Dr Charles Ochieng explains to Caroline Njoroge why he chose the ‘snip’, men who hit and run and why degree holders unlike boda boda riders pee in their pants when they hear of vasectomy.
What is the weirdest question you’ve received on Vasectomy?
“Daktari, will my bum become bigger after the procedure?” others think we literally cut off ‘everything’ and put it in the bin. Then I have to explain that no pills are given, no hormones are injected and no, the transformer is not chopped off.
Have you gone through the procedure yourself?
Yes I have. I had the procedure performed on me 10 years ago.
Ever had to go through stigmatization from fellow men because of your choice?
Not really because I didn’t walk around with a sticker on my forehead written, “I had a vasectomy. Then I again I pay my own bills so people’s negative opinion of my choice is of no consequence.
What encouraged you to take this ‘bold’ step?
For one, the family planning methods that my wife was using began causing deterioration of her health and so I took it upon myself to look for an alternative that did not involve her getting sick. Second, I came from a polygamous family; my father had many children which made it difficult to us to get quality education because his financial resources were strained. Every time I had to go school, there had to be a harambee project of sorts. Getting through school was such a struggle! I really didn’t want my children to go through that simply because I was haphazard in my family planning decisions.
So you are saying men should be involved in family planning?
I had a maternity clinic and would see how women would suffer alone. Some had serious complications during child delivery and they would come in have baby number one, then baby number two and the husband would be nowhere in sight. Some of them went through serious post maternal bleeding and had to go through blood transfusion. Amidst all that they would still come back for baby number three. I always thought that maybe if the husbands considered the complications their wives go through they would consider family planning as much their responsibility as it was for their wives.
Why are we having so many women walking into family planning clinics alone?
It just really isn’t a woman’s burden to bear alone.
Why did you decide to become a Vasectomy doctor?
I remember when I decided to have the procedure done and couldn’t get someone to perform it on me. My fellow doctors just laughed and asked me why I would even consider going through ‘castration’… yes, they called it castration. I actually had to have it performed abroad.
Is it true that vasectomy reversible?
Not in Kenya.
What if someone wakes up 20 years later and decides they want one more for fetching slippers?
You go for the procedure once you have decided the number of children you want. Once it is done, getting it reversed can be a very expensive affair.
Have you ever had a procedure go wrong?
No, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t. There is a likelihood of the tubes growing back and reconnecting after being cut and then passing sperms into the semen again. Which means the person may become fertile again; this is rare but it can happen. That is why I usually propose a check-up three months after the procedure, where we run a semen-test, to check whether there is any trace of sperms. There can also be infection or excessive bleeding. This is extremely rare but it cannot be ruled out. I have not handled such cases but I do let my patients have a balanced understanding of what the procedure could entail.
How long does this procedure take and how much does it cost?
It’s a walk in, walk out procedure. It takes 20 minutes. It costs Sh15, 000.
Does it take long to heal?
The only thing one is not encouraged to do within the first two days is avoid activities that would put pressure on the scrotum. For example bike riding and exercising at the gym but otherwise office work, house chores and other light duties can be done at ease. After day three life goes back to normal.
Ever had men tell you they regret having done a vasectomy?
No. However, there is a study that was conducted abroad on the same and the researchers found that 5 % of the subjects who had a vasectomy had regrets. The number comprised mainly of men who made the decision when they were too young and had no children. Later on when having kids seemed like a good idea, it was too late for them.
Are Kenyan men opting for vasectomy?
Yes. There are also more health facilities now offering this service.
Do you have a specific age bracket that opts to walk this path?
Well it can be done on a man of any age but the largest percentage of men that walk into my facility are aged between 30 to 45 years.
Any common denominator between the men that have come to you for this?
Quite a number of them have either seen their wives go through traumatic complications during child birth or have seen them struggle with health conditions because of the family planning options they took. Others come in after they realise that their wife is pregnant with baby number four
Would you say most of your clients are the learned lot?
Not really. I’ve had professor’s walk into my office and I’ve also had boda boda operators come for the service. Sometimes the people with the greatest misconception of vasectomy are the people with degrees. But I am really working at raising awareness on what it is, what it is not and the pros and cons.
I run awareness campaigns where I occasionally offer free service for free to anyone interested who walks into my office.