June 26, 2013

The Hernia Hotel - Hernias R Us! - Part One

I blame The Punisher, aka Yelena, a one-time Olympic gymnast in her mid-fifties who still looks about 25.

Mid-January, Tecumseh Community School, gym floor:
In the 25 years that I have been working out, I have never injured myself (I'm not counting lactic acid build-up, pernicious leg cramps in Aquafit, the time I dropped a free weight on my foot or anything that's happened during a soccer game).  This workout, I was not to be so lucky.  Something inside me RRRRIPPED.

"OOh!  It burns!".  I rubbed my groin area (I know it sounds perverted but I'm leaving it in) and proceeded to dial down my activity level.  My guess was that I had pulled a muscle.  I managed to finish the class with only a modicum of pain and after a couple of days, the discomfort was completely gone and the incident forgotten.  The rip was no longer on my radar.

mid-March Break, Bruce Street, steam shower:
I was in the middle of some "(wo)manscaping" so as to take the children swimming at the Aquatic Centre.  I found a walnut-sized protuberance in my right groin.  I was sure I was dying.  Hyperventilation ensued.
Lump in the groin means cancer.  
Cancer means death.
Death means DEATH!!
breathe, breathe.  BREATHE!

I saw my Dr. pronto and she sent me for an ultrasound.  When I described my symptoms to her (none! except for a weird protuberance that stuck out during the day and disappeared when I was lying down), she predicted a hernia.

Dr. B called a few days later and recommended that I get it repaired.  She mentioned the Shouldice Hospital.  When I told my m.i.l. that I had a hernia, she had one word for me: Shouldice.  When I told others about my hernia, they all said Shouldice.

And that's how I found myself here, several months later:

Isn't it pretty?

Hospital Entrance - manicured lawns and tidy gardens
further along the front of the hospital
only of many lovely places to sit and listen to nature

12pm - time to check in!

Check-in, Pre-op and Day of Surgery

I entered the building and found myself in a hall full of luggage.  Reception was to the left and a vast waiting area could be seen through some French doors.  The receptionist gave me my chart, asked me to set my luggage down in the hall and directed me downstairs to the lab for a check-in with the nurse.  She spent all of a minute with me (efficient!), reviewing my blood work and ECG.  I'm not on any meds and I suppose that I am in otherwise good health so we didn't need to discuss much.  She dismissed me and I waited in the hall with about ten other herniacs.  The waiting area was well-appointed enough:  trashy mags (yes!! I love trashy mags but have neither the time nor $ to squander on them -- here, I had nothing but time!); current newspapers and periodicals; a water cooler; washrooms etc.  There was some "French" art on the wall.  You know the thing - rather blah mass-produced paintings that feature caf├ęs and bistros and are labeled as such. They put me in mind of photograph albums that say PHOTOGRAPHS on the front cover or picture frames that say FRIENDS- I mean isn't it all a little obvious? They should acquire some real art... they can bloody well afford it, I'm sure.  Artsnob diatribe over.

I spent five minutes with another nurse who wanted to hear about my mango and Elastoplast bandage allergies... she gave me a kelly green wristband to wear so that the staff would be aware.  The green bracelet came in handy - when I didn't like what was being served, I pointed to my wristband and asked for something else.  For instance, one day we had greyish beef that looked especially revolting and I asked if I could have seafood or chicken instead - no problemo!  I also rejected a fish meal (I had been served the fish at lunch and didn't want the same thing for dinner), some mushy vegetables (fresh greens instead!) and some dodgy-looking meatballs with "gravy".  I guess I am particular about what I eat.  I never thought I was, but it appears that I am.  What I will say about the food at the Shouldice is that it is plentiful! The gave us huge portions.  Typical breakfast: juice, coffee and tea, choice of porridge, Cheerios or All-Bran with blueberries, and then large plates of bacon, eggs and toast or waffles.  I was full after the oatmeal!  Butter was never served with any of the food; you had to ask for it.  Here's a shot of the dining room:

I loved the "rock" walls and view of the garden
Back to the nurse.  She assigned me my room (322-1 on the 3rd floor). Here's the stunning view from my window.  It felt a bit BC boreal-ish to me.

The nurse also gave me a nametag and then sent me back out into the hall to wait to see Dr. T - the admitting Doctor.  Everyone had to wear a nametag, which I thought was an excellent idea.  A quick glance at someone's chest and you knew their name and where they were from.  Here's mine:

I wore this the entire time I was there
My visit with Dr. T was hilarious.  He took my blood pressure, and asked me some questions about my health, physical activity and diet.  He also checked out the "site" by gently feeling it and the area around it, and then pushed on it quite hard and asked me to inhale deeply.  That part I got.  It was what he said afterwards that confused me:

"Push like you're having a bomb blurga blurga blooba".  This is what I heard.  Huh? Wtf?  I thought he said something about a bomb and so I exhaled really noisily -- sort of a longish, loudish grunt really -- and the good doctor looked at me like I was CRAZY.  He laughed long and hard at my best impression of a bomb going off and then said:

"Try again".

