If you had met Wesley Warren Jr. at any point during the last four years, chances are you would have been staring at his scrotum long before even making eye contact with the man.
Don’t worry. I’m not saying that you are unabashedly forward to the point of gawking at genitalia before the first handshake. I’m saying that the man spent a significant portion of his forties toting around a “ball sac…the size of a dolphin head,” as one article so eloquently phrased it. At a record-topping, scale-tipping 132 pounds, Warren’s scrotum was among the largest that specialists had ever seen.
The whole ordeal started in 2008 when the Las Vegas man accidentally struck his scrotum at home. He remembers feeling an extremely sharp pain that had not subsided by the time he went to sleep. When he woke up the next morning, a quick under-the-covers peek revealed that his scrotum had grown to “the size of a honeydew melon.”
His scrotum continued to grow, and at an alarming rate: almost three pounds every month. He soon lost the ability to drive and walk normally, and every movement he took required an immense amount of energy. When his scrotum grew too large to allow him to wear normal pants, he instead put his legs through the arms of a hooded sweatshirt, using the hood as a scrotum sling.
Warren was living with a condition known as scrotal lymphedema, which is a massive enlargement of the scrotum due to a build up of fluid and a thickening of tissue. While most common outside of North America, where the condition is often caused by a parasite, cases in the United States usually result from a scrotal trauma, like what Warren had experienced. The trauma blocks lymph vessels, preventing fluid from draining from the scrotum. The fluid didn’t stop pouring into the scrotum, though, and the sac continued to expand each day.
Without health insurance, Warren was unable to receive any medical attention for his condition, and soon became known internationally for his swollen scrotum. After appearing on a few talk shows, his story finally reached the ears of the medical community. But each interaction with doctors came loaded with disappointing news. Some surgeons said he would need to be castrated, while others said he would die on the table. The surgery would cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars, out of pocket. Dr. Oz caught wind of the story and offered to operate for free, but in exchange for exclusive rights to the story – something that Warren, who loved to talk and wanted to share his story freely, did not want to give up.
Relief – of so many kinds – finally came in the form of Dr. Joel Gelman, director of Reconstructive Urology at UC Irvine. A fellow sufferer of scrotal lymphedema referred Warren to Gelman, who offered to operate for free, no strings attached. On April 8, Gelman’s team spent over eight hours in surgery to remove a 132-lb. mass from Warren’s scrotum. While total recovery is far from complete, as his penis and testicles still need to be surgically reconstructed, the brunt of Warren’s nightmare has ended.
From the scrotum to its contents, genital health is an important component of overall wellbeing. Be sure to check out our piece on testicle size and heart disease.