June 27, 2013

The Hernia Hotel - Part II - No Pain, No Gain

I left you hanging at the ladies room door.  Remember?

Do you think beehives will ever make a comeback?  

I had just met my surgeon, Dr. S, and was DONE with medical professionals for the day.  So done.

I ascended the stairs up to the third floor and met my roommate.  This is embarrassing to admit but I don't know her name.  She had an unusual name, which I repeated three times so as to permanently lodge it in my cpu, but it wouldn't stick.  I hate that.  R was in her early sixties and was very sweet.  Dressed in traditional Indian dress, she had lots of family visiting.  She had had two surgeries two days apart - OUCH.  She slept a lot (can you blame her?) and because I spent very little time in my room, we didn't engage too much.  I will relate a funny story about her and I later on in the blog, once I get to the post-surgery part.

5:30pm- Time for dinner (whole grainish bun, cannelloni, caesar salad and choice of date square, canned mandarin oranges or orange jello for dessert.  Dinner got 9 out of 10 for conversation and laughter factor, but 7ish for food - bun was fresh and warm and cannelloni was surprisingly creamy and good).  Yeah, yeah, I know I'm not at a Michelin, but I can't help my "critic in the corner" commentary.

Three of the fellows at my table had had hernia surgery before (!) and we were later joined by a man from San Francisco, who was departing from the Shouldice the following day.  One of my funny (so funny!) dining companions later commented that he thought that the latecomer (who slid quite gingerly into his chair) was kidding - that he was pretending to be hobbled by pain as a joke.  Little did we know.

At 8:30-ish in the evening, we found out what time our surgery was scheduled for the following day.  My surgery was supposed to be at 7:30am -the first one of the day - but it was later changed to 8:30.  Seemed like a good time to me ;-)
We were told that we would be awakened around 6ish, given some meds to relax us, and would be taken down to the operating suite a little later on.  We were supposed to change into our hospital pants (huge!) and gown (vast!), and remove all jewellery, underwear, makeup, nail polish et cetera and put on a pair of socks and some blue booties.  I found this fellow -POPP - who was hanging out in one of the lounges, to be rather amusing (and stylish obviously):

"POPP" - pre-op prepared patient

Day of Surgery - 6am.

I was rudely awakened at the appointed hour and asked to pull down my panties for a pre-op shave.  I had been warned about this and so I had taken matters into my own hands the previous day.  The nurse took one look, said I had already done it to her satisfaction, and so I was spared the indignity of the straight razor in the nether regions.  For that I was GLAD!  (I was laughing my head off later on at all the dudes who were complaining about the one-sided close shave and the involuntary manscaping).

I was not given any medication and so I promptly fell back asleep. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


"What are you doing?!  GET UP!!!!!"



The nurse was not impressed:  "You have 5 minutes. Brush your teeth and get dressed! