Sunday, August 4, 2019

The First Cut is the Deepest

When I was six, during a routine doctor’s visit, my doctor identified I had a hernia.  Now … you might be wondering how exactly a six-year old gets a hernia.  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I was a tomboy.  I liked carrying my sister around piggyback style.  A lot.  And while she is older, and thus, was taller than me (back then, anyway), it’s not like she weighed an excessive amount.  Add to this fact, that most groin hernias occur in young men.  Maybe I’m just a medical anomaly.

I had my first hernia repair surgery before I turned seven and entered first grade.  It’s the first thing listed on my medical history, besides being born.  Not surprisingly, I have a few vivid memories from the whole experience. 

I recall the smell of the hospital.  Sterile and anti-septic.  And not in a good sort of way.  In my memory, it was almost pungent.  I remember them placing the blue shower-cap- looking hat on my head; “now you’ll look like one of us!” the nurse said cheerfully.  As if the thought of someone cutting into my tiny body would be less scary because I have on a special hat.

I remember the ride to the OR, in the elevator, with a couple of medical staff around, and I think my mom was there too. 

I remember them trying to put the gas mask on me.  If I thought the hospital, in general, smelled, then this was 10 times worse than THAT!  I tossed my head from side to side, fighting the anesthesiologist with all of my might.  Or as much might as I could muster given that I think they actually had me strapped down.  The mask finally secured to my face, they asked me to start counting.  I didn’t get very far.

Of course, I don’t remember the surgery itself, but I remember crying because I didn’t want to stay in the hospital overnight by myself.  And my mother, who, in my opinion, should be nominated for sainthood, stayed with me.  Doing her best to sleep in the most uncomfortable of vinyl-covered chairs.

The spidery stitches covered with a yellow-ish, rubbery-looking material.  Lest, I become too curious about removal of said stitches.  And I wasn’t very happy with the doctor wanting to remove them either.

And there were no piggyback rides for the foreseeable future.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  My son is complaining of pain in his groin.  The diagnosis, a muscle strain.  Rest, along with a lot of ibuprofen, is prescribed.

But then something happens.  I start having pain in my groin.  On the left side.

Pain that is unpredictable in its timing.  Stabbing pain that is akin to being stabbed with an ice pick (not that I really know what it feels like to be stabbed with an ice pick).  Pain that is constant – lasting several hours in duration.  Pain that occurs during a workout.  Pain that occurs five hours after a workout. 

I think I’m taking this whole “sympathy pain” just a little too far.

After more than two weeks, I decided I should have this checked out.  My doctor referring me to a surgeon because she can neither confirm nor deny that I have a hernia.

Another two weeks pass before I can get in to see the surgeon.  And the pain has subsided.  But why not get it checked out, right?  Just to be sure.

One physical exam later, and the surgeon cannot definitively say that I have a hernia; nor can he definitively say that I don’t.  And he orders up a CT scan.  If it is a hernia, he (the surgeon) will call me to discuss options.  If it’s not, his MA will call to discuss treatment plans. 

In the interim, I’m advised to lift nothing heavier than a gallon of milk.  I have a newborn granddaughter (our little bean) that weighs more than a gallon of milk!

Due to the lack of pain, I push the envelope at the gym.  Adding weight to my barbell, little by little.  Tired of waiting for the results, not to mention, not lifting as heavy as I normally do (I mentioned I have a thing about lifting heavy things, right?), I anxiously call the surgeon’s office looking for answers.

“Mrs. Miller”, the nurse says, “I talked to his MA and they said he will call you after he’s out of clinic.”  “He”, I ask, “as in, the surgeon?”


Okay – so I know what I’m dealing with.  Or at least I think I do.

Before he shared the results of the CT scan, my surgeon wanted to ask … what side I was having the pain on.  Doesn’t yield a lot of confidence, does it?  “My left”, I said.  He goes on to say how that is all very interesting.  He double-checked his clinic notes – and yep!  It says right there, I reported pain on my left side.  And CT scan did show a hernia.

