What’s it like to have umbilical hernia repair surgery?

It’s 11 days after my surgery for umbilical hernia repair and I feel just about back to normal, though I’m still not supposed to lift anything over 20 pounds for another few weeks. In a nutshell, the surgery was a breeze; the recovery not so much, but I have no major complaints. Here’s the long story about how I got here.

I’ll spare you the narrative of my ENTIRE life since my own birth, but I know having an umbilical hernia for me at least goes all the way back to 2004, when I gave birth to our wonderful girl. I had occasionally noticed in the years post-partum that I had a small lump above my belly button. Sometimes. Usually not while lying down, but more prominent while standing. I just guessed it was one of the many ways my body has been touched by the pregnancy experience. It never bothered me.

Until Tuesday, May 1, 2012 (MAY DAY). I had a typical workout in the afternoon which included some basic abdominal crunches. I didn’t notice anything at first, but while I was driving home I was in sudden, throbbing abdominal pain which came in waves and caused me to remember childbirth and breathing exercises. At first I thought it was yet another strike of the norovirus and that I was about to vomit — but the pain stayed constant and I did not, in fact, vomit.

By the time I reached home, I felt and looked at my belly and noticed a larger protrusion than ever before above my belly button, and I knew I was destined for the emergency room. Had I thought about icing in advance, I might have saved myself that trip, but I don’t think I would have had such a fast plan to action had I not visited the ER.

alienIn the lovely Davies ER, the doctor tried to palpate to see if he could press my Sigourney Weaver lump back in (ok, maybe it wasn’t THAT big), but it was way way too tender for him to get near. I was given Dilaudid for the pain, and an ice pack over my belly. When the doctor returned a bit later to see if he could press the protrusion back in, surprise: it had already slipped back in. This made the essential difference, I believe, between having a “strangulated hernia” (a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery) and an “incarcerated hernia” (for which repair can be scheduled at leisure). Fortunately my body opted for the latter. I went home (I walked! Carefully. I felt too nauseated for a car) about two hours later.

I got to meet with the surgeon, Dr. Robert Murray, the next day. He was great, and came quickly to the point. He determined that it was a relatively small tear, that he could stitch it up instead of having to use mesh, and that there was no rush but that I was not to lift anything heavier than 20 pounds until 4-6 weeks after getting it repaired. Since I have been trying to exercise regularly, and since I LOVE holding my 50-lb 7-year-old girl, I opted for as soon as possible. Miraculously and with much aligning of stars, surgery was scheduled for the following Monday, May 7, at (the also lovely) St. Mary’s Medical Center.

I spent Friday getting a blood panel and EKG as preparation for surgery, didn’t eat anything Sunday night, and arrived at St. Mary’s at 8am on Monday morning.

There was very little waiting around — it was my first time at St. Marys and I found it pleasant overall. The rooms were private, the nurses and attendants responsive, and everything seemed efficient. By 9a my IV was in (first try — with much relief and thanks to nurse Debbie), and I was down in the prep area. I met with Dr. Murray and consulted with the anesthesiologist – who then rattled off an intriguing cocktail of complicated sounding drugs that would soon be flowing into my veins.

I was wheeled into the operating room, which was pleasantly chilly and decorated all over with blue tile, as if we were in a bathtub. On the gurney, arms out to sides, the anesthesiologist said “it will be about 10 seconds.” I looked at the clock — 9:30 — and that was that.

Suddenly, I was told to breathe in through a mask (oxygen?) and was back in the post-op room – the same room as the pre-op room. The clock said 10:30.

I was asked my name – several times through the process – was asked about pain (none at that time) and waited around being generally out of it for a bit. I looked at my belly, which was patched with gauze and a 4″x4″ plastic adhesive. I was told not to scratch my eyes. Suddenly it was 11:15. I was wheeled back up to my room, where my lovely wife Leanne was waiting for me.

That’s all it took — I eschewed Vicodin as a pain-killer since it depresses me, and favored Percocet, which I had not tried before. I was back home by 1p. The first day was fine — almost pleasant.

I felt a bit sea-sick lying down to sleep and had a disturbed rest. I kept feeling like I was biting my tongue (a ramification of pain killers?) and started to experience significant pain. I took Percocet and Zofran at least every four hours. The next day was not so great. I awoke to find my gauze pad completely bloody, and was in a lot of pain as if there were a knife in my stomach. It was hard to sit up from lying down. I felt like I really needed to roll over, then stand from being sideways. I must have had about 8 Percocet in the first day post-op and didn’t feel like it had any effect. I called the doctor about the bloody gauze – I was afraid I would never stop bleeding – and got an appointment for Thursday.

