Next week, I will assume the patient's position on an operating table. Again. For the 8th time since reaching these "golden" retirement years.
Let me hasten to say being a surgical patient has not become a hobby of mine, though I have had everything from total knee replacement to cataract procedures on both eyes. No surgeries are small. They all carry some level of risk. They can be scary. But all have been necessary in order to retain to retain the mobility and vision necessary to continue an active life.
The coming one is not directly heart-related, though it is linked in a way to the open-heart surgery I came through 20 months ago, the second one I've undergone since becoming a senior. That complicated surgery succeeded wonderfully in addressing a congenital defect and eliminating an aortic aneurysm and replacing a heart valve, just as the first one did in 2005.
This time, though, four months post-op, a nurse and I in cardiac rehabilitation noticed a small, puffy place high up the sternal incision, at the top of the abdomen, close to the breastbone. "That's a hernia," she said, without hesitation -- a conclusion that a string of MDs would confirm over the next several months.
Hernias are not uncommon when you are along in your years and especially when you have had multiple open surgeries. The flesh can grow thinner or weaker, literally, and fatty tissue or even part of an intestine can poke through an abdominal wall into an area it doesn't belong. Most hernias evidently occur lower down the frame than mine, which is in the epigastric region up high --making it look almost as though you have grown a third man-boob when you wear a tight tee-shirt.
You can live with these hernias for years -- until you can't. They do not heal on their own. You risk reaching the point that the hernia is "incarcerated,"meaning stuck in the "out" position, and from there possibly reaching a "strangulated" condition, meaning that the blob cuts off blood supply and kills tissue. My ventral hernia is no longer tiny; it has grown larger and larger. Which is not good. Rather than waiting for an emergency to happen, I concluded that it makes sense to be proactive and find a highly skilled surgeon with a great track record of doing these procedures successfully. I have done that, and so with my daughter's help, I will be traveling some distance to his hospital next week.
After we return, I will have to take it easy for several weeks. (No lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk, for example.) But after that, I want to become active again. Get back to the gym. Walk the dog twice a day if she's good with that. Play with the grandkids. And return to the senior fitness class I miss so much. Who wants to be "tabled" unless it is to be able to get up off that platform and live life to the fullest again?
© Robert Gray Holland (2021)