Mid November, 2001: So there I stood in my shower checking out these two puffy bulges just above my leg creases. They seemed to have gotten larger over the summer and I can't exactly remember when I first noticed them. I sat down behind my overpriced computer that day and began a search. My first instinct turned out to be right on the nose. A hernia... actually, two. I remember feeling a burning pain in the area earlier in the year while doing something (lifting?) and when I stopped straining and stood up I said to myself "I better be careful, I could get a hernia." The web was a huge resource of information on hernias. Hernia patient discussion sites were helpful because they told it like it was. No bull. There were plenty of stories, and a lot of them were bad. I'm sure it was because the good stories were never told. Hernia's can occur in anybody at any age. A weakness in the abdominal wall gives way at some point, sometimes during a strain, like lifting, and then there's a hole in the wall. This allows your guts (intestines) to begin to bulge out of the abdominal cavity. Now hernias can occur in a number of places in the body. Mine were called Ingurinal hernias in reference to the region of the body. If left alone they would never heal, only get worse. It was possible that at some point my guts could bulge out and the hole would pinch down, strangulating the hernia and causing major trouble... possibly death. My only option was to have them fixed asap. Luckily I had health insurance. I saw my family doctor and he officially confirmed the diagnosis. By the way guys, turning your head is only because the doctor doesn't want you to cough on him. I had already studied up on the possible procedures and techniques and tried to ask my doctor more specific questions, but this seemed only to perturb him. Who was I to know about medical things that HE didn't know about? He did know about the Scholstice Clinic, a hernia surgical hospital in Canada. I did some research on that, as well as some others around the world. Seemed that there was some controversy about using the Lapriscope for hernia surgeries, and the actual techniques for repairing them were also being updated every year. I learned that having an experienced hernia surgeon was Key to success. Someone who had more than 50 under his belt...no pun intended. The old surgeries would just open you up, push back the gut, stitch the opening closed. A mesh of some polycarbonate was found to reinforce the mend. Lapricscopic surgeries came along and patients would no longer have these huge scars, yet there were many more risks involved. All of these surgeries would be under General Anesthetic, and would sometimes leave the patients with lifelong lingering nerve pains. I'm not even going to mention some of the Horror stories about complications and incompetent surgeons. Ah yes, and one more item to be aware of, most of these patients were told they could never lift heavy objects ever again. The repairs had a 5-10% recurrence rate, meaning they would tear open and have to be fixed, which was a bad situation.
The Canadian clinic was using the Lapriscope, so they were out, as well as all of the surgeons I contacted in Colorado and Utah, so I began my search for an out of state surgeon. I read about a technique that was superior to anything else before it. It was so new, that there weren't many surgeons trained to do it yet. The British Hernia Institute in London had been using a brilliant new method of repairing hernias. They were a Hernia dedicated Surgical Clinic that used a type of mesh that would patch the hole in a short, out-patient procedure under local anesthetic, reducing the costs and risks tremendously. Their results were shortened recovery times, no lingering pains, guaranteed to not fail, and best of all, their patients could return to their normal
lifestyles. I was sold. I was actually going to try to get to London for this surgery when they referred me to their mother, the Lichtenstein Institute in LA, California. This is the place that they learned their techniques from. But when I called them (or whoever answered the phone) was rude to me, so that was that. Luckily I found another place that used a similar technique from a web search. The Florida Hernia Institute, in Miami. They had developed an even better technique using their patented mesh implant. Their recurrence rate(chance of failing) was 0.3%. When I called they were so nice and helpful. I began the process of setting up my surgery. December was out, couldn't get the airplane ticket and hotel reservations and pre-op tests scheduled before the holidays, so I decided on mid Jan... Unfortunately my insurance increased the monthly premium by an additional $150.00 in the new year, so I just bit the bullet for Jan. Luckily, my lowest bid for a plane ticket on Priceline.com came through at $179.00 round trip to Miami. Car rental for a week at $89. Things were looking good. Hotel's, though, ughhh. what a nightmare, but I was ready to wing it. The doctors said that I may be able to walk away from the procedure, but repairing both sides was going to be tough on my body. They were going to have to keep me in the hospital for one night, and that was fine with me. Just before I flew out of Denver I called my Biological Mother and Grandmom in Sarasota, Florida, about four hours away from Miami by car. I told them about the surgery, and that I might be able to drive out to visit them while recovering. I should have known better. My Mom began to make all sorts of changes in my itinerary- return the car, change the flight, they would drive out and get me, etc... it was a nightmare on top of my best laid plans. I was being MOTHERED. Imagine the embarrassment of having the hotel clerk tell you in front of a long line of customers that "Your Mother just called for you "...I hadn't visited them in years and the thought of me being so close and not staying for a week was out of the question. So I just went along with it.
