My mom, dad, and I were all in a waiting room in Minneapolis. A small room in a children’s hospital area. I was cold, wearing nothing but a thin paper hospital gown.
It was in the late 80s and I had turned 15 the day before. Half of my head was shaved and I wore my hair disheveled and hanging over one eye. My earrings had been removed and no eyeliner lined my eyes, but my fingernails were still black.
A doctor entered the room. He wore a white coat, had a thick black mustache and spoke with a slight Latino accent. He was one of two doctors they had flown in to do the surgery to remove my birth defect.
I had spent the last year having tests to find out what was wrong with my kidneys. There was no indication that anything was wrong other than what the doctors had said. I had no pain or symptoms, but was told I had a major health issue that needed to be addressed.
A routine medical exam a year ago had set everything in motion, and now they thought they had found the problem. My operation was going to be filmed, it was so unique.
I was nervous, shivering under my skin. I had developed an underlying anxiety over the previous 12 months, constantly wondering when a doctor would give me more terrible news and force me to take another embarrassing, uncomfortable or painful test.
Dr. Mustache smiled at me and said, “Can you get on the table?
“Good good. Now… lie on your side facing the wall. I imagined he was a drug dealer on miami vice and I did what I was told.
My parents were only a few feet away from me and I heard the banging of rubber.
“Okay. Now I’m just going to lift your dress and…”
I felt his whole finger up my anus. There was no warning. No preparation.
He left it there for a while, moved it, pushed me, then said, “Well… there’s nothing wrong there.”
It had been like that all year. I felt a lack of control and a lack of consent. 15 but treated like I was five. My body was going through teenage changes and it had been pricked and pricked and tested like I was a sick baby in a maternity ward.
I had started the year as an innocent high school freshman running around the country playing classical piano on the “good kid” trajectory. I ended the year as a fun-seeking punk rock teenager with a bad gothic misfit attitude, getting high and riding with girls in trailer parks and in the backs of cars.
Photo of the author at age 14 in long-distance running warm-up clothes
The year had left me feeling isolated and I didn’t feel like I could communicate what was happening to anyone. Deeply embarrassed that I had my kidneys and urine tested and examined, I felt unable to tell my teenage friends what was going on. And scared that telling my parents or an adult how I felt might lead to more testing without me being able to give my consent.
I remained silent about my health condition. The music playing in my headphones was my best friend.
After Dr. Mustache removed his finger from inside me and took off his rubber glove, he asked me to leave and follow the nurse. In another room with bright fluorescent lighting, I was told to lie on another paper-covered table surrounded by a curtain.
I lay there staring at the lights, feeling vulnerable, naked and cold under nothing but the hospital gown. The whispers of other young patients and nurses tapping their pens while writing on clipboards were the only sounds.
Someone entered the room but didn’t say anything. They pulled my hospital gown over my stomach to expose me. Then, without warning, I felt them grab me and start pushing something inside the most intimate part of my body.
Excruciating pain electrifies every inch.
They pushed harder and I felt something crawling through my body. I dug my fingernails into the paper on the clinical table and it tore when I grabbed it. This faceless person kept pushing and a billion heated needles felt like they were entering through the inner walls of my organs.
Then I felt what I thought I also heard. A pop! The tube seemed to go into my bladder. My body was full of artificial instruments in the most tender places. Places that I had just started exploring as a teenager.
As I lay in pain and agony, I began to hear moans and then screams through the curtain closest to me. A boy, years younger than me, was screaming. I couldn’t help but listen to this boy’s frightened moans. His soul pouring out and breaking.
Then they started filling me up.
Fluid started pouring into my body, filling my bladder. I needed to pee, but it was flowing the wrong way.
When my bladder was completely full, I heard, “Okay, go ahead and pee now. Go ahead.”
A male voice with the thump of a Minnesota accent spoke. Each “O” sounded more hollow than the previous one.
I let the liquid slip out of me and it hurt badly. The tube gripped the sides of my cock and pinched me as I let go. Then, again without any warning, they removed the tube. Slip, tear, get out. It was both a painful shock and a small relief..
When the test was over, I returned to the room where my parents had been waiting. They looked embarrassed and had looks of empathy for me on their faces. The test results came back quickly. There was nothing wrong. This last experience was not necessary.
I have a six inch scar on the lower left side of my back and another small scar next to it where a four foot tube inside my body drained fluids. I acquired these two permanent marks from my surgery. These scars have been the epicenter of chronic pain for over 30 years.
My birth defect, surgery, tests and trauma are not the only causes of pain, but they are part of it. My scars and pain are part of my story.
A giant aspect of my story is that you can suffer while living an incredibly rich life. Despite this injury and the other traumas that followed, I started playing gigs as a singer in an indie rock band and traveled outside the United States for the first time less than a year later. .
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15 year old author outside Ford Castle, Northumberland, UK
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All of my experiences, positive and negative, have changed me, but even at a young age I always looked for a glimmer of light in the darkest black. Hope is one of the reasons I’m still here and one of the motivations for writing this vignette of my life.
I wrote this for all those children and young adults in all those hospital rooms who are being tested, examined and analyzed. Those who feel they have no control. All these young people who are afraid. All young people who feel alone and isolated. Those still growing people who can’t consent and can only do what they’re told.
I understand what you are going through, and even if you have scars, they will be part of the story you will tell. Your story is powerful and your scars are part of your courage and survival. Your bravery and resilience will become tools you rely on to be heroes.
I am a hero, not a victim. And you too.
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Gentry Bronson is a writer specializing in memoir, creative nonfiction, travel, inspiration, and factual fiction. He is also an editor, media producer, creative consultant, songwriter, composer and founder of GB Media & Creative. A former internationally touring pianist, singer and bandleader, he has released eight full albums, three EPs and numerous musical singles. Visit his website to learn more.
This article originally appeared on Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.