Things I Need to Know about my Hernia for My Next Dinner Party…if I ever get invited to one

If I am here to write about this it is because the operation was a clear success and I am alive and well.  I didn’t keep you in suspense because, as operations go, mine was almost a no-brainer.  Any complications that were to arise during it would have been the result of some unforeseeable twist of events rather than this process itself.   You just don’t die from a hernia repair operation, it’s as simple as that, and I for one was not going to be the first.  I had a family name to uphold.  It was like an incident that occurred to me four years ago at a summer camp I was running up in the hills of Guadalajara.  The place owned some semi-undomesticated cats which had just had a litter.  The little guys were scampering around the dining hall, and not in a fashion unlike Woody Allen’s famous lobster episode in Annie Hall, there were half a dozen of us courageously trying to scoop up four feisty and hissing kittens which had taken refuge in the most unreachable nooks and crannies of the room.  It took us nearly half an hour to retrieve them, and the one I got, seconds before I launched it airborne outside, took a nip at the finger on my other hand.  It wasn’t a chunk, mind you, but it broke the skin, and considering these creatures were half-wild, I came to wonder whether or not this would result in a some kind of lethal infection and I would have to buried with the inglorious epithet “Cause of Death: Kitten Bite.”  

        So, in short, I refused accept my time being up because of a small incision being exercised on my belly.  And, as you can see, I won out.

        But just what is a hernia?  Let me be more specific: what is an inguinal hernia?  Well, this occurs when abdominal fat or part of the small intestine push through an opening in the abdominal muscles.  At my age, it is mostly caused by wear and tear or even some unnecessarily stressful effort I made recently.  I don’t really recall any specific moment, but that may be because the rupture was a result of years of punishment to that area.  Who knows.  The point is the result is a bulge in the groin area which, aside from looking a little odd, doesn’t bother you much other than a little discomfort from time to time.  The bulge would disappear when I lay down.  It didn’t normally hurt, but would ache if I did some exercise or carried to much wait, and then get better with rest.  In short, a textbook hernia.

        Unfortunately, at present at least, there is only one way to fix the hernia and that is via a surgical procedure, i.e., operation.  This is called a herniorrhaphy, which is, my goodness, one of the more challenging words to pronounce in English.  I wouldn’t venture to give a stab at the Spanish version.  This is why understandably people use the words “hernia repair” instead.

       There are a number of techniques.  In the past it was more common to just stick everything back into its place and sew it up, which worked well enough, but not always.  The recovery was longer, more painful and the chances of recurrence were higher. 

        Nowadays a slightly different approach is used, which involves the use of a mesh which covers a wider area and is more effective at preventing the hernia from appearing again.  In my case, they used what is known as hernioplasty, which is the insertion of synthetic meshes to secure the affected area more effectively.  Mine was a plug and patch (or mesh) technique called the Rutkow-Robin, where first they inserted a shuttlecock-like pug and then covered the area with a mesh.  At least that’s what the medical history said. 

        Hernioplasty is recommended because it is easy to perform, easy to recover from, fairly painless and has a recurrence rate of less than 1%.   I would have to wait and see if that was true.

All Taken Of

Well that was quick.   Everything is back in its place and I’m on the road to recovery.  The doctor came in this morning, actually it was about 12:30, and he said, “You’re ready to go home.”  He wasn’t even my doctor and he had never seen my wound, but God bless him, he knew what he was talking about… but there was more to the story that just that so I will have to backtrack…but first a little shuteye.

My Hernia has its Days Numbered

Actually it’s hours by now.  It’s been an hours since I’ve last been able to eat….and that’s practically all that I think about.   My only salvation is breakfast in bed the following day.  Everything is set for tomorrow, which turns out to be Memorial Day in the States, so I’m not quite sure if it’s the best date to get operated on.  I’m still praying my doctor is getting plenty of rest at home despite the newborn.  Other than that…it’s time to pack and get ready.  Think I’ll take the metro to the hospital.  Kind of fancy the idea.  I still don’t hav Twitter, so I won’t be twitting, so it may be a day or twon before you get the latest. 

Mi Hernia con los Días Contados

Pues ya está.  Queda un día…ni eso..quedan unas pocas horas para que mi hernia se encuentre con el destino.  Eso es, me van a meter tripa, justo para el comienzo de verano para que esté en buena forma para la playa.   No tengo casi nada preparado, principalmente porque no sé qué es lo que tengo que tener preparado.  Nunca he tenido que pasar por esto.  Pero he limpiado la casa a fondo, después de una semana maravillosa con mis hijas, y así la tengo lista para cuando vuelva…que supongo que volveré- porque mañana es el Día de los Caídos en los Estados Unidos.  Vaya momento para someterse a la buena voluntad de mi cirujano, que, por cierto, espero que le esté dejando descansar bien.  