My worst fears were not met. I didn't have to starve myself for a whole day before the surgery. I bought a disposable camera in hopes of getting some surgery shots to show everyone. The nurses were told not to do this by their bosses, but they couldn't resist my charm. They did an Epidural anesthetic (nerve blocker) to numb my entire lower half and I hardly felt any of the needles. I remember becoming conscious during the procedure, which was normal, and I could only imagine what was going on behind the curtain across my chest. I was so relaxed I began to chat with them. I think they were messing with me though, playing word games. "Hey, wait. What was that? I could feel that Doc!" There were sensations coming from my abdomen and I knew I wasn't going to just bear it. " What? This?" He said as I felt slightly painful jolt from the wound. " Umm, let's go ahead and increase the flow on tho.. toho ,t, astoh, ast....t.." and I faded out again. I could hear them arguing about the flash on my camera, "... the flash didn't go off, you have to flip that switch", " no, it's on. I saw it. Didn't you see it", " No way. Loot at the switch. Do you see a little flashing light..." I began to wonder if I had made an unwise decision about the camera... " All done! Pack him up." and there was a hooray and some clapping from the nurses. I got ahold of my camera again and snapped a parting shot of smiling faces as they wheeled me out of the operating room. I was so relaxed, yet conscious. I couldn't move my legs, but could barely wiggle my right toe.
Everything was fine. My roommate was nice, and the nurses were too. Food was, well, 'hospital food'. When the pain came back they gave me Percaset (sp?) and it made me nauseous. If I would have spewed it would have been hellishly painful on my wounds. Luckily it passed and the doctor prescribed a shot of Tigan next time. The night shift nurse came in. She was tough, stern, and old school to the max. She tried to get me up out of bed, but it was no use, I almost puked from the pain alone and I wasn't going to get that pain pill unless I fought for it. And talk about pay for that shot of Tigan. That thing was throbbing in my butt all night. She was much more merciful with the needle the next time. The next morning she again tried to get me up. I knew I had to and made a valiant effort and was sitting up in a bedside chair by 8 am. Slowly I could stand, and slowly I could take a step. Breakfast came and I used the food tray as a walker. Pretty soon I was moving down the corridors with a little rolling I.V. stand, just like in the movies. My wounds didn't have any stitches. They used this Crazy Glue called Dermabond to close me up, so there were only these thin lines. I could feel the implants like stiff plates taking up space. My surgeon visited me and told me some ugly facts about how the wounds were going to heal, like blood settling down into my privates turning them all black and blue. He said things would get worse before getting better and I would be cursing his name for another two weeks, but things did get better.
My Mom picked me up a little later and we returned my rental, drove to Sarasota where my grandmom was eagerly awaiting with a nice soft bed for me to spend the next five days recovering in. The weather was wonderful, and so was the setting. Much better than a hotel room all by myself.
Today it has been exactly two weeks and I'm going great. I'm walking around, driving, shoveling snow, doing light work. I'm looking forward to going caving as soon as I can, and even snowboarding sometime when there's actually decent snow around here.