Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surgery, the Letter H, and Boat Work

Getting Cut Open and Stitched Back Together

There are three holes in my lower abdomen that weren't there yesterday. I've been told that there is also a fair amount of surgical mesh covering the holes in abdominal muscles. Oh, and some staples and stitches too.

All of this from running. And all of this so I can run again. Soon, I hope.

Dr. Hilarious, aware of my fondness for medical practitioners who share my follicle challenges and who have ironic names, referred me to a Dr. Harmon. Of course.

So Do-no-Harmon met with me last week to talk through the surgery.

Main Points:
-He does hundreds of these surgeries a year. He's never killed anyone.
-Laparoscopic surgery: In through the belly button with a scope, and with the tools on either side of the lower abdomen.
-No one knows the frequency of recurrence after surgery, because dudes are stupid. Chances are that a lot of guys who suffer a recurrence blame the surgeon and go to someone else.
-Rather than stitching muscle together, surgical mesh is stretched over the giant, gaping hole in my gut and the muscle is supposed to grow over it. After 2 weeks, the mesh is 75% covered. At 3 weeks, 95%.
-It's gonna hurt.

Day of Operation
Just in case I died on the table, The Colleague and I met some former students of mine for what I want my last meal to be: sushi. As much as possible. As fresh as possible. After that, it was no food or drink after midnight.

So, Dr. Hilarious referred me to Dr. Harmon. The Colleague (h) drove me to the surgery center, where the anesthesiologist (Dr. Hardy) gave me the drugs.

General anesthesia has to be one of the weirdest experiences a person can have.

Dr. Hardy says, "Ok, you're going to get a little woozy." Next thing I know I'm waking up in a different room. 2 hours went by. Dr. do-no Harmon cut into me and stitched me back together while a med student watched the show. And I woke up like not one second passed. 2 hours gone.

By the time I saw The Colleague again, I was pretty much ready to roll. I wasn't babbling like a drugged up lunatic (though apparently I asked for the anesthesiologist's name at some point...what the hell?), I didn't ask anyone to marry me, and as far as I know I didn't embarrass myself.

I went into the surgery center at 8:30 a.m. and was home in bed by 1:00 p.m. Not bad.

The Day After
The Colleague is off for an oil-baroness meeting in Montana today, so I am at The Shack tending to myself, trying to move around as much as possible, and thinking about getting some work done, though concentration is not my strong suit at the moment. I sent one work-related email this morning that I probably shouldn't have. I'll wait until I'm off the dope to do anything else in that arena.

They ask you to measure pain on a scale of 1-10. Ok. At the moment, even with the narcotics, we're talking about a 5. Without? Not good.

One Other Thing

Saturday, May 16, 2009

In Repair: Stories about Boats, Bikes, and Inguinal Canals

The Landmark Case of Running v. Riding (2009)
The Colleague was asking me last night about the difference, for me, between running and cycling, trying, I think, to get at the root of why I get so much more satisfaction from running than riding. I'm not sure I have a definitive answer, but I tried. And I'll try again here.

This line of discussion brought to you by the worst of the nagging running injuries I've had to date. Worse than the stress fracture in the foot (though that was a pretty serious pain in the ass) and worse than the torn calf muscle (at least I knew once that was torn I couldn't make it worse).

Back to the running versus cycling question: Cycling is cool. I love it. I love big sweeping downhills, I dig cranking up hills and skyrocketing the heart rate. And you know I love the Fuji. Bikes are cool. But that, I realized, is part of the problem. The gear. I have an inherent distrust of gear that goes back to my serious climbing days.

In running, the only thing that can really break down is you. Sure, I burn through a lot of shoes. And I have a lot of gadgets and toys that go along with running. But if my iPod isn't working, or the Garmin can't pick up a satellite signal, big deal. The bike can break down. That's a lot of moving parts to go wrong, and hedging against that possibility is a drag.

Case in point: flat tires. I don't know what it is about me and the Fuji, but we seem to court flat tires at an alarming rate. Every other ride it seems like I'm at the side of the road peeling a tire off a rim and changing a tube. Total drag. The wheels are currently off the Fuji waiting for me to get to changing out the tires and the tubes. And actually, what I should do is take her in for a full tune up, but then I'd be without the bike for a week. Another issue about cycling.

I should get to the tire repair soon, though because aside form sitting and breathing, riding is about the only active thing I can manage at the moment. Which brings us to:

The Further Adventures of Dr. Hilarious and GVB's Lower Abdomen
Two of you will remember that about 8 months ago, while training for the Seattle Marathon, I started to complain about pain in my ab muscles (you know, that rippling six pack of mine). After long runs it would hurt to sit up for a few days and then it would go away. I just assumed that my abs were getting sore from the running.

I ran/suffered through the Seattle Marathon with the ab pain, but after the race it never got better. An appointment with Dr. Hilarious was in order. Both of my readers might also remember this medical moment from January.

After the visit I tried to keep training for Vancouver, but after my 14 mile run with Cap'n Ron I knew it was over. I couldn't move. I couldn't get in and out of the car. Several other, well, "activities" caused considerable pain (worth it). So I took step two of Dr. Hilarious's suggested path: rest. I stopped running.

Still, nothing got better.

Last week I got to see the inside of my gut through the magic of ultrasound technology and after Pat the Ultrasound Technician poked around for an hour, gazing longingly at my organs, she found it. An actual hernia. Not the sports hernia I thought it was (thereby supporting Dr, Hilarious's case against Internet-aided self-diagnosis) but an actual hernia. A tear in the muscles along the inguinal canal that lets the "stuff" out. In this case, the "stuff" is a thin layer of fatty tissue (mmmmm...fatty tissue) that lodged itself in there and never left. Lucky, that. Without that fatty tissue in there, who knows what part of my innards would be poking out of there.

So Dr. Hilarious has sent me off to his "hernia surgeon guy" in Edmonds. I'll see him this week and hopefully on his schedule soon enough to get this done before we leave for Africa in late June.

As The Colleague said to me last night, you know you've exhausted the other options and are ready for surgery when the prospect of some dude cutting you open and stitching your guts together is appealing. More as I know more.

Remember that Boat We Sold and That Boat We Bought? Yeah, About That...

It will be a while before we're doing this...

...but the first steps have been made. The new/old/nameless boat is out of the water, on stands in the driveway, and ready for work to commence. No small project.

In honor of the fact that most of the people who are truly interested in the refit of a 1979 Cape Dory 27 aren't interested in my musings about my ab muscles and the Zanax-fueled dysfunction at the Learning Factory (and vice-a-versa I suspect), The Colleague and I launched a new blog project to follow the epic battle of Man and Woman against Aging Fiberglass and Aluminum.

Check it out at at

Coming Soon!*
The Colleague and I leave for Kenya in a little over a month. Watch for more details, updates, and so on at our OTHER new blog project. Details to come as soon as we decide on the details.

*That's What She Said