07 Aug

My First Hernia

Twelve years ago, I knew nothing about hernias. I thought they were the problems of overweight, middle-aged men who finally got off their asses. Then I got a hernia.

I was working a sort of construction job at the time, renovating a coffee house in Cross Plains. On the day of the hernia, I was busting up a chifforobe concrete wall with a sledgehammer. But I had a stomachache, so I wasn’t putting tons of effort into the task.

My stomachache was getting worse and worse, though, so eventually, I went into the bathroom and tried to produce something consistent with what I was feeling at the time. Nothing happened.

But my gut was killing me, and I started to notice a disconcerting bulge in my lower abdomen. I asked for the rest of the day off.

In my car on the way home, the pain was getting pretty unbearable, so I decided to drive straight to the emergency room. I hobbled in bent over at a 90 degree angle. My memory of what follows is a little spotty, but I know I got into an actual room pretty quickly. They situated me on a bed and promised the doctor would be with me shortly. He wasn’t.

I really have no idea how long I waited, but I eventually paged the nurse and told her, “I’m in a lot of fucking pain, here.” That got her attention.

What I learned later was that they assumed I had a kidney stone, and since the remedy for a kidney stone is that you pee it out, they left me in the room until I was ready to pass the stone. But they were wrong. I didn’t have a kidney stone. My problem was that my intestine had broken through the muscle wall in my lower abdomen and was working on a full escape.

The doctor came into the room and noted as much. Then he announced he was going to try to push it back in. I cringed. He pushed. I screamed.

“Okay,” he said, “it looks like we’re going to have to go to surgery.” I had an ‘incarcerated’ hernia, he informed me. And they had to act quick, because if the intestine remains incarcerated for too long, the blood supply can get cut off and then you’ve got yourself a dead section of intestine, which is a much more complicated and dangerous surgery.

So they wheeled me down the hall, shot me up with drugs, and called my mom. My brother answered the phone, and I announced, “Will, I have an incarcerated hernia.”

“Okay. What do you want me to do about that?” Will said.

I set the phone aside and turned to the nurse. “What do we want him to do about that?”

She grabbed the phone from me. And that’s the last thing I remember.

(Stay tuned. Tomorrow: My Second Hernia.)