Dr. Murray changed the bandage on Thursday and assured me it was going well, but that I should remove the bandage on Saturday because I was evidently allergic to the plastic cover. He also told me I needed to be taking Ibuprofen together with the Percocet — something I was not told before. I’m not sure if doing this for the next couple of days or if just the passage of time made the pain start to ease.

It was after that that I noticed the hives all over my belly. Still not sure if this was because of the Percocet or the plastic. And my bowels hadn’t worked for – well – days, despite Colace.

Things started to get better on Saturday and I pitched the Percocet and was excited to take off the bandage, having fully forgotten about steristrips. The steristrips came off by Monday, and I used a little antibiotic and a bandaid for the next week.

The area looked bloody and spotted with rash for the first few days, but today I just have a slightly swollen red line around the rim of my navel where the surgeon inserted the tiny tools. I don’t see any trace of infection, which I had been worried about.

The really unpleasant part of post-op included my bowels, as a side-effect of the pain medication. I had never had such pain getting started again … The Colace seemed to do nothing. I tried some laxatives upon the advice of my mom, which worked fine — a couple days later. It seemed to take my body awhile to react to these medications. If I were to do this over again, I would have asked if I could have started the stool-softener process in advance of surgery.

Which brings us today, 11 days post-op. I probably won’t wear a bandaid by tomorrow and I only feel the smallest bit of a twinge — a little tiny pinch, really — on my navel. One disconcerting thing is a bit of swelling and hardness around my whole navel, almost as if I still have a hernia and in fact as if it has grown. I gather this is normal post-op and is a sort of swelling and healing that will eventually subside. I have a checkup with the surgeon in 10 days and after that I’m expecting the go-or-no-go for lifting and carrying things and generally exercising back to normal again.

So my key recommendations for you, dear readers, are these:

  1. Feeling a hernia? Try ice first. But of course, also go to the emergency room if you need to.
  2. Talk in advance with your surgeon about pain medications. Be clear not only on what you want, if you have a preference, but how to use it and with what other medications.
  3. Ask in advance what to expect from the bandaging — bleeding OK?
  4. Plan for constipation: is it OK to take stool softeners in advance? I don’t know the answer…
  5. Uber is a great way to get to and from your surgeries. Costs a bit more, but worth it.
  6. Have amazing friends lined up to drive and deliver things (Leanne, Liz, Rob, David… hugs).

Things really went well as a whole, and I’m looking forward to being stronger than ever in a few weeks when I can start exercising again. Thanks for witnessing this part of my life story and I hope it brings some comfort if you are facing the same experience.

Update — May 2013:  I’ve been amazed and gratified at the dozens and dozens of comments here and the generosity of sharing of experiences. It’s now a year post-surgery, and I’m as strong as ever if not stronger.

Update — September 2014: Still going strong.  Thanks all for sharing your own experiences in the comments!

 

 

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The circus of innovation — Lincoln and Facebook

Who doesn’t love a story that combines a day off, a road trip, the circus, Abraham Lincoln and Facebook, and a neat parable on innovation to boot – whatever THAT is. It’s a circus I say!

Shout out to this wonderful story by Nate St. Pierre:

A patent request for Facebook, filed by Abraham Lincoln in 1845.

So that’s what I did on my day off: a random road trip, a circus graveyard, a poker game between a showman and a president, and the discovery that good ol’ Honest Abe was a man well ahead of his time.

http://natestpierre.me/2012/05/08/abraham-lincoln-patent-facebook/

Aye, Paddy — She’s Not Quite Ready for the Enterprise, Captain

Alice in Wonderland

(not the only one to photograph their child with the ipad)

As I write this I’m sitting next to the iPad, ’tis true. Not using the iPad — sitting next to it.

I had no idea an iPad would be arriving at our house on Saturday, April 3, the very first day they became available (my wife needed it for her Web QA and usability business, so my first experiences with the iPad were blissfully unprepared and unanticipated).

While reports of the iMugging in the iMission near where I live were later corrected as a hoax (or at least, not quite as topical), with the first shipments of the promised devices hitting the town on Saturday, the whole city seemed nevertleless under its spell the entire weekend.

