By Popular Demand: A Medical Update

WC mentioned recently that blog posts here at Wickersham’s Conscience might be interrupted by a surgical procedure. Many of you took time to wish WC well, and a speedy recovery. WC appreciates and thanks you for those thoughts. Even more of you wanted to know what was going on. The short answer is that WC’s near-72 year old body needed repairs. Other folks’ medical problems are generally pretty boring, but since enough of you asked, here are some of the details.

Because it’s a little gruesome, there are no photos. Instead, there are links to pretty graphic illustrations.

WC has for the last six months or so suffered a worsening right inguinal hernia. The condition wasn’t a surprise; WC was diagnosed with incipient left and right inguinal hernias back in his 20s. The left blew out 20 years ago on a backpacking/birding trip and had to be repaired.1 The right has gotten increasingly uncomfortable in recent weeks and WC’s primary care physician decided it had become large enough to present a risk of strangulation. So on December 1, WC was referred to a surgeon specializing in hernia repair. Boise’s health care system is still recovering from the surge of patients created by unvaccinated nincompoops infected by the Delta variant of COVID-19. There’s an immense back log of “elective” surgeries that is still being processed. It took more than a month for WC’s “elective” surgery to sort to the top.

In the case of an inguinal hernia, what happens is that the inguinal canal, a natural opening in the abdominal wall, gets torn open. The intestines then bulge through the larger opening. In extreme cases, a loop of the intestines gets squeezed through and the patient gets intestinal blockage, damage to the intestine and the medical equivalent of a five alarm fire. WC didn’t suffer strangulation, but was at risk of it. The repair of an inguinal hernia involves closing the inguinal canal to its normal size, and reinforcing the closure with implanted mesh.

There are an estimated 800,000 hernia repair surgeries performed the U.S. each year. It’s pretty routine. Because of the extent of the herniation, WC’s repair had to be performed by open incision, not by the less invasive laparoscopic or robotic procedures. After an hour under the scalpel, WC has implanted mesh on the inside and outside of his abdominal wall and a five inch incision above his groin. It’s healing well, WC has successfully avoided opiate painkillers and mobility is gradually – very gradually; you don’t heal as fast as you get older – improving. Mrs. WC has once again proven to be a skilled, patient caregiver.

It will be another week before WC is allowed to lift anything heavier than a paperclip, and a few weeks beyond that before full activity is allowed. WC looks forward to being pain-free and to the delights of not spending so much of his day shoving his lower intestines back into his abdominal cavity.

WC wants to say a few words about Boise’s health care workers. The wonderful folks who took care of WC are emotionally drained, physically exhausted and badly worn down. It isn’t just endless numbers of patients with COVID-19 and complications of COVID. The pandemic patients completely saturated Idaho’s health care system. All of the regular medical work got backed up. The outpatient surgery center where WC was treated was completely booked, operating 12 hours a day, six days a week, for the next three months or more. WC was told of multiple instances of fairly routine procedures that were made much more complex because of the treatment delays caused by the pandemic surge. And, of course, the Delta variant surge, like the current Omicron, was mostly avoidable, if folks would just get vaccinated. If people just wouldn’t be so stupid.

Despite that exhausting level of work, despite that frustration, the folks attending to WC – receptionists, orderlies, nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons – were kind, careful, patient and meticulous. WC is deeply grateful for their care and stamina. As the Omicron surge ramps up, and those wonderful health care workers are faced with still more stress, WC’s thoughts are with them.

1 Twice, in fact. It turns out WC is violently allergic to Percoset. When WC took Percoset for the pain following the first surgery, the . . . forceful . . . reaction to the drug tore up all the repairs, requiring a do-over. WC cannot recommend discovering a violent drug allergy immediately post-op to abdominal surgery.

6 thoughts on “By Popular Demand: A Medical Update

  1. Sorry you had to go through all this and that you will take so long to recover. Best wishes for that. That said I can only join in wishing that all the nincompoops treat themselves at home when they catch this preventable disease rather than further burdening the Healthcare workers they don’t trust anyway.

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  2. I am grateful to hear that all has gone well. I have had two hernia surgeries as well and done a lot of research. While the open surgery takes longer to heal and is less “invasive”, it is a much less deep surgical wound than the laparoscopic repair. I wish that I had been able to do an open repair on the bilateral hernia I had (one new and one recurrent). I even tried to go to the Shouldice Hospital in Canada to do it – but that was too expensive.


  3. Wow. That’s a bit scary, but I’m glad you’re doing well. My greatest fear these days is that I’ll have to go to the emergency room or have any kind of procedure done, elective or not, with the chance of it not happening for months. The medical system here in Fairbanks is doing okay so far in the omicron surge, but the trends are in the wrong direction.

    Let me know if you need help lifting anything more than that paper clip!


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