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The Hawk's Nest

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When repairing a hernia, the relaxer is great

When I asked anyone who had had an inguinal hernia repair if it hurt, they always answered with, “Well, it hurt some.”

        Except for tonsils, over 50 years ago, I’ve never had a surgery so had no expectations, and all I remember from the tonsils was getting all the ice cream I wanted.

        Last month Linda took me into the day surgery at Kootenai Medical Center for a quick fix. Linda is my wife and is also a nurse practitioner, so she knows how this stuff works. She also knows most of the surgeons in Coeur d’Alene. Add to that she is a very spiritual nurse, so she told me that when there is pain to “breathe into it with the healing breath of God.” I believe this, too, but was wondering how it applied to surgery.

The RN who came to the waiting room for us, it turned out, was someone I had worked with many, many years ago, but I didn’t know she had become a nurse. Dawn is a kind and thoughtful person with a comforting smile and the perfect name for the beginning of this little adventure. A friendly, familiar face helped raise my comfort level a bit. I did hope the last person I saw there wasn’t named something like “Twilight,” though.

We walked back to the pre-operation room talking about old times. Dawn had me sit in a big blue recliner in a curtained cubical and started an IV painlessly, and plumbed it to a bag over my head. Her body piercing of my arm was so good I wondered if she did tattoos also, but didn’t ask.

Dawn and Linda talked nurse talk and made sure I knew what each procedure was and why it was needed.

After a few minutes, Linda and I were left alone. She reminded me that there would be some pain, and to just “breathe the healing breath of God” into the pain.

Dawn came back and said she had a  “relaxer” and injected it into the intravenous tube in my arm.

Whoa! That cleared the fuzz off some old (but fond) memories from the late 60s. Linda smiled a knowing smile as Dawn stepped behind the recliner and said it was ”kiss time.” Linda and I did. Then one of them asked how I was.

“Just lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

Linda left. Soon, the big blue recliner started to move out of the cubical and taxied across the room toward a couple of big doors. We passed several other curtained cubicles along the way. Most of them had folks wearing the latest hospital fashions, looking rather apprehensive. In my head I heard, “Don’tchew worry ‘bout a thing” and hoped they could hear it too.

Things start to cut out at this point, even though they said I would be conscious during the surgery.

On the warm table in the operating room lots of masked, green-covered creatures were busy arranging and doing “surgical stuff.” They all seemed to know exactly what was needed and worked efficiently.

Another green-covered creature came in without a mask. I recognized him as Dr. Thomas Thilo, a gifted and trusted surgeon. He is a tall, confident and caring man with a great sense of humor, kind of an Alan Alda type. His only concern seemed to be my well-being, and he would buck the system to make that happen. I was glad he was in charge. Or maybe it was that relaxer. “Don’tchew worry ‘bout a thing.”

I was at a low degree of consciousness, like back in the dorm, where there were varying degrees of consciousness on a Saturday night.

I have some memories of being on the table but I can’t fully verify them by putting two together in a row. I do remember being put back into the big blue recliner and taxied into another room full of curtained cubicles.

Others were already in some of the cubicles looking rather ethereal but coming down.

They brought me some coffee and toast. That was good because I really had the munchies.

Linda and Dr. Thilo came in looking pleased; I think they had already been talking in medicalize. Doc told me it had gone very well but added, “When the local wears off and you try to move, you’re going to be a little mad at me.”

I was more interested in finding out when I could get back to important things, like snowshoeing.

There began to be a little discomfort, so someone left to get some meds. Linda said to “breathe into it with the healing breath of God… and take the meds.”

I was wheeled out to the car where Linda was waiting. I didn’t remember her leaving before me to get the car.

We made the 25-mile drive to our peaceful home in the North Idaho woods. It went well, but the fuzziness returned to the fond memories of the 60s. It’s better to leave them that way, quite fuzzy.

Feeling way past due for a nap, I sat in my favorite chair and dozed off. When I woke up, I needed to go to the bathroom.

As I got up I was kicked. It was a direct, hard kick in the very low abdomen. It was a pitiless kick committed by a brutally outraged, overly steroidal, cosmic mule on crack.

I wanted to scream. Not a grunt or moan like a quarterback makes when he’s blindsided by a 300 pound linebacker. No, I wanted to scream, scream like a bobcat when it is in the death throes of a territorial battle. But I couldn’t scream. The pain had sucked every milliliter of air out of my body. There wasn’t air enough to make a vocal cord rattle, let alone a scream.

Linda said “Breathe into it, breathe in the….” I couldn’t breathe anything. I felt like a plastic garbage bag when it’s pulled out of the box and you can’t figure out which end is supposed to open.

I noticed Tom “the Slasher” Thilo was no place to be found so I could affirm his prediction that “I was going to be a little mad at him when the local wore off”.

The nearest my torso could get to vertical was parallel with the floor.

Linda said she thought she had married a much taller man. Her sister thought it would be a good time to give me the vacuum.

Linda moved me only slightly faster than a mature Ponderosa pine that has a 10-foot taproot anchored to the earth. I felt about as flexible as a fine china Christmas tree ornament when it hits the floor.

Back in my chair, I started breathing and yes, I wanted that healing breath of God now!

Somehow, something got through the haze and I realized, to heal, I needed to thank everyone who had been part of this. Starting with the valet parking attendants through everyone involved and back to the guy who opened the door and helped me into the car. I also knew I needed to thank that healing breath of God, who had hand picked each and every one of these fine and skilled people for their expertise and caring. And,  for Linda, as well as all the people who had kept me in their thoughts and prayers.

It’s been a while now. My mind has cleared as much as it ever will, and I’ve been taller than Linda for several days, eating and sleeping. The thank-yous seem to have opened up my heart to healing. Dr. Thilo called to see how I was. When I joked with him about how I felt when the local wore off he said, “That’s why we do outpatient.”

The other day a call came from a friend who said he heard I had just done the hernia thing. He said he needed to do it pretty soon too.

“How is it” he asked

“Well,” I said thoughtfully, “it’s probably going to hurt some, but the relaxer is great”.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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