Finally going under the knife

When I went into the Albany Medical Center last week for my double inguinal hernia repair, I knew I had to do it. I have lived with my small left side hernia for quite some time. In fact, my bet is that I’ve had the thing for over 50 years.

Every once in a while it would start to hurt and I’d go to a doctor. I knew I should get it taken care of but I’ve always got a lot to do. Plus, I didn’t want to cut into the heavy exercise program on which I am psychologically dependent. I was recently convinced to bite the bullet and get the surgery, thanks to an argument advanced by a physician friend.

What if I was off on one of the Roselle-dictated international trips and a piece of my entrails migrated through that hole in the wall of my abdomen? If the wall closed on that migrating piece of gut, the blood supply could be stopped by the strangulation caused by that abdominal wall and I could be in very serious — maybe life-threatening — danger. So, having put it off all these years, I decided to go ahead and get it done.

My world revolves around WAMC’s fund drives. Every four months I give whatever I can to help WAMC survive. The problem is that the surgery was scheduled to take place shortly after Roselle and I returned from my niece’s wedding in the former Yugoslavia.

While I was there, however, I developed a disc problem and the operation had to be put off. After the highly successful fall fund drive ended I knew I had to face the music and I entered the hospital with great trepidation. Hernias are now often done as an outpatient procedure. You go in. You are given great attention by the nursing staff. After about an hour and a half of being prepped, you go into the operating room which you probably never even see because of the anesthesia you are getting. Before you go in, at least five or six people ask you why you are there. I can only suspect no one wants to make a mistake or give you the wrong operation. Everyone checks the chart and goes away.

Once it’s over, they wheel you to a recovery area. You hurt but you can’t be released until you can perform certain bodily functions. Then you can go home and that’s where the trouble can happen.

Anyone who has ever had an operation knows what I am talking about. It takes some time before certain acts of nature can occur. Moving around can be painful. You can be a real pain in the derriere to your family members who you begin to rely on in a way neither of you is used to. If you are concerned that the pain you are feeling is not normal, you reach out to your doctors or other health care professionals and no matter how much reassurance you get that everything will return to normal, you worry.

It doesn’t matter that you are given detailed instructions about what to expect. You still worry, probably because you are not used to doing nothing.

In my case, I watched countless Law and Order episodes which I had already seen, drank a lot of prune juice, started walking around the block, read and answered a lot of e-mail from commiserating friends and went, well, stir crazy.

Of course, you are told not to shower for a few days and that doesn’t help things either. Moving your body to put your clothes on can be a trial and in my case (running counter to what is supposed to happen) I put on a lot of weight in just a few days. Maybe it was all that prune juice.

Of course, lots of people go through hernia operations. They are almost mundane compared to what we will all probably face in our race through life.

But it does demonstrate that even the most benign of operations can cause a lot of distress, self pity, and unhappiness. One can only wonder what medical science is capable of in the coming decades that will change the pain that we experience now. On the other hand, back in the “good old days,” people died from ruptured appendixes on a regular basis. We have come a long way.


Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 10/31/09

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One Comment on “Finally going under the knife”

  1. Andrew Says:

    A speedy recovery Alan. As a listener of WAMC, I am thankful for your contribution to the regular programming and also the Fund Drive. Members of Mensa of Northeastern New York especially enjoyed the Rocky Horror Picture Show last week.

    Perhaps after you recover, you can join us for dinner and share with us your favorite experiences with WAMC. (And maybe even find a couple new volunteers)

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