About two weeks ago, my wife and I had a wonderful Saturday, going to antique shops, looking for a mid-century modern buffet table or dresser to hold up a new TV in the future. We had both been looking forward to it, the new dog (ZuZu, a French bulldog) had kept us cooped up in the house, as she is not house trained yet. Two months of tending the dog (along with our pug, Avi) and we both needed a day away from the dogs and the house. Little ZuZu had been spade and was finally cleared to go to Doggy Daycare. So we dropped the dogs off to run and play at daycare while we took a day for ourselves.
It was a great day. We stopped and got the dogs at about 4:30 in the afternoon, had some supper and then settled in to watch a movie, exhausted dogs snoring at an obnoxious level around us. Eventually this idyllic time ended and my wife put the dogs into the kennel and went to bed. I was restless and wasn’t ready to sleep. So I called a friend of mine and we ended up talking for about a half-hour. Short for us, normally our conversations go on much longer. But my stomach had begun to hurt. It was a dull aching pain in the center of my stomach, one that was hard to ignore. So I bid him goodnight and drank a glass of milk, hoping to sooth my stomach. It didn’t seem to help. I went to bed thinking that if I could just get to sleep, all would be well by morning.
20 minutes later I’m up and in the living room again. The pain had gotten worse lying down. I sat down in the living room and began to watch some TV as a distraction. That didn’t last long, the pain increased. I tried using the bathroom, with limited success and no relief from the pain. The pain had started at 10:30 at night. At 1:30 in the morning the pain had increased to the point where I couldn’t sit still, the only relief was to pace the room. I woke my wife up and had her take me to the hospital.
When we arrive at the hospital they give me a standard battery of tests and eventually dose me with dye and give me a CAT scan. Then an x-ray with contrast dye. It’s our old friend again, the hiatal hernia. The same condition that lead to my massive anemia. My stomach is in my chest, behind my lungs. Now, I knew that had been happening. I’ve known since the anemia the root cause of these problems. They gave me some synthetic morphine derivative to help with the pain. It was a weird high, but it did make me not care about the pain.
The surgeon (we will call him Dr.Eye) then intubated me, putting a hose up my nose and down into my stomach. Kids, this is one of the most unpleasant procedures you can have done. Very uncomfortable. Little did I know at that time that I would have that damn tube in for the next four days.
Every surgeon I talked to wanted to cut on me and repair the condition. Every GP I talked to said “If it doesn’t bother you, don’t get cut on”. I chose not to get cut on all those years ago. I didn’t lose the weight like I had wanted to, but all had been well until Saturday.
The surgeon in my hometown did not inspire me with confidence. He was three years from retirement, unable to do the procedure lathroscopically, and went back and forth to me about how comfortable he was doing the procedure. The best and the brightest don’t exactly flock to my area. We pushed at Dr. Eye and finally he relented with a recommendation to a specialist.
We were referred to a hospital in Milwaukee and a doctor that specializes in these conditions. The hospital in Milwaukee is a teaching hospital and the doctor is also a professor at the medical college there. Super competent, very experienced.
They sent me via ambulance. No lights or sirens, but by ambulance none the less. A stupid waste of money for the hospital to cover its ass, liability-wise. My wife trailed the ambulance in her car.
The hospital in Milwaukee was huge. 2 million square feet. Unreal. The staff there is extremely competent. Once I was there, I was examined by a number of young residents and then my new surgeon whom we will call Dr. Whitehair. Dr. Whitehair is extremely competent. He’s also like every surgeon I’ve ever met, a total jerkface asshole. But I don’t have to make friends with him, I don’t have to have dinner with him, and we aren’t going to be buddies. So I don’t care. He knows his shit, and that’s all I care about.
By Wednesday night, they have decided I’m in no immediate danger. They take out the nasal tube and I can eat and drink for the first time since Saturday night. I can’t tell you how much of a relief that was. They decided to do the repairs to my stomach as an elective surgery in two weeks, rather than as an emergency right now. Dr. Whitehair was also due to go to a conference on Thursday. He wanted to be in town for my recovery. It made sense to me. They let me out on Thursday afternoon. Surgery was scheduled for May 2nd.
In the interim we’ve learned some important things from Dr. Whitehair. First, the hiatal hernia repair I need has a huge failure rate. Like a 25% failure rate. A second surgery to correct it again almost never works. Dr. Whitehair suggests that I have a stomach reduction surgery to go with my hiatal hernia repair. A Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or a gastric sleeve stomach reduction. That way if the hernia repair fails and my stomach migrates back to my chest, I will be a-symptomatic. Plus, I would gain the benefits of a weight-loss surgery as a side-benefit. If I have the hernia repair alone, it prevents me from having any stomach reduction in the future.
I have to say, I resisted this. I know I’m a fat bastard. I’ve never made a concerted effort in my adult life to change that. Getting the stomach reduction surgery seems like cheating. It feels like failure. I know it’s not, hell the purpose of the surgery is not to lose weight, but to prevent a horrible relapse of the hiatal hernia. But I don’t feel right about it.
Dr. Whitehair called me and actually begged me (as much as an asshole like him can do it) to have one of the stomach reduction surgeries at the same time. His fear of relapse was great. After a second hiatal hernia repair, they can no longer DO ANYTHING FOR YOU. Meaning you just have to live with it, which could mean pain for the rest of your life.
So I’ve decided to get a gastric sleeve. Gastric sleeve has less surgical complications than Roux-en-Y and less consequences regarding mal absorption and dumping syndrome. I have to swallow my pride about the weight loss and accept this as a positive. It will also ensure I don’t have a consequential relapse if the hiatal hernia repair fails. And it’s still a lathroscopic procedure. There is a chance he’d have to cut me open, but I hope to hell not.
But I’m scared. Occasionally weeping scared. I fear needles and after five days in the hospital two weeks ago, I’m outright afraid. I have one of the best doctors in the mid-west for this procedure; I’m in one of the best hospitals in the state. But I’m still scared. Most people who have this kind of stomach reduction surgery have six months of thought and therapy to get ready for this. I’ve had two weeks. I’m thrilled with the idea of losing weight. I’m ashamed that I will have had this kind of surgery, despite the fact I’m not doing it primarily for the weight loss. I know that’s stupid and I need to get over it. But….I still am afraid and a little ashamed. I need to get my head right about it.
Tonight, we drive to Milwaukee and will be staying overnight. Tomorrow, surgery. Then dealing with the results.
Anyway, I wanted you to all know what is happening and why I haven’t been around.
I’ll see you on the other side.
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