Though I have yet to overcome my primary association with iPad as introduced by MADtv, I did actually get to touch and poke and swipe and use it fresh out of the gate during the weekend. I should correct that slightly: my daughter used it the most, and I watched (and I am far from the only one standing by patiently with my kid using the iPad).  My snap judgment is that I generally concur with these first reviews that talk about how kids — or those thinking like kids — “get it” more immediately than adults. As my 5-year-old daughter exclaimed, “someone left a ginormous iPod TV on the stairs” – “getting it” instantly – and immediately all our other mobile devices are rendered instantly miniaturized, Alice-in-Wonderland “drink-me”-style.

In my (granted limited) hands-on exposure, my thoughts are that it’s BINGO for entertainment. We spent the most satisfying time watching (HTML5) videos – even already successful on (non-Flash) YouTube – as well as episodes seamlessly, instantly, and beautifully streamed via Netflix. News also stands to get a boost by this device: sites like the Times and ABC – both “printed” and video – render beautifully and perhaps, as my neighbor suggested, this will revitalize the ‘printed’ newspaper. For books however? Not an immediate replacement for the Kindlers out there – the backlit screen is still too harsh with which to spend that kind of novel time.

Leanne (faithfully testing applications as is her job) says many of the applications that are righteously hyped on the iPhone, notably including Twitter interfaces best known for being minimal, have not yet re-written their interfaces to capitalize on the extra screen real estate.  Other applications did fill up the whole screen, but awkwardly.

What I also found noticably odd from a physical perspective was being able to tune into the online – and hence tune out the offline (that means “the real world”) – seemingly more places inside the household than ever before, and more adeptly than with the more conspicuous mobile smartphones. Why did I really need to try to shop online for those shirts on Easter Sunday on the living room couch when I could have been talking with my family? Since the device is larger, though, it does lend itself to more “social viewing” within groups of people than does the smartphone.

In short, I felt it seemed great for pulling information and content – especially socially and severally; but for pushing it back — which for me is the important thing about the mobile generation of devices: not so good. No camera, no mobile carriers (yet), apparently some sensors, but no video. And the keyboard? The iPhone keyboard doesn’t work for me yet, so I hardly could have expected it from the iPad despite increased size, and I threw my hands up in defeat rather than type into all the fields required to finish my iShopping spree on the iCouch during iEaster.

Most profoundly for me at present, the “human as sensor” revolutionary element that we’re finding so key in worldwide civil rights demonstrations and current events seems apparently missing with this nevertheless-take-anywhere device. So, iPad, are you a mobile device or not? Are you a bit more like an interactive take-anywhere but still push-only TV?

Granted, perhaps my hands have yet to pull the Darwin in the right direction to adapt to the keyboard, but I’m a little surprised at folks who are already foreseeing giving up their laptops in favor of the iPad. Have they done a lot of typing on the ‘pad already?  I feel the major hurdle is still going to be digitization of text – perhaps the key will be in the evolution of usable speech-to-text.  Leanne says we just have to hook up the keyboards in the meantime — but I think it’s really a keyboardless and mouseless paradigm ahead.

For THAT enterprise-readiness — and we geeks remember when Scotty walks up to the computer in Star Trek IV and says “Computer?” — we’re not ready for prime time.  Maybe when my daughter is my age.

The Original iPad: MADtv ca. 2006

The Perils of the Long Tail, or How I Singlehandedly Started the Jicama Allergy Rumor

It’s come to my attention that my top-visited post is not my daring stand back at Charla Bansley, nor my complete wraps of various Web 2.0 conferences, nor even my frank socialization of flight anxiety. No, it’s my random post about Jicama.

It’s not even a post about Jicama, but about a vague attempt at isolating the source of a mysterious and recurrent allergic reaction by listing Entirely Everything I Ate That Day. It was also a long time ago. And it was via blog import from an old blog, that in fact used to be private. And yet, that single post “could I be allergic to JICAMA?” gets views EVERY DAY.

Sure enough, I ventured to check on Google, entering ‘jicama’ and  ‘allergy,’ and I turn up FOURTH.

Please take note of this cautionary tale about the beloved “Long Tail.” When two words appear SO infrequently on the same page together in the Whole Wide World of Web (and mostly accidentally) such that my random hypersensitive rave about what food I could possibly be allergic to shows up top-tanked, it’s a rumor, not a fact – but one that I fear has substantiated many a “jicama allergy.” (There, I did it again.)

