My Surgery and Recovery

A couple of years ago, while bench-pressing on a Smith machine at the gym, I found myself unable to sit upright after finishing a light set. I never lift heavy anyways. Whenever I’m asked how much I can bench, I’m honest and tell them I have no idea. It’s not about ego. I’ve never been one for the amount of max weight or tried to compare my lifts with others around me. The only one I compete with is myself. I’ve always done adequate weight and reps, more for shape than strength, so when I couldn’t sit up, I thought it strange. I finally had to use my left elbow to push up enough to reach the right side of the Smith machine to pull myself into a seated position. I felt no pain, so I unloaded the weights and moved on to the next exercise.

I never felt any pain afterwards, and the next day I returned to the gym. It was leg day. I did all the leg machines, and since they don’t have an efficient way to do squats, I used the leg press. Like other workouts, I don’t lift too heavy, because at my age, who can afford injuries? After leg press, my legs are usually shot, so I go home and work on my novels or work on miniature terrain. But later that day, I noticed severe cramps in my lower abdomen. In the past, this type of pain usually occurred from eating fiber from the day before, which is how it felt. The pain was moderate and gone the next day.

Over the next week, I didn’t have any problems working chest, back, or arms. But, after doing the leg press again, I experienced the same abdominal pain in the afternoon. The following day, I noticed my navel felt different. The tissue moved slightly when I placed my finger inside. I could gently push my finger into my navel and the skin moved farther back and slightly upward. I searched online for possible hernias and sure enough, I discovered I had a small umbilical hernia.

Due to all the issues with hospitals and health services after 2020-2021, I didn’t have much trust in seeking surgery. Instead, since the hernia wasn’t bad, I bought a hernia belt, which worked quite well for a few months, and allowed me to workout. However, the belt stretched and became useless after three months, so I purchased another one.

Since I didn’t lift excessive weight and I was careful to do the exercises properly, the belts prevented the hernia from getting worse. It took two years, though, for me to get the courage to set up an appointment to see a surgeon. I’ve never had surgery, and I’ve never been under anesthesia. The thought of this made me quite nervous, especially the anesthesia. The thought of not waking up concerned me.

At the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to see the surgeon and have the surgery. While the hernia belts were helpful, they were a temporary solution and weren’t going to solve the problem. Prolonging the inevitable seemed a waste of time. Besides, the last belt I ordered was a size smaller than the previous one. It was mislabeled, which made it painful to wear for a long period of time.

I met with Dr. Emmanuel Agaba at Marietta Memorial Hospital, and he briefly discussed the surgery procedure. Dr. Agaba is a super great person with a positive personality. I like and trust him. If I didn’t, I’d have sought a different surgeon. He made me feel at ease about the surgery. I returned a few days later for blood work and an EKG a day after that. I told the RN who set up the EKG that my QRS complex would probably show up negative (inverted) when they did the reading, as one of our class assignments in Animal Physiology (1997) at Morehead State University was to hook ourselves to an EKG and analyze the readings. For some reason, my QRS complex was inverted. None of the other students showed this abnormality. Thinking maybe we connected one of the leads incorrectly, I tested twice more in class and it remained the same. Sure enough, the reading I got this year was the same as then.

For weeks I had been worried and nervous about the surgery but when the day came, my nervousness was gone. The writer’s curse of proposing various ‘What if?’ scenarios gripped my imagination in the beginning. But on surgery day, I set those ‘possibilities’ aside. I suppose I had resolved the situation and understood that in a few hours, the hernia would be fixed and a few weeks later, I’d be able to get back to normal activities without having to wear a bulky hernia belt. One of the hardest parts was fasting for over 17 hours. I didn’t eat anything after 6:30 p.m. the day before surgery.

My normal, daily routine starts with coffee, a small, high protein breakfast between 4-5 a.m., and then about an hour in the gym. So the morning of surgery I had no coffee, food, etc. Much to my chagrin, any commercial or ad on television or the computer taunted me about food. Not only this, my grandkids were talking about all their breakfast options, a list of things, to choose between. That’s the way it goes, I suppose.

I was told the day before that I was expected to be at the hospital at 11:15 a.m. to prep, but then they told me the surgery would be at 12:40 p.m. If the surgery before mine finished ahead of schedule, mine would be earlier. So the waiting game continued and my stomach growled with disdain.

The surgeon and staff were all incredible. Every RN, PN, or any other person who entered my pre-op room asked for my name and birthdate, who my surgeon was, and what surgery I was there for. With a severe lack of carbs, fatigue, and a caffeine-deprived headache, I began to question if I were whom I said I was. My answers came slower and a few times I stammered the words. I developed a sort of mental tunnel vision. All of the people were wonderful, polite, and asked if I had questions or needed anything (aside from food, coffee, or carbs, of course).

The anesthesiologist (according to my paperwork–Dr. John Moore) is a super guy with a great sense of humor. He handed me the anesthesia disclaimer to read, and he said that it still had the errors from the printed copies and no one had bothered to correct it.

“See if you find the errors,” he said.

The first error was ‘bod’ instead of body. I mentioned it and he laughed. “Yep.”

The second error was having bloodstream as TWO words instead of one. When I mentioned that, his brow rose and he looked at me with curiosity. “Are you a writer?” I said that I was and told him how many books I had in print. He was intrigued and offered to lower the cost of surgery a bit if I edited the paper. He was joking, of course, but I said if the hospital needed an editor to contact me. He actually stayed in the room longer than I expected, but if I held any other qualms about being put under for the surgery, he answered my questions quite efficiently.

Soon after talking to him, two nurses came to wheel me to the Operating Room. Despite how I had viewed surgery two weeks prior, I wasn’t nervous. I was curious.

I don’t know how they’ve formulated medications to act on our bodies like they do, but it’s frightening how they can render you unconscious without you remembering anything for an hour or more.

No thoughts.

No dreams.

No pain.

No recollection at all.

In the wrong hands, this is a dangerous weapon.

The two nurses wheeled me into the surgery room where two more nurses waited. I couldn’t see behind me, so I don’t know if others were there. The two nurses explained what they were doing and slid my gurney against the surgery table. Once I transferred over to the table, they hooked up various leads and other monitors. They positioned both of my arms out on two arm boards. That’s the last thing I remember. No one mentioned when they were administering the drugs to put me to sleep. I never saw the surgeon and awoke a little over an hour later. The surgeon talked to my wife before I had awakened. He said that the hernia was small and the scar would be small and that I could go home as soon as I felt able. Originally, he’d said that I’d have to stay overnight, but I was glad to go home the same day. He didn’t see the need to place mesh on the inside, either. He used Lidocaine on the area to help keep the stitched area from being too sore too quickly.

I imagine the Lidocaine helped a lot for the first twenty-four hours. They gave me a prescription for pain medicine and although we picked it up, I’ve not used it. My wife kept telling me the first night that I needed to go ahead and take it. I said that I wasn’t taking it unless I actually needed it. I don’t want to put myself in a risk situation of the slightest chance of addiction or later withdrawals, even though it’s a mild pain pill.

Before the surgery, I actually dreaded the pain of healing afterwards. I thought I’d be curled in a fetal position on the couch or bed, whining like a baby, but remarkably I have had no pain. I’ve not even taken a Tylenol. I don’t know if that’s common or not, but hey, I’ll take it.

Now, it’s back to the grind of writing while I heal and suffer through gym withdrawals.

Have a great weekend, folks!



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