The Chronicles of Hernia

According to a number of movies from the 40s and 50s, Christmas is a warm, wonderful time to gather with loved ones and sing carols, exchange gifts, and eat goodies—much like it was in first-century Palestine. And so, I thought to myself, what more appropriate time  than that of joyous celebratory yuletidiness to have an abdominal mesh inserted into my nether regions?  I went to see my doctor about just such a possibility.

For those unfamiliar, such a mesh is the long-term fix for what is known in medical jargon as a ‘hernia’. For laymen and Jim Fowler fans, a hernia is not a wheezy African dog; that would be a laughing hernia, which are more painful than a coughing hernia but less painful than a sneezing hernia. A medical hernia is a slight slash in the lining of the abdomen that allows the employees of one’s intestinal firm who are supposed to be indoors working hard at their various digestive and/or reproductive activities to take the occasional inopportune smoke break and inconveniently and somewhat painfully depart their assigned cubicles creating an unsightly protuberance in the abdominal region not unlike that following the consumption of a Chipotle burrito. Essentially, my stomach growls announced, “The bowels have left the building.”

My personal hernia was of the inguinal variety which surprised me somewhat because I thought an inguana was a large tropical lizard. I’m just glad I didn’t have the gila-monstoral or the komodo-dragonal variety.

Now, contrary to what I was scrupulously telling everybody, I did not acquire said belly bulge by carting my wife’s purse around the mall. It was instead the case that my intermittent gut goiter was a result of avoiding death or serious injury by pushing my stalled foreign compact uphill through a busy intersection (read the long, drawn-out, extended version of the story here). This was some time ago and I’ve been living with minor inguinal discomfort ever since. That is, until I was randomly selected for additional screening and my TSA agent said, “You should really get that checked out.”

So I made an appointment with a surgeon during which he placed his hand up my Mississippi as far as St. Louis and told me to turn my head and cough up about five grand to have it fixed. He would do so ‘laparoscopically’, meaning that he would use a laser to create a tiny smiley face under my belly-button wherein he would insert a miniature gill net across my abdominal stream to prevent my intestinal convicts from escaping. I would be ‘up and around’ in a couple of days, he said. Looking back, I took this to mean I would be working the land and baling hay, but in fact it meant I could make it all the way to the bathroom without passing out.

A couple of weeks later I checked into a large beige facility and was given a paper robe and a razor and told to go crazy. I was then lead to a secluded bed curtained off from the other toga-partying healthcare victims and given an intravenous relaxant that made me think I was the feel-good movie of the year. One-by-one the entire hospital staff came by to introduce themselves and without so much as buying me dinner, would lift up my paper gown and probe around at will—much to my increasing indifference, by the way. I was on a relaxant. And was very relaxed. In fact, when somebody new came in and lifted my paper I would find myself singing Ray Charles’ “Everybody Doin’ the Mess Around.”

Finally it was time.   A nurse came in to give me the hard stuff. She stuck a needle in my IV and said I might feel some discomfort. Psh. Discomfort. It wasn’t bad. I was on relaxant. I was relaxed. They wheeled me into the operating room at which time my forearm suddenly entered the eternal fires of Gehenna. But it was still okay. I was on a relaxant. And was very relaxed. And singing John Mellencamp’s “Hurts so good…” I went to sleep.

The next thing I knew I was at a different yet similar toga party only this one seemed like a sleepover. And I felt like I had been subjected to a James Cameron Alien birth. My tummy hurt. Do I get a popsicle? When I got my tonsils out I got a popsicle. “Ground control to Major Tom…” I went back to sleep.

Slapping on my shoulder. What? It was my doctor. “Everything went fine,” he said. You woke me up for that? Did you wear that tie during the procedure? Doesn’t really match. Cool watch, though. 1:40. “Give Me One Moment in Time…” I went back to sleep.

Thirty minutes later I woke up for good and they brought me to a recovery room where The Queen Mother was waiting to video my drugged stupor and make me an internet sensation. Her disappointment at my lucidity was palpable. A nurse came in to see if I could pee. I told her, “I can’t even C yet.”

“Give us a buzz when you can,” she told me; “We need a discharge to discharge.”

Ha. Cute.

She came back later with the same question. I said I think I can. She called me the little engine that could and walked me to the bathroom shutting the door behind us. Both of us. “I have to watch you,” she said. “Regulations.”

Great. Thanks Obama. She has no idea what she is in for as I suffer from acute urinary stage fright. And that is with a room full of guys all in the same position doing their best to ignore one another. Perhaps they will give me a relaxant…”Darlin’ won’t you stand by me?…”

“Sounds like a lawyer thing,” I said.

“You know it,” she agreed. Thirty-seven minutes later we emerged having finally unleashed a torrent that would rival a dripping Kohler. After I signed some work releases saying I was satisfied with the finished product, they gave me some antibiotics and enough codeine for a few days of pain-killing and several weeks of follow-on recreational use. The Queen Mother then drove me home for a week of bedrest and bowl games. (This was, of course, a total coincidence that they happen to coincide.)

In a couple of weeks I was out and about and answering ‘how do you feel’ and ‘how’s your recovery going’ questions like a boss. Having witnessed a couple of The Queen Mother’s recoveries I would say, “It’s a lot like having a baby.” The men would nod in sympathy and purse their lips. Women would burst out laughing for some reason.

Three weeks after, I went back to see my surgeon. He gave me a couple of Pillsbury Dough Boy pokes and declared that I was, in fact, normal. I was taken aback. If I had known that a simple surgery would finally make me normal I would have had it years ago.

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