Oh oh.  I had to make that stupid sound again? Oh no, I wasn't doing that again so he could howl at me.  I knew that we were having a lapse in communication (he was Asian and he had an accent -- that was my problem) and so I said:

"What do you want me to do again?"

He replied: " Push like you're having a blobba blooba..."


"Pardon me?".  This was getting embarrassing.

And then he spoke very softly, slowly and clearly and said "like you are having a bowel movement". I died.  Laughed my head off.  So I inhaled deeply and did what he said and then I was briefly worried that something was going to COME OUT!  (it did not).  Much laughter again.

Aside:  After the fact, one of the herniacs made an observation that Dr. T's hands were shaking like crazy while he wrote and that all he could do was hope that this wasn't his surgeon!  

I went to Accounts next to produce my health card and more importantly for Shouldice, my credit card. I think it's $200 a night, which is reimbursed by your insurance company (if you have semi-private coverage).  It was there that I received my I.D. bracelet.

As I am writing this, and consulting my notes, I am realizing what a busy day that first day was!

After accounts, I had my first lunch in the dining room. I enjoyed pleasant conversation with an ethno-musicologist and ate minestrone and a turkey, lettuce and tomato sandwich on (stale) white bread.  Soup was good; sandwich was 6 out of 10.

Back upstairs I went, into the light-filled main waiting area, which I would describe as American Colonial meets Canadian Hospital.  Fireplace, three sets of French doors, more mass-produced art, mags and papers, lots of big windows with fussy window treatments and floral upholstered sofas and chairs.

In other areas of the hospital, it's more MCM-ish (this is for you, Sandra Miller):

Anyhoo, upstairs, things have gone awry in the decorating department.

While waiting to see my surgeon, I watched the 24-7 Herniavision on the telly in one corner of the waiting area.  Shouldice propaganda at its best. Two of my favourite quotes:

"Our hernia repairs last a lifetime, because we do it right the first time"

"Our complication rate is less than 1/2 of 1 percent"

I waited here for a LONG time - at least an hour and a half before I saw two different surgeons. Here are some of my wacky notes that I took while waiting.  The line "Really bored! 4:25 pm" pretty much sums it up.

I was finally taken to see one of the surgeons - Dr. K - who did a cursory examination and told me that I had an inguinal hernia.  He left the room and in came Dr. S., who also examined me.  He told me that I have a femoral hernia - not inguinal after all - and that the operation takes longer to do and longer for me to recover from.  Great.  He also said that there's no way of telling until you go inside (during the operation).  He looked over my chart, saw that I am an avid soccer player and then we talked soccer, which he seemed rather into.  He asked me who I thought the best soccer player in the world was - like I know! ? - and I said Pele, of course.


"Uhhh, Ronaldo?"


"Uhhh, David Beckham?" I am really grasping at straws now.

"No!"  Openly laughing at me.

"Some Dutch dude?"

"No!"  I was started to feel harrassed.  Not really, but still.

"Okay, I give up. Who?"

"George Best!!"


"You're Irish and you don't know George Best?"

"I don't know George Best".

"Shame". This coming from the Asian with the Scottish accent (seriously - it was funny!)

The he told me all about George Best and his womanizing and drinking and short-lived career before he said, "wait a minute...you're not even in my room".

I paused.  "What does that mean?"

"Uh.  I'm not your surgeon".

"Yes, you are! We have a good rapport.  You're going to do it!"

"Ummm... okay uh well, Dr. G is your surgeon".

"Who's Dr. G?"

"He does colonoscopies now.  He just comes in once a week to keep up.  He's worked here forever".

"Keep up?! So what you are telling me is that he's RUSTY! I don't want him!"

"Okay, okay, I'll go ask the chief."

He left the room and I followed surreptitiously, and watched him enter a room at the end of the hall.  He didn't close the door and so I could hear him say "there's a lady and she is scheduled with Dr. G but she doesn't want..."

At this point I walked into the room and said:  "I don't want Dr. G! I don't know him and he only comes in once a week!"

The two other surgeons looked at me, a little shellshocked.  One seemed annoyed but I wasn't too worried about him because he was sitting on the other side of the desk (not in the Chief's chair) and the Chief looked like he had a sense of humour at least.  And so, to make this very long story short, I got Dr. S after all.

I am tired of typing right now, I need a break.  I'll type part two tonight and/or tomorrow. I'm halfway through my notes and so I will finish tomorrow.

I will leave you with a cute picture of the ladies room door. Sorry about the red eye.

I love the beehive!

Click here for part 2:  Hernia Hotel, Part II