          Por lo demás, lo único reto que tengo por delante es el de no poder comer a partir de la cena esta noche.  ¡Vaya rollo!


Mi Hernia Tiene Ya Fecha

Bueno, hay esperanza para mi hernia.  Me hicieron un ecografía el otro día y todo estaba confirmado…otra vez.  Así de fácil.  O no tanto.  La doctora tuvo grandes problemas para localizarla.  Hay que decir que resulta frustrante y algo humillante que una mujer meta una camera en tus gayumbos y diga, “Es que no la en ninguna parte.  ¿Le importaría ponerse de pie?”  Pero así fue, más o menos.   Gruñí un poco y le hice caso.  Una vez levantado, me seguía manoseando hasta dar con el objetivo y dijo por fin, “Ahí está.  Por fin.  Es pequeñita.”  Cerré los ojos con vergüenza.  Porque, vamos, “pequeña” era una cosa, pero “pequeñita”, no sé yo. 

         “Pero eso es una buena noticia.” Añadió.  “Suba la ropa.”

          El cirujano volvió después de una baja de paternidad.  Era su segundo.  Me puse cara seria.   Llega a ser su primero y me habría parecido mejor porque con dos padres y un bebé, aún juegas con ventaja.  Cualquiera que haya tenido un segundo hijo sabe perfectamente que es precisamente esa pequeña novedad la que complica toda la vida y que hace que ser padre deje de ser algo agradable y ameno.  El sueño, o más bien falta de el, se convierte en un factor importante.   Bromeamos sobre lo duro que era tener que afrontar el nuevo reto y mientras tanto no dejé de observar la gravedad de sus ojeras.  Gracias a Dios, parecía estar bien descansado. 

           El hombre echo un vistazo rápido a mi informe pre-operatorio, un poco demasiado rápido para mi gusto, y dijo que todo estaba bien.  Se notaba que no se había fijado en mi salto de corazón cuando mi amigo Aitor me habló de su chuletón en Asturias, pero bueno, seguía fiándome.   Luego me habó de los posibles riesgos pero ninguno me parecía especialmente amenazador.  Bueno, supongo que siempre cabe la posibilidad de morir en la mesa operatoria; pero dando por supuesto que eso no va a pasar, ni que vaya a  sucumbir a los efectos de la anestesia y despertarme diciendo “¡Visca Barça!”  Cualquier revés parece poco serio. 

My hernia has a date

Well, there is hope for my hernia.  I had the sonogram a few days ago and everything was confirmed.   It was that easy.  The doctor, a woman had trouble locating it.  I have to admit, it’s a bit frustrating to hear a female stick a camera in your underwear and say, “I can’t find it.  Would you mind standing up?   Even you are talking about an inguinal hernia.   So, I obliged and she continued to grope until she finally said, “Oh there it is.  It’s a small one.”  I closed my eyes with shame.  “But that’s good news.” She added.  “You can pull up your paints now.”

         My surgeon was back from leave after his baby was born.  It was his second, he said.  I grimaced.  Had it been his first that would have sounded more encouraging because a firstborn is a big change, but with two parents, you can handle it.  Anyone who has had a second knows that it’s that little addition when everything really gets complicated and when parents stop enjoying parenting.   I didn’t ask how he was sleeping these days, but I didn’t joke about how much more time-consuming the second child can be and I made sure to study the seriousness of the rings under his eyes.

         The doctor took a quick look at my pre-op, a little too quick for my liking, and he told me about the possible risks, none of which sounded too serious.   I mean I guess I could always die on the operating table, but assuming that won’t happen, the worst looks pretty benign, as long as the anesthetics don’t get the best of me and I wake up saying, “I love Barcelona football club”, I should be fine. 

          Then we set a date, just as I was hoping for, and everything looks like it is going on schedule.   My groin feels better already. 

My Hernia Gets a Shock

You can never say it’s breakfast time in a hospital; there is always something that can lead you astray.    Encouraged by the efficiency of the blood takers down the hall, and happy to leave without feeling like a noodle, I went over to the radiography desk to see if they could have my sonogram switched to that morning.  I had scheduled it for the next day and while there was nothing terribly wrong with that, I basically had nothing to do anyway, I could think of better ways of spending my holidays than on the city bus.  Not a chance.  The woman checked, God bless her, but there was no opening.  But as compensation she suggested I taker her up on the offer to have my electrocardiogram done right there and then instead of at the real time, which was an hour away.

         “Could I really get my ecg in before breakfast?”

         “Oh, yeah.  You just go upstairs and ask.  I’m sure there will be no problem.”

