Hernia Repair . . .

I’ve already shared that I had the corrective surgery for the hernia in my abdomen, but this update is to share that I’ve had the follow-up visit with the surgeon. He was very pleased with my recovery, and while he asked me to wait another 2 weeks before I start resuming my previous activities he said there should be no limits to what I do with my abdominal muscles after that.

I’m very happy with that. It is exactly what I’ve been hoping for, and waiting for, over the last 30 years. It is time to start getting rid of the watermelon I’ve been carrying on the lower part of my torso.

So, while I know I’m several weeks early, I’m announcing that my New Year resolution is that by the end of 2021, my abs will look more like what they did when I met my wife than they have for the last 10 years. I’ve known all along how to exercise to tone those muscles – now I have medical permission to start doing that. I’ve never had “six-pack” abs, but when I was a medic in the US Army my abs were flat, and that is the dream I have for where this will go. I just have to wait until the start of the new year before I can start. I’m excited!

Please forgive me . . .

I realized that I forgot to post a new “Saturday Posts” entry on Saturday, but I’m hopeful that you will all forgive me when you know the situation.

Last Wednesday, I reported to the local hospital outpatient surgery center at 0700 for the hernia repair surgery I’ve been waiting for since the mid 1980’s. While the surgery itself seems to have gone well, the first 3 days of the recovery were a trial in the extreme. I did not get any sleep at all after getting home for the first 36 hours. The pain medication they gave me (hydrocodone) did almost nothing for the discomfort unless I was also drinking coffee when I took it. It is a well known (within the medical community) truth that when you combine drugs that end in ” ine” the effects of the drugs are amplified. The active ingredient of hydrocodone is codine, while the active ingredient of coffee is caffeine. Together, in my recent experience, I felt a nice reduction of discomfort, while also not being able to get any sleep.

My solution to that was to quit taking the hydocodone, and after waiting 6 hours for the drug to vacate my system I started drinking vodka. That worked much better for helping me get any sleep, and since I made that decision I’ve experienced a slow but steady progress towards recovery.

Speaking as a patient, I must defer to the surgeon as to whether or not the surgery was a success. That being said, I think that when I see him later this week for the follow-up, he’ll agree. However much of a trial those first few days were, I do feel better. It’s my expectation that within the next week or two I’ll get what I’ve waited for all of these years – the authorization to begin light abdominal exercises with an eye towards full normal abdominal activity.

Updates . . .

Yes, yesterday was Veteran’s Day. I know that I have posted something about it every year for several years, but yesterday I did something more personal.

You see, I found a limited series on Netflix called “Medal of Honor” – which should be self-explanatory. I spent most of my waking hours yesterday watching that series, and saluting my brothers in uniform who rose to the occasion to deserve the highest military honor the USA ever awards. As one relative of a Medal of Honor recipient said in the show, “You want to think you’d do what they did, but you can never know for sure until you’re in that situation.” I was particularly impressed by the Medal of Honor recipients who have children or grandchildren who chose to enter the military service too.

I can only hope that Netflix will continue the series. All of those stories deserve to be told.

Additionally – I’m only about a week away from my first visit with the local General Surgery clinic where I’m supposed to get my abdominal hernia repaired. I do have one concern – that in the paperwork they sent me they wanted to know about alternative insurance. The Veteran’s Administration referred me to their clinic. I should need no additional insurance. If they are not willing to perform this procedure without some extra assurance of payment, I might have to decline. There is no way I’m going to sign anything that makes me, and by proxy my wife, obligated to pay for a procedure the VA sent me to them to receive.

Qualified Success . . . . ?

I’ve written several times before about how I’ve been frustrated by my attempts to get the US Veteran’s Administration Health System to help me by fixing a hernia that runs vertically down the center of my front abdomen.

Yesterday, I had my annual physical with the VA. The night before, my wife and I talked (again!) about my plans for the visit, and I told her that if my doctor still wouldn’t listen to me about why I need to get my hernia repaired, I wanted to ask for a new doctor. She suggested that, should it come to that, I should ask to speak with the Patient Advocate, which I agreed would be a sound strategy.

So, I arrived yesterday on time, got all of my blood work drawn up, and sat waiting for the visit with my doctor. Much to my pleasure, the doctor I’ve seen the last few times has retired. I had a new doctor – or to be more precise, a Physician’s Assistant.

We went through the usual song-and-dance about my “high cholesterol” and her concern about my negligible cigarette use (I smoke, less than 2 packs per week, and sometimes only 3-4 cigarettes per day). Then she asked if there was anything specific that she could help me with, and I told her that I was still interested (because I’d talked to her predecessor about it a few times) in getting the hernia repaired.

Up to that point, she’d been mostly focused on typing my responses into the computer. When I mentioned the hernia, her head snapped around, and she exclaimed, “You have a hernia? Where?” So I leaned back slightly and lifted my shirt to show her. Her eyes became the size of saucers, and her jaw hit the floor. After uttering a very uncharacteristic epithet, she again faced her computer and exclaimed that she could get a surgical consult for this right away – AND asked me if I had a local hospital I’d prefer to have the procedure done at.

So, it isn’t fixed yet. And there is no certainty about how the billing will wash out. But, there is progress, and I’m hopeful for the first time in years that the hernia will finally be repaired.

Keeping it real . . .

I have a confession to make; I have a bad habit.  When I get a new idea, I get so enthusiastic about it that I tend to forget that it might not work out like I want.  For example, when I first started seriously thinking about the femur replacement, I was so thrilled about being able to do serious exercise again that I didn’t stop to realize all the other things going on that won’t be fixed by that surgery.  So, to put my feet back on the ground, I thought I should make a list:

arthritis and bursitis in shoulder

bratwurst sized hernia along the center of my abs

migraine headaches

bad teeth (seriously, I should just get them all pulled and get full top/bottom dentures)

This does not mean that I shouldn’t get the femur replaced – in fact, I am still trying to move forward with the VA about it.  At this point, though, I don’t even know for sure the VA will agree that I should get it, so optimism is premature.  I just want to be realistic about how much my life will change once it’s done.  Yes, I will be able to do more weight lifting and eventually work back into distance running, but I’ll still be curled up in a dark room 1/3rd of each month on average, and I won’t be exercising my abs at all (except indirectly).