A TURP is the acronym for a Trans-Urethral Resection of the Prostate. The prostate is a small, walnut sized organ that plays a key role in the reproductive process. The problem is that the prostate, like the human ear and human nose keeps growing with age. Half of all American men over age fifty and 80% of those over age 80, experience enlarged prostate.
Here’s what it means. An enlarged prostate constricts the urethra, the narrow passageway that allows urine to be emptied from the bladder. It means more “potty breaks” which in itself is only an inconvenience if there is a lavatory nearby. But it can eventually impair health. That’s why we see all of those Joe Theisman commercials on television. For one thing it can mess with your sleep which in turn can affect other things. And secondly, while the prostate grows very slowly and there is no need to rush into a procedure, the urethra can eventually become totally blocked and one would be forced to have an operation to open it up anyway.
I travel a lot internationally and can report that waking up in the middle of the night in Singapore, when it is only the afternoon back home, can make it harder to get back to sleep and sleep deprivation translates into a lower immune system and increased odds of a virus, flu and infection.
My struggle with BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) or enlarged prostate, has been ongoing since my late thirties. The question was, do I gamble that I will die before I need such an operation? Or should I take care of it now rather than risk such an operation in my 80’s when it might be necessary anyway and could result in a heart attack on the operating table?
I lost a brother at 46 of a brain aneurysm and another at age 47 of a heart attack. I am now 67 and am being treated for heart disease. Taking the stairs can be a chore. I was agnostic about nutritional solutions for BPH until desperation forced me to try saw palmetto. It worked. Nocturnal bathroom breaks were reduced from five to two but only when i could guarantee a regular routine of meals and sleep and a double the recommended dosage of saw palmetto.
Having just lost 20 pounds on an Isagenix diet and deciding that my heart disease and my BPH would only become more chronic with time, I decided to do the TURP now. Yes, it is uncomfortable, yes there was some risk but there was also some risk in delay. The advantage could be my first uninterrupted 8 hour sleep in 40 years. That had to be worth something for my health.
Here is my list for surviving a TURP.
1.) Get ready. I Googled everything and learned what I could. There are even videos of the operation itself. I made repeated visits to my cardiologist to make sure I was as fit as possible. This involved walking the dog 3 miles a day and a diet of Isagenix, vegan, non dairy shakes . I visited Merdod Ghaffouri, my cardiologist, and had a stress test EKG. My last bloodwork showed my cholesterol had bottomed out at 120. It was the lowest ever measured in my life and a far cry from the 324 registered at age 35.
2.) Get the best doctor for the procedure. I chose Dr. Ali Sajadi. He came with great recommendations from other doctors. Ghaffouri said, “I know him, he will not recommend a procedure unless it is absolutely necessary.” Those words are golden among doctors. Sajadi was young but experienced. You can’t beat that combination. You want someone who knows the latest and if you are going to get a TURP you want someone who has done so many he can do it in his sleep. This is key. The surgery itself involves carving out a larger channel for the urethra, making it easier for the bladder to empty. But the process of cutting away at prostate tissue and enlarging that channel involves inflammation, possible infection, bleeding and other complications. Don’t be shy, don’t be afraid to back out. Your choice of doctor is crucial to what happens next.
3.) I had full anesthetic and was knocked out last Thursday at noon. By 1 PM the operation was done.
4.) The purge. Groggy and drugged, I was wheeled into a waiting hospital room where for me, the real work began. With a tube inserted all the way up into my bladder, a saline solution was pumped through my system for 24 hours. The nurse had to empty a bucket of my blood and urine every 90 minutes. This was incredibly uncomfortable and I watched the clock on the wall as it slowly crawled its way into the evening and throughout the night. There was no turning back now. My father had experienced his first heart attack at age 48 after a long weekend without sleep. So I tried to get get some rest but it was way too uncomfortable for sleep, not painful, but uncomfortable. I managed only 30 minutes of shut eye.
5.) By morning the color of the urine in my bucket had turned from a deep red wine to a pink lemonade and the doctor pronounced himself satisfied. The tube was withdrawn and I was sent home. This was my goal from the beginning, to get that tube out before leaving the hospital. I stated as much to Sajadi at the beginning. I had read about patients lugging that tube and a bladder bag home for days. My wife’s nurse friends had tales to tell. But Sajadi understood what I wanted and while it could not be guaranteed he knew how it could likely be achieved and sought to make it work.
At home there was no pain, no bladder spasms, no irritation. Not even Tylenol was needed. The next morning my wife and I walked the dog for a mile and a half. I had to force myself to take it easy. It will be one week tomorrow and my sleep is already deep and restful. My urinary stream is back. From what I read it will take my body several weeks to adjust to this procedure and for me to fully heal and get back to normal. No, I take that back. I will not be getting back to normal, I will be turning back the clock 30 years to something long missed, something that was normal at age 35 but will now be empowering.
Bottom line? Much time and pain can be saved by having a good plan. Make sure you need it. Make sure you get a good doctor. Make sure you take time to rest.