At the age of 72, I'm no longer an adult surgery virgin.
Up until today my only surgery was a tonsillectomy that was so long ago, I had to say "I don't know" when asked about the date of previous surgeries. Probably I was four or five.
All I remember about it was ether being poured on some sort of cloth, then put over my nose and mouth.
But now I have a blog! (three, in fact) So I can go beyond the usual verbal "let me tell you about my surgery" -- a sure-fire conversation stopper, especially if an old guy is talking to a younger person.
I can write about my surgery. And share a photo of one of my three laparoscopic incisions.
Not too gross, right? And by viewing it in a blog post, you're saved from me pulling up my shirt and making you look at it in person.
I'm a bit leery of being too enthusiastic about how little pain I feel about seven hours after the operation, since the anesthesiologist told me he puts some painkillers in the anesthetic "cocktail."
But so far I haven't even felt the need to take a Tylenol, much less one of the Hydrocod-Acetamin pills I was prescribed on an "as needed" basis.
The right side of my abdomen is sore -- which isn't surprising, since my large inguinal (groin) hernia was on that side.
My Salem Health surgeon, Dr. Hsinchen Lin, used robots to aid in the laparoscopic procedure. I've read that robot-assisted surgery has some advantages over plain old laparoscopy. Hopefully one of those benefits is less post-surgery pain.
The most stressful part of the surgery was waiting for it to start.
My wife and I arrived right on time for the 11:30 am check-in at Salem Hospital. And it didn't take long for me to be ushered into the surgery prep room, where I got to put on the charming backless gown, get my vital signs checked, have an IV started, and chat with several friendly nurses.
Since my surgery was scheduled for 1:30 pm, I optimistically thought that I'd be home before too long.
That happy thought lasted until around 1:45 pm, when I was told that due to the previous surgery taking longer than expected, mine wouldn't start for another hour. This was the toughest part, since I already was getting tired of the decidedly non-ergonomic hospital bed I was on.
Way too soft. No back support. My sciatica-prone right leg wasn't having a good time.
What saved me was a nurse disconnecting the IV tube in my left arm so I could use the restroom conveniently located right next door to the room I was in.
That solved a couple of problems.
I got out of the damn hospital bed and could stretch my legs. And since I have to use an intermittent catheter to pee, my bladder having gone on strike four years ago, I didn't need to worry about going through a semi-lengthy urinating process right after the surgery.
And the nurse told me that surgeons want the bladder as empty as possible prior to surgery, given the proximity of the bladder to the hernia location.
(The anesthesiologist had pointed out what I already suspected. Just as when you go to sleep, the body's peeing and pooping functions are basically put on hold during anesthesia.)
Anyway, it feels good to have the surgery done with. It'll take six weeks to get back to 80% normalcy, Dr. Lin said.
But I'll be able to lift no more than 10 pounds between now and then, so light exercising will be possible, along with my usual two-mile hilly dog walk in the late afternoon after a few days of shorter walks.
I really appreciated how smoothly the Salem Hospital surgery process went, leaving aside the unavoidable delay in my surgery time. The nurses made me feel well-cared for. My wife and I had a very enjoyable conversation with the first RN who looked after me.
Having a surgery is stressful. Being able to chat about subjects totally unrelated to what I was about to go through helped a lot to keep my mind from obsessing about what was to come.
Time will tell if I continue to have minimal post-surgery pain.
Regardless, I'm happy that things went as well as they did. Dr. Lin had said that I might need four incisions, given how large my hernia was, so I feel fortunate that I ended up with three, her original prognosis.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention a tip that might benefit others who need hernia surgery. About ten days before my surgery I had a rare bout of constipation, perhaps caused by stress, but maybe not. I'm a vegetarian, so constipation hasn't been a problem for me.
At any rate, I found that MiraLax, a mild stool softener, ended up working best for me. It takes several days to work, so I was glad that I'd started taking it before the surgery. Straining to have a bowel movement is a post-hernia surgery no-no, which is why a stool softener was included in my discharge instructions. (Heavy duty pain medications cause constipation.)
But since they take a while to do their thing -- softening the stool -- to me it makes sense for someone scheduled for a hernia surgery to start taking MiraLax prior to the surgery. It comes in powder form that's dissolved in liquid, so less than the recommended amount can be taken.
Yesterday I was told that if I use the Hydrocodone I was prescribed, I should increase the amount of MiraLax I'd been taking. But since I don't need that pain reliever, I'm sticking with the usual MiraLax dosage.