It all started about six weeks ago, when I could feel a lump in my groin.  I’m generally lumpy so I thought it might just be an overindulgence in raspberry jelly donuts.  “Probably stomach cancer,” said my always-supportive friends.  I would push the lump in, but it would pop back out like a “Jack in the Box”.  The term “Dreaded Hernia” started to come to mind.  But that was for old guys.   At 74 I’m just beginning the bloom of middle age; couldn’t be me.  I hurried down to InstaCare, and asked Dr. Mostafa Rahimi to check my groin (he always insists he came from Persia, not Iran).  “Yup, that’s an Inguinal Hernia,” he said, “You’ve got one, better have it fixed.  Here is the name of a very good surgeon who can take care of it.”  “What about a truss belt?” I said.  “Yes, otherwise the inguinal could come out, twist, and cause strangulation of an intestine loop – your bowels would decay from within.  Probably cost you $30 for a good one.”


    I got a one-size-fits-all from Ebay, advertised “As New,” so that meant “new”, right?”  Eleven dollars plus $3.77 shipping.  More like a chastity belt than anything else.  Irritating to wear but held me together. Double-sided to guard against the future.


    After extensive research on the Net, I found that there are two possible medical procedures to chose from in repairing a hernia – 1, laparoscopic, or 2, just cut the wall, stick that baby back in, tack a screen door mesh over it and stitch up the sides.  With the laparoscopic method the recovery time is about a week, vs. a month for the Stab and Grab.


    I met with my surgeon, Moshe Faynsod.  “I kid you not, look him up on the Internet.”  I was sure he had just been released from Guantanamo.  In fact his grandparents were Polish Jews who fled Germany just before the Holocaust really started rolling.  The only country taking refugees during that time period was Mexico.  The U.S. banned any Jewish immigration, much to their shame.  Eventually Dr. Faynsod’s father married a French beauty that was stranded in Mexico City and they moved to the states. Moshe was trained at University of Michigan and did his surgical training at UCLA.  My confidence began to rise.


    I asked him if he was going to do the laparoscopic method.  “No, he said, I don’t like to fly blind, and there is much more skill involved, doing the surgery the old fashioned way.”  He laughed, but quit when my face did not laugh along with his.  “Look Joe, I used to do repairs laparoscopically, but the stats show a much higher reoccurrence.  There is also a better chance of damaging a particular nerve in that area that could lead to long-term pain.  “Ok,” I said. “Sharpen up the butcher knife.”  He showed me the titanium tacks that would hold the mesh to my stomach muscle.  Grinning he said, “ I usually put them in with a tack hammer from the 99 cent store.”  A real joker, Dr. Faynsod.


    Came an hour late to the hospital – I’d done that before with no problem – why lie around on a hospital bed with your butt hanging out, just for hospital’s convenience.  Actually waited three hours with no explanation, other than cases had backed up.  The nurse informed me I would be shaved once I was unconscious.  Didn’t ask any questions, but the plastic razor looked used.  The last words I remember were, “Good night and good luck.”


    I woke up with a horrendous pain in the back of my throat, like a steel burr was stuck there.  Moshe apologized for the discomfort, but informed me my surgery went fine.  “We were four hours behind, and Old Clumsy George, our anesthesiologist, must have been in a hurry to get your endotrachael tube in; probably nicked the back of your throat.  Just take an extra pain pill and it’ll be gone in a week – it’s almost stopped bleeding.”


    I ask him about physical activity.  “He said let your body be your guide – hang gliding, pole vaulting, demolition derby – you can do anything you want as long as you are not in pain, or your hernia is not struggling to free itself.  But those stupid suggestions aside, I’d suggest you lift nothing other than feathers and toothpicks for the next week. How is your pain level?”  “My groin is okay, I said, but then I‘ve always had a high threshold for pain.” (All guys like to falsely boast they have a high pain threshold).  “Uh huh,” he said, “but remember you are full of painkillers right now.  Whatever you do, don’t cough. See how it goes and give me a call if you have any concerns.  Here are sixty 325 mg pills of hydrocodone (codeine) should you need them.”


    No, not me, I wouldn’t need the hard stuff; I’d been through this before with a rotator cuff.  After napping through the evening, I hit the pillow about 9:00 PM, looking for a good night’s sleep and a quick recovery.  Didn’t need any pain meds, remembering my high pain threshold, but I did take a couple of Ibuprofen to help me sleep.  About midnight I woke up sure that someone was giving me an intensive prostate exam with a red-hot poker.  Crawled to the bathroom where I dumped as many pain pills as I could into my left palm.  Swallowed them dry like a handful of M and M’s.  “Ice, Ice!” I yelled to my wife, anything to stop the pain. Took about an hour before I could stop blinking back the tears.


    Now it’s the fifth day, I’m hobbling, and crawling, stumbling along with a cane.  Coughed a few times even with duct tape over my mouth – each cough felt like I’d swallowed a live hand grenade.  And a huge hematoma has formed below my incision, growing from lemon-sized to grapefruit-big in three days.  “Don’t worry” the doc said, its like your throat and incision pain.  Eventually it will fade.”


    I had decided to toss my truss into the compost heap, but then I thought I could feel a slight pain and protrusion on my left side.  Didn’t dare look, but I kept the belt.  Let me know if you need to borrow it.  It’s like new.


    Slowly recovering Joe


    March 2016

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