Just for the record books, to be clear, let me come out about this now: I am not aware of any kind of allergy to Jicama and mean the delicious crispy juicy root no discredit.

Now that you’re here anyway, I welcome you to take a look around at my other random musings — or run along to the other top-ranked results. Either way, good luck with your mystery allergies! (I never have figured mine out).

Wardrobe Wrap of the Web 2.0 Summit

Seconds away from writing a serious post on the Web 2.0 Summit last week in San Francisco, my head aches, I have a meeting in way less than an hour and a different project or three to manage, several other writing assignments, and I decide what’s important for the moment is to instead cover the wild whimsical wacky wardrobe world that was this year’s Web 2.0 Summit. Why do I feel compelled to do this? I have no idea. (If I don’t get that serious post up by the end of today, I’m probably abducted by aliens). And yet here I go.

Erin McKean's Tetris Dress

Erin McKean's Tetris Dress

First and foremost in any wardrobe wrap has to be a gigantic shout out to Wordnik’s smart and sassy CEO and co-founder Erin McKean who pitched a great high-order bit on the excellent Wordnik as well as their newly launched API for the English Language, ALL in her hand-made Tetris dress.

Then there’s John Battelle, who always looks particularly natty in his blue jeans, dangling this teaser of a surprise Google spot and entreating us to guess who it is based on the shoes alone. To which my handy Twitter-mate @UberShoeDiva (who does indeed have the UberShoes) responded thusly: “What is he *wearing* on his feet?? Those can’t be shoes. I hope not. I really hope those are just some edgy socks.”
(Those by the way are Sergey Brin’s Vibram Five Fingers )

And actually I’d have to say John Battelle came in tied for first place for best jeans this year – and you’ll just have to scroll through this really excellent session on Humans as Sensors to see why (catch Mobilizy’s Markus Tripp in his excellent jeans – or you can just get a hint of them here).

Brady and UberShoeDiva (AKA Jaimee Clements)

Brady and UberShoeDiva (AKA Jaimee Clements) cut it up

In the same video, know that no wardrobe wrap would ever be complete without a mention of @brady’s gorgeous purple shirt, green plaid pants, and blue shoes. Once again this goes not unnoticed by UberShoeDiva.

One out-of-character note for himself and for the summit was Mr. Tim O’Reilly — who was constantly seen sporting a SUIT, making you wonder if he or we all had been abducted by aliens.

Contrast this with the baggy-jeaned teens – at least the one who uses Blackle instead of Google (to save energy) – from the excellent What Do Teens Want? panel – and you get an idea of why I really love the Web 2.0 Summit among all other conferences.

"the Zappos guys"

"the Zappos guys"

And I simply cannot ever forget @lwaldal’s commentary of the “Zappos guys:”I’m sitting in the 3rd row and pretty sure that josh, liam, maynard and john onstage right now are all wearing the same shoes.” This observation even made Industry-Standard fame.

And finally, though what it has to do with wardrobe or what wardrobe has to do with anything I’m not sure, thanks to @lwaldal for pointing out “a chandelier for balloon boy” in this shot of how the Ballroom was decked out:

"A Chandelier for Balloon Boy"

"A Chandelier for Balloon Boy" - @lwaldal

The conference was jam-packed and a lot of fun but tiring, so this shot perked me up just when I needed it.

And now with that off my chest…

My Favorite Mondegreens

Could this be My Candelabra? (thanks a75 and Creative Commons)

You're My Candelabra (via a75 and creative commons)

I know… They’re silly. But whenever I’m feeling like I need a little laugh — and sitting around waiting for the pending California Supreme Court decision qualifies as “needing a laugh” — SILLY IS GOOD.

The types of things that never fail to come my rescue in the service of silliness include:

Yes @brookish – who kicked-into-serious-search-and-rescue my recent mondegreenial obsession – with My Candelabra. Ergo I bring you without further delay — My Favorite Mondegreens — to the rescue!

That’s just a few.  For starters.  Of course — there are as many mondegreens in the world as there are funky sets of ears not dissimilar to ours, to try to interpret whatever the HECK anybody EVER says.  Isn’t it amazing that communication ever happens — and it does!

Thank you Brooke. I needed that — and I’ll need it again!

PS: Who knows how to properly embed blip.fm clips in the hosted WordPress version?  Please let me know! Thanks!