Surgery

1.16.2024

On Friday, I went in for umbilical hernia surgery. If you had asked me about this kind of surgery a year ago, I would have said, "Umbilical what?"

The universe works in strange ways. Last April, I went for my routine mammogram and ultrasound. I had nipple discharge when they were squeezing one of my breasts flat like a pancake, so they decided I might need to see a "breast specialist" to determine if this might be indicative of an early Cancer finding. Lucky for me, it wasn't.

However, as I was getting dressed and about to leave the breast specialist's office, she turned and said to me, "Honey, you need to get that thing fixed."

"What?" I asked, perplexed.

"Your hernia," she answered.

I still looked at her, confused. "What hernia?" I finally asked.

She pointed to my belly button and said, "That one."

I was amazed. My ugly belly button (and it is ugly) popped out around the time I was pregnant. My husband innocently joked that it pushed out like a "turkey timer." indicating that "Little Lewie" was done in the oven. When I was pregnant, it was kind of cute, but when my belly receded, it looked gross and weird.  With some of my shirts and sweaters, people could see its imprint, and someone even suggested I try and "tape it down," so it would be less conspicuous. 



These were my pregnancy photos when my belly button first started to pop out.
Since then, it has been pushed out further with a bulge.

"Does it bother you?"

"No," I answered. I honestly thought it was a battle scar from pregnancy.

She proceeded to tell me that I had an umbilical hernia, which could lead to complications later on in life. The worst-case scenario is that my intestines, or worse, a section of my bowel could become stuck outside the abdomen. 

I stopped her there; talking about my innards coming out was not a conversation I was ready to have. I asked if she could recommend a surgeon, and I left with two names of doctors from the hospital who could help me.

Last April, I was certainly not ready to have surgery. I was still actively searching for a job, and summer was right around the corner. I knew the procedure would put me out for about six weeks, so I couldn't make that commitment. What if I got called back for a second interview? Employers wouldn't understand or wait for me to recover when they have a job to fill.

In December (after working at the land trust for five months), I decided now (Jan.) was the time. My bosses were understanding, and it was just the beginning of winter. (Most land trust activity occurs during the spring, summer, and fall when people are gardening, hiking, and attending outdoor events.) There would still be work for me to do at the trust, but some could be done at home for the first week or so.

The procedure wasn't terrible, but it was a little scary. Doctors and nurses had me repeat my name and birthdate over and over again as they placed tags on me and had me fill out forms. (I thought it was interesting that they put the IV in my right wrist area [my dominant hand] and then asked me to sign.) 

The IV stung, and I couldn't look at the blood that dripped from my hand as the nurse announced, "It looks like you're a bleeder." Soon enough, I was wheeled into the surgery room, where I would be accompanied by my doctor, two anesthesiologists, and a nurse advocate. (The nurse advocate told me he would be watching my vital signs and caring for me while I was put under. I let him know that I had a mom, husband, fifteen-year-old son, and dog waiting for me at home, so he wasn't just my advocate, he had to think about them, too. I said this in a joking manner, but I was dead serious--no pun intended.)

The operating table was thin and metal. I had to lie on my back (no pillow allowed), and my arms and legs were spread out like a Gingerbread man. They put clamps on my arms and some others on my legs, which would rhythmically compress and relax to help my blood flow and protect me from blood clots. Next, electrodes for the EKG monitor were placed on my chest and sides.  By now, I was really starting to feel nervous under the bright lights, wishing they would just put me out. I didn't need to know any more about what was happening. The last thing I knew was they hooked up my IV and put an oxygen tube in my nose. Then everything went dark until I woke up.

When I woke up, I saw five nurses in front of me all sitting at their own computer monitors. I was pretty alert. "You're not all monitoring me?" I asked them jokingly.

"No," they laughed, "there are two other patients on each side of you. They haven't woke up yet." I couldn't see the other patients because the curtains were drawn. They gave me post-op instructions and waited for me to pee before they called my husband for pickup. Then, they helped me dress. I'm not sure how long I was in the recovery room, but I do know that it only took 30 minutes from the time I woke up to the time my husband arrived. Everyone (all the nurses and doctors) was amazing.

Now it's day four, and I'm lying on the couch with an ice pack on my belly. I've been able to shower, and I get around by shuffling my feet, but I have trouble bending and lifting myself up. I've been banned from driving, lifting, doing household chores, and going to work until the doctor gives me permission. It sounds like I will be able to drive and go to work next week, but any sort of exercise, whether it's walking Bruce, yoga poses, running, jumping, hiking, or snow tubing is all going to have to wait for the next six weeks. My hope is to get better in time to still go snow tubing with Lewie and his friends.

I might not have wanted to start out 2024 lying around with a sore, bandaged belly, but I'm grateful it's all behind me now. Even more, I'm thankful it was a procedure I could take care of now before it became a problem. (It's much easier to go through a surgery at 48 instead of 68!)

The lesson learned is if one has a "turkey timer" for a belly button or anything weird on their body, the best advice is to get it checked out. It could be nothing, but it is best to let doctors, and not yourself, make that call.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you got that taken care of! I had a vertical hernia, which is a lot harder to fix I suppose. My surgery was pretty intense.

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