Genital Tuberculosis: Brad gets a crash course in his own testicles
After years of feeling sub-par and getting sick too often, Brad started noticing some swelling in his pants – and not in a good way. When he finally took himself and his swollen scrotum to the doctor, he realised it’s more manly to get checked out than to leave it too late. Brad tells his story so that other men drop the act and drop their daks.
Out of Africa
Brad’s story actually begins in Africa. In 2005, Brad packed his backpack and headed out to explore the cradle of life. Like many young men, he was fearless, and spent time with local people learning about life and traditions on the continent.
After his adventures, he came home to Western Australia to get back into work. A couple of years went by where Brad continued to work hard and party hard. But he thought both were taking their tolls.
“At the time, it was assumed this was caused by a weakened immune system, as I had been working flat out and partying hard. As soon as I stopped, that’s when it hit me,” he says.
“When I finally got out of hospital, I still never felt right. I felt disorientated, couldn’t focus. But it was such a slow process that I didn’t even know what ‘normal’ was anymore.”
Like most Aussie blokes, Brad continued to work. As a tradie, he just put up with feeling exhausted and didn’t want to complain or seem like a ‘whinger’. Now, he tells other men that going to the doctor is not whinging, but winning.
House of cards
In the year leading up to his swollen scrotum, Brad was building his house with his Dad.
“Being an Aussie man, you tend to just put up with it. At the time, I didn’t want to seem like a wuss by complaining I was sick, especially because I was working with my Dad,” he says.
“It’s amazing what you can get through when you don’t know what’s going on.
“The first time I noticed something was really wrong was when I started getting swelling in my testicles. They just started to get bigger and bigger.”
Brad says he tried to ignore it for a couple of weeks, hoping they would just go down and the problem would just go away.
“But it didn’t, and I thought, ‘What do I do?’ because I’d never had a problem like that.”
Book yo’self, fool!
Finally, Brad’s girlfriend urged him to see a urologist. That was the beginning of Brad’s long journey to getting back his health.
“With your testicles, there are several main possibilities. One is torsion, when a testicle twists, but that is really painful so you know right away, or perhaps if you’ve copped a knock.
“Then there is non-specific urethritis, which is very common and comes along for no particular reason.
“So the doctor initially diagnosed it as non-specific urethritis. That was at about 5 weeks.”
Brad started taking his medication, expecting the problem to be over and the swelling to go down. Unfortunately, while it kept the swelling at bay, it still didn’t deflate the water balloon in his undies.
Is that an avocado in your pants or …
“By this point, they were both really red and you could just see there was infection under the skin. It started on the right side then switched to the left,” he says.
“The left continued to get bigger until it was the size of an avocado. It was massive.”
Then things started going from bad … to worse.
“By this time, I not only had a swollen testicle, I also had a lump forming at the bottom of it. I was at my friend’s house one night and it exploded. It was a cyst that had burst,” he says.
“I was a little embarrassed, I told them something was going down and I just took myself to hospital.
“I was actually scared at this point. I thought my testicle was going to explode like a water balloon too.”
In the hospital, Brad got his cyst cleaned up. It was considered that he may have an STI, so he was treated forchlamydia. But that was only a punt. He left the hospital still unsure of what was going on, so his doctor suggested he talk to a microbiologist.
And that’s exactly what he did.
Brad and the Batman of infectious diseases
Brad walked into the office of a microbiologist and dropped his daks.
The specialist took one look at his family jewels and said, “That’s tuberculosis.” He then ran two tests which confirmed this diagnosis.
Brad had never felt so relieved in his life. The specialist then called in another microbiologist, who Brad deems was a dream come true: the ‘Batman’ of treating infectious diseases in Perth.
“He immediately asked, ‘Have you been to Africa?’
“Then everything just made sense.”
TB or not TB: That is the question
Brad says once he had the diagnosis, the doctors put him on TB medication immediately, and he was free and clear in just two weeks.
“I also had a carer come around to my house once a week, and the authorities put you on a TB register so they can keep track of infectious diseases,” he says.
“The doctors believe I would have been infectious for several months preceding, so my girlfriend got tested. She had the TB in her system, but they were able to treat it before it became a problem and she is clear now too.
“TB can go anywhere in the body: your ear, your leg, wherever. However, in my case, it went to my testicles and it was just super-unfortunate.”
Real men get tests
Brad is free of TB but is left with a fluid-filled testicle. He will be getting this drained, but he is also left with the possibility of not being able to have children.
“My advice to any man is simple. Act quick,” he says.
“And if you think something is wrong, don’t be scared to visit a couple of doctors. There’s no harm in a second opinion.
“Don’t wait until it’s too late and something bad happens.”