It’s the butt of jokes and widely misunderstood, and yet, erectile dysfunction causes embarrassment and distress to more than two million British men.
With creams and injections not always proving effective, more and more men are taking the plunge and turning to surgery to cure their bodily woes. But as Dan Metzgar, a 45-year-old lorry driver from Maryland, found out, surgery isn’t without its risks.
After having a penis pump, a common surgical solution for men with erectile dysfunction, inserted, he was left with a permanent erection.
‘It’s very embarrassing to walk around with an erection that won’t go away, not to mention painful,’ he reveals.
‘Imagine trying to stuff an erection into your pants and hide it all the time. I was wearing baggy clothes and over-length shirts to try to hide it.’
His problems began in 2006 when he began suffering from erectile problems and the catastrophic loss of confidence that resulted.
‘I could see it was taking a toll on him because, you know, not feeling like a man,’ Dan’s wife Donna explains. ‘He was in despair.’
After a succession of creams and pills failed to provide a cure, Dan and Donna decided to spend their $42,000 life savings on surgery.
‘Most men with erection problems have an inability to get or maintain an erection satisfactorarily to have sexual intercourse,’ explains Gordon Muir, a consultant urologist.
‘[A penile pump] has two little balloons which are implanted into the penis, a small pump which lies in from of the scrotum and a bag of saline which lies next to the bladder.
‘When the patient wants to have an erection, he simply squeezes the pump, and the cylinders fill up with saline and become swollen and also quite rigid.’
Dan hoped that the pump would prove the solution to his woes. Instead, the operation was the start of a year of misery.
After an operation that should have taken one hour turned into four, Dan was forced to stay in hospital for an extra four days and returned home in agony.
‘The pain every day was like something stabbing me,’ he remembers. ‘It was like a screwdriver poking at the inside of the scrotum, trying to break free. And it didn’t go away – it didn’t get easier.’
Doctors told him the pain was caused by swelling, and told him it would go as the swelling went down.
They were right, but no-one told him what to do about the erection that remained.
‘I thought it was normal,’ he confesses. ‘I thought, if that’s the way they left me, then maybe that’s how I was supposed to heal. I thought when I went to the doctor, they would show me how to use it.’
He returned to his surgeon for advice, and left black and blue after the medic tried – and failed – to get the pump to work before telling him it was defective and another $10,000 operation was needed to remove it.
Furious, Dan sought a second opinion and was horrified to discover that not only had the original surgeon botched the operation, ‘it looked like they didn’t know what they were doing.’
‘I decided to go and get another opinion, and he basically told me that the first surgery was botched and whoever did it, didn’t know what they were doing.’
But unable to afford an operation to remove the pump, Dan was forced to live with the erection for eight months, putting huge strain on family relationships and turning him into a virtual recluse.
‘My son was embarrassed by me,’ he says. ‘He didn’t come around me for months. I was the guy with the erection – he didn’t want to be around me.’
Worse was to come. The surgeon had bungled the original operation so badly, the tubing connected to the penile pump moved, eventually scissoring through his skin while Dan was enjoying a family holiday.
‘By the time we got to the hotel room, the rip in my scrotum had gone from top to bottom and all the tubing was hanging out,’ he remembers, adding: ‘I was scared to death.’
Rushed to hospital, Dan endured three operations to repair the damage and remove the pump but was left with what resembled an empty sack of skin.
Desperate to be ‘normal’ again, he underwent one last operation, this time under the auspices of a respectable surgeon and had a new penile pump fitted,
‘I.. really, I didn’t feel like a man at all,’ he remembers. ‘How could you? So we decided that the only way I was going to be normal was to get back what I’d lost.’
Following his fifth operation, Dan was left with a fully-functioning penis, albeit one that is half the size of the original.
He’s sanguine about the loss of length. ‘After all we’ve been through, I’m grateful to have what I do have,’ he adds. ‘At least I can make love to my wife, which is the main thing.
‘I would just urge anybody to use caution before having any surgery. You might just get more than you bargained for.’
Read more: Daily Mail