seattle, which, true to its name, does that procedure exclusively. Dr. Charles Wilson, the clinic’s founder, recently notched his 20,000th vasectomy. While women band together for pampering — think yoga retreats and spa days — they don’t tend to head to the doctor in tandem.
“We joke that women don’t call each other up and say, ‘Let’s go for Pap smears together,’” says Rowan.
To add even more fun to the procedure, Parnell sometimes busts out props, giving voice to the prankster lurking inside the physician. “I have been known to fire up a chainsaw,” he admits. With Holderness' crew, he brandished a pair of hedge clippers and revved an electric drill outside the exam room, where each man waited his turn individually.
Once inside, Parnell turned more professional for the quickie procedure. He delivered the numbing injections, poked a tiny hole, snipped off a section of the vas deferens, the tubes that transport sperm, and attached stainless steel clips to the cut ends.
Easy-peasy, which is exactly what comes next. Patients are ordered to rest with frozen peas, or the veggie of their choice, on their groin for 24 hours. The quartet did that together too, watching movies and silly YouTube clips until they had to stop because laughing hurt too much. “We relaxed and celebrated it instead of it being a day when you lost your manhood,” says Holderness.
That’s the approach some of Wilson’s patients have taken as well. He’s had fathers and sons book appointments together. A group of guys from Alaska are booked on the schedule, determined to squeeze a guys’ weekend in the Lower 48 out of the procedure. Perhaps most memorably, five men once showed up in matching T-shirts with their children’s names printed on the back.
“They made an event out of it,” says Rowan. “It was a way to get them through it.”
Aside from the brotherhood aspect of the experience, Holderness says it was helpful to have friends with whom to commiserate and trade notes on the healing process. “We had an open text message train, which was so valuable,” says Holderness. “Someone would say, ‘There’s a bruise here,’ and we’d say, ‘Me too.’ The whole experience was kind of hilarious.”