On.  The.  Right. 

And nothing on the left.  Confused, he even looked at the film himself and yep!  There it was!  A femoral hernia on my right side.

We discussed options (to have surgery or not have surgery, that was the question).  And after talking with the hubs, we decided it would be best to have it fixed, rather than waiting for it to get worse (which, in all likelihood, it would, because, you know … heavy things … yada, yada, yada.)

So here we are.  Five days post-surgery. 

I did not fight them as they put the mask over my face.  I actually rather welcomed it, knowing that I really did NOT want to be awake for the procedure.

I awoke with three new incisions on my abdomen, the procedure having been done robotically.  One incision for the camera, two for the robotic “arms”.  Lovely.  

I’ll spare you the pics of my innards (Before, during, and after pics were complimentary with the cost of the surgery.  That's a nice perk, don’t you think?)

Pain meds and pizza became my guilty pleasure.  And junk food.  When picking up my meds, Keith asked if I would like anything else from the store.  Kit Kat!  I want a Kit Kat!  And now we have a 1 lb., 0.1 oz. family pack of miniature Kit Kats in our pantry.

Personally, I think this whole recovery thing is not going to be a big deal. 

Oh, how wrong I was.

No one bothered to tell me was that I could expect significant pain in my lungs.  My ribs.  My shoulders.  And my sternum.  Now why, pray tell, would that happen, when the operation was below the belt (provided the belt was on a pair of mom-jeans)?

Apparently, when surgery is done robotically or laparoscopically, they pump your body full of gas.  And then there are the fluids – all the stuff from the IVs that get added to the mix.

What’s left, after the surgeon has left the operating room, is not nearly as "fun" as having the hernia to begin with.

My lungs threatening to push outside of my ribcage, pressing against them with every fibrous tissue.  I swear, I must have cracked several ribs, or bruised them at a minimum, just trying to catch a breath.

A stomach that makes me look like I’m starting my second trimester (even though I know that’s impossible given mine and Keith’s respective medical histories).  The bloating so bad, it led me to tears on night two because it had been a while since I’d seen my stomach looking like THIS!  Or maybe it’s just the 1 lb., 0.1 oz. bag of Kit Kats.

Pain in my right shoulder (why the right, I have no clue) that practically immobilized me upon waking the next morning.  The knot in my shoulder would make Quasimoto envious.  “That”, the person who called from the hospital to check on me, “is a result of the gas trying to find its way out of (my) body”.  Like … through what orifice??? My armpit???

As nighttime approaches, the pain moves into my rib cage.  Making it extremely difficult to get a good, much less a deep, breath.  And forget getting comfortable.  It’s not happening.  Perhaps I’ll eventually just pass out from exhaustion, my body numb from such duress.

And then … there is the pain in my collarbone and shoulder (of all places!) that comes with each burp or yawn.  I mean … extracting the gas from my body is great and all, but really??? 

And finally, on day five, there are pains in the area of what used to be my hernia.  Pain that feels like the incisions are being reopened without the benefit of anesthesia.  Pain that drills into my hip bone, almost making me nauseous.  That could be the Kit Kats too, though.

So for four weeks, I can’t lift anything weighing more than 15 pounds.  At least my little bean still weighs less than that.  And I’m not supposed to put any pressure on my abdomen, lest I rip the sutures on the inside.  But I can walk.  30 minutes every day. 

At least I scheduled the surgery (and recovery time) to coincide with the CrossFit Games.  I might not be able to CrossFit right now, but I can watch others do so.  Yeah … I’m watching people work out.

After those four weeks, I should be well and good.  My incisions should be healed.  My belly should be back to its previous and much flatter, version.  I can once again wear clothing that’s not categorized as “loose-fitting”.  And the people around me will be happy that the gas has left my body.

I can be confident that I am healed.

And I can go back to lifting heavy things.