         Well I listened to her, and what do you know, she was right.  The place was empty, except for the nurse.  I explained who I was and why I was there and she there would be no problem whatsoever.  Then she spilled out a series of explanations that I was later to learn were the following:  Sit and wait.  But she filled it in with all sorts of secondary detail about some other guy being inside the room and that he was not ready yet but when he was ready he would come out which would be when I would be allowed to go in and have the test done but until then I was to wait in the office at the seat if I wanted and not enter the room where the other patient was.  Clearly unable to ingest that much information before having ingested some coffee, I went straight for the door. 

         “No!” she said politely.  Then she went over the instructions again, but they didn’t quite sink in.  I nodded and reached for the doorknob, which was when she decided that I must have had difficulty understanding her because I was either a foreigner or a complete idiot.  So she started speaking to me as if I was one of those people who had fallen of their bikes one too many times as a child and I finally got the message.  

         After all that, by the time I actually sat down, the unknown patient suddenly emerged from the room so I immediately had to get up and go in.  I took off my shirt and lay down while the nurse hooked me up to about a dozen wires, just as you see in the movies.  She told me everything was ready and that she would be back.  I have to admit I was a little disappointed because I was expected a kind of magical whir or some kind of sound that would give greater importance to the moment, but there was nothing. So, I just sat there keeping as calm as possible until I was jolted by the sound of my cell phone.   Damn!  I had forgotten to turn of the sound.  It was my friend Aitor calling from Asturias and asking how everything was.

         “Pretty good.  And you?”

         “Great.  Just having a lie in and enjoying life.  Going to the beach soon.  How about you?”

         “Well, I’m lying down too, but at the clinic.  I look like a robot.”  I told him what was going on.  He told me all about his vacation and gave great emphasis to the eating part, which is what you would expect to do up in Asturias.  Most of you don’t know this, but Asturias is in the north of Spain and it is famous for its good and plentiful food.  Well, as I was saying, the man didn’t miss the slightest detail.  I had to cut him off for fear it would upset my state of hunger.

         I hung up and a few minutes later the nurse came in and efficiently removed the wires.  I got dressed while she tore off the sheet of paper with the results.  I looked at it and noticed that everything was pretty much normal until there was an eruption of seismic activity and then a long straight line.  I pointed to it and said, “Hey look!  This is where I got the phone call and this is where Hector told me about the two pound steak he ate.”  Naturally, she didn’t understand a thing.

My Hernia Goes to the Hospital

You can say what you want about the service sector in Spain, but I can tell you that it has improved a lot over the last few years.  Just recently I went up to the hospital to have them do some pre-op tests on me to see if I am in shape to be cut open and I am glad to say that the health service was more than satisfactory.  I’d be willing to get a hernia any day now that I know that.  It really shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Now that Spain has won the World Cup after about 30 tries, it can just about do anything it wants. 

          The whole operation couldn’t have gone more smoothly.  I get to the Tests Department, or whatever you call it in that language I’ve slowly begun to forget over the years, half-expecting one of those lines you see to buy a lottery ticket and to my surprise, it took all of ten minutes to find myself sitting down and watching while a nurse approached me with a hard plastic tube the size of a barrel and something steel resembling a bayonet.  

          “You’re going to stick that thing in my arm?”

        “Of course.”

         “But it won’t fit.”

         “What, are you scared of needles?”

         “ ‘A’ that’s not a needle, it’s a walking stick.  And ‘B’ I’m just worried about how much blood you’ll be taking out of me.  I have an operation coming up.” 

        “Relax.  It’s not going to be that big a deal.”

        “What do you mean?  I feel like this is a Red Cross blood drive.  Do I get a donut and some apple juice with a straw after this?”

        “No,” said another nurse who was doing the paperwork and listening in.  “But you’ll get a paper which is good for a discount at the cafeteria.”

        That was just the kind of thing I liked to hear.  A little compensation for the hardship I had to endure.   Then they told me I could come back in three hours and pick up my test results.  That little bit of news nearly provoked an “Ah-hah!” from me.   I mean, how often are we told to come back in a week to find out if we are dying or not?  The nurse had unwittingly debunked the old theory, but I didn’t call her on it, deciding I would reserve the inside information for a moment when I needed it most.


Mi Hernia en la Cola

Una vez desconectado volví a la mesa de radiografía para concertar una hora para el rayo X y de paso preguntar otra si podía cambiar la fecha de mi ecografía del día siguiente a esa misma mañana, que de esa manera podía liquidar todo en el mismo momento.  La cola era más larga esta vez y había más complicaciones debido al empleo de algunos interesados de usar el “solo quiero preguntar una cosa y ya que estoy aquí me puedes atender.”  Me saca del quicio esa técnica pero ¡cómo funciona!  A veces, por lo menos.  El primero me sorprendió porque era un joven y ellos no suelen recurrir a esas medidas.  No dije nada porque pensé que solo iba a hacer la pregunta e irse, pero mira por donde, el chaval consiguió saltarse a siete personas…conmigo a la cabeza.  Nunca sé como afrontar esas situaciones.  Frustran porque sé que la gente no es tan tonta, pero rara vez les llamo la atención.  Además casi siempre ocurre que al final no se sabe bien si su consulta va a durar 10 segundos o 10 minutos y cuando ya no hay nada que hacer, me corto y me callo.

