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Alien removal

In to the Wind

December 12, 2012
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Just lately my sleep stretches have gone beyond four hours at a time. Stabbing pain usually brings me back to the immediate reality and lets me know it's time once again to swallow a pain pill.

Like many things in my life, which I've described before as a "make work" sort of life, I managed to make more of this one than is normal. True to form, or true to life, even something like a surgery can be pressed into an event made larger by actions, or in this case, inactions on my part.

For most of my life I've had this hernia on my right side, lower stomach. Every time I strained to lift something, as was often the case with me, it would bulge out a little bigger. When I was younger, I attempted to get it fixed once. I was told by the insurance company that since it was an elective surgery, it wasn't covered by my policy.

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A couple of years ago, I strained by myself to move some really big logs into position so I could split them. 'Brawn over brains," I reasoned. The hernia bulged out even farther. I knew I had to get it taken care of. The only issue was finding the down time needed to allow my body to recuperate from the surgery.

Since things were getting a little more urgent than before, where the mere act of eating a bowl of chili and the resultant gas storm could cause pain from pushing a part of my intestines out through a hole in my abdomen. It was increasingly difficult to lift anything. It was affecting my health in other ways. I knew I had to just bite the bullet and have it done.

I looked Trish in the eye and asked who she would have do the surgery. She didn't hesitate when she told be she would have the surgery done in Marshalltown, by Dr. McCune.

I went and had a consultation with Dr. McCune. Even he asked me why I had waited so long to get them repaired. It seems there were two hernias, not just one. I had no better answer than there has been no better time than now. We scheduled the surgery for right after Thanksgiving. I figured by then I'd have all of my winter preparations made, the house and yard in order, and could afford to take a couple weeks to recuperate.

I worked smarter at my wood making this year than I ever have before. The old saying that necessity is the mother of invention was apt here. I never knew one could suffer from a hernia, like I was.

I rigged up a crane to hoist logs up onto a rather stout sawbuck. Since my log splitter will operate in either horizontal or vertical orientation, I decided vertical would be better, so I didn't have to lift any logs, instead, I could just roll them into position. I developed a rather elaborate routine that made it so I processed the wood right next to where it was going to be stacked. I didn't want to handle it twice, and certainly didn't want to lift it, at all.

Slowly, but surely, five and a half cords of wood were dragged up to the house, sawn into twenty-one inch rounds, split, stacked, and admired. It took longer than it usually takes me, but I felt a little smug in that I was working smarter, and not bending over to lift time and time again.

The day before the surgery, I had myself all worked up. A rational person will analyze a problem from all angles and try to determine an outcome; a compulsive person even more so. I thought I didn't want to die. I didn't want my colon nicked, or to get a secondary infection. I wanted the surgery to be successful, and to never have to do anything like this again. In my dreams, I also wished the recovery would be quick and painless. It has been neither.

The day of the surgery was dubbed "Alien Removal" day. If you can visualize one of those small footballs you can grip with one hand; that was about the size of the protrusion in my abdomen. It was like an alien that needed to be removed.

I had to arrive at the hospital at 6 a.m. After asking me a series of trick questions to make sure I was the real Mike Gilchrist, things began happening very quickly. There were all kinds of people introducing themselves to me and telling me what their part was going to be, and what I could expect. Two of them, Colleen and Clarissa, I would see both before and after surgery. The other ones I met and told me things are now but a blurry memory. They took great care of me and made sure I knew what was going on every step of the way.

I guess I was in surgery for about an hour and a half. I was told it went smoothly. I vaguely remember another room and people asking me questions, but fully came to back in the room where I had started, and Colleen and Clarissa.

I told them I was hurting, and needed something for the pain. They obliged me and injected something into the IV. They told me that when I felt up to it, I needed to get out of bed by myself and go into the bathroom and pee, before I could leave.

I could see by the look on their faces, and the glances exchanged between them and Elaine that nobody expected that to happen any time soon.

I surprised them all. I swung my legs over to the side of the bed and raised myself up. It was only a few steps to the bathroom, and they had to scramble to make sure my IV bag was following me. I did as they had required, and told them I was ready to go home.

Now telling someone like me that all I had to do was perform something and I could go home just had to be the final word. I think they sensed there could not be any changing of my mind. They checked my blood pressure once again, and I asked for my clothes. I put them on and told them I was ready.

They wheeled me out in a wheel chair, and I got up and into the car all on my own. I figured if I was going to be feeling poorly, I'd much rather be feeling poorly at home, so Elaine drove me home. It was lunch time when we got home. I still find it astonishing that I was having surgery at 8:00, and was home by 1:00.

What I wasn't prepared for however, was the size of the incisions, and the pain associated with having two large gashed made in your belly, and mesh inserted. I guess I was anticipating a couple two inch incisions. Instead, I got two six inch ones and twenty-three staples.

I am well on my way to recovery now. It has been over a week, and every day finds me a little stronger. On doctor's orders, I have been walking around. I actually walked close to a mile the day of the surgery. I have moments where shooting pains stab at me, but by-in-large my recovery so far has been remarkable.

So now you know where I've been the past two weeks. For the record, I am not easily dismissed. Dr. J. Michael McCune, and my nurses: you are my heroes.

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2012 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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