         Cuando se fue, me tocó a mí.  Me acerqué y antes de abrir la boca, una señora, ya las de esas mayores que son expertas en esa estrategia, me flanqueó y empezó a hacer una miríada de preguntas, con un ligero tono de pánico para dar la impresión de ser desesperada.   Es así cómo se hace.   Y en el momento en que te das cuenta lo que está sucediendo, ¡zas! está dentro y tú te quedas fuera. 

         Afortunadamente me había tocado una recepcionista con muchas tablas en estos asuntos y enseguida le despachó al final de la cola.  Que conste que le costó, porque la mujer insistía, pero sus esfuerzos pasaron en vano. 

         La fase de la radiografía fue tan breve que llegué a pensar que no habían tomado una foto de mi esqueleto.  Me gusta oír ese suave “beep” que indica que un asalto de ondas me está atravesando el cuerpo, pero supongo que hoy en día ya no se hace.  O eso, o me estoy quedando sordo.  Con eso, no había más que hacer que ir a ver a la anestesista…pero aún quedaba una hora así que fui a desayunar.   

Mi Hernia Se Prepara Más

Tocaba el desayuno…pero aún no.  Cometí el error de preguntar sobre si podía hacer la ecografía, mi primera por cierto, ese mismo día en vez del día siguiente como estaba previsto.  Contaba con que en vacaciones habría más hueco.  Pues no señor.  Es justo cuando todos piensan como yo.  La recepcionista me dijo que ni de churro iba a poder cambiarlo pero que sí quería hacer el electrocardiograma antes de desayunar que por ella no había problema.  Claro, que ella no trabajaba en esa zona, ¿Cómo le iba a parecer?  Pues le hice caso y efectivamente encontré la oficina despejada, expuse me caso y la chica me dio muchas explicaciones sobre lo que tenía que hacer antes de conectarme al sistema de mediciones.  En resumen era: espérese aquí hasta que salga el otro paciente…pero no sé si era por si forma circunspecta de explicarse o mi falta de una buena dosis de cafeína pero me encontraba incapaz de entender ni una palabra.  Pero ni una.  Dije que vale y fui directo a la puerta donde estaba el otro.

         “¡No!”  Luego volvió a indicarme lo que tenía que hacer y asentí la cabeza una vez, y volví a dirigirme hacia la puerta….que es fue cuando ella decidió que estaba hablando con bien un extranjero con un nivel de español muy bajo o con un imbécil total.  Como la forma de hablar con personas de esas categorías es la misma no pude discernir a cual de las dos pertenecía yo. 

         Me lo volvió a decir y esta vez entendí lo que pedía de mí, y le pedí perdón añadiendo que estaba un poco espeso esa mañana.

         Pronto salió el otro paciente y entré.  Me quité la camisa y me tumbé mientras la enfermera pegó numeroso cables a mi torso, justo como en las películas.  Me dijo que ya estaba todo listo y que volvería dentro de unos minutos.  Yo me imaginaba que era importante mantenerme lo más tranquilo posible para dar una impresión de estabilidad coronaria y así lo hacía hasta que recibí una llamada al móvil, que me sorprendió porque no me la esperaba.  Me dio un pequeño salto y cogí el aparato.  Era mi amigo Aitor llamando desde Asturias y preguntando cómo iba todo. 

         “Bien.  ¿Y tú?”

         “Pues estamos tumbados tranquilos y pronto vamos a la playa.  ¿Y tú?”

         “También estoy tumbado, pero en la consulta.  Parezco un robot.”  Y le conté lo que estaba pasando.  Él también me puso al día sobre sus vacaciones que, entre otras cosas, destacaban por su amplia oferta gastronómica.  ¡Dios! El hombre no se saltó ningún detalle, y con el hambre que tenía le tenía que cortar diciendo que no podría seguir hablando hasta más tarde. 

         Colgué y pocos minutos después, entró la enfermera para desconectarme.  Me vestí y me dio la hoja con los resultados.  Estaba todo normal hasta la mitad cuando hubo una especie de seísmo seguido por una línea plana.  Señalé con el dado y dije: “Mira…el primero fue la llamada y el segundo el chuletón que comió me amigo Aitor en Asturias.”  Naturalmente, ella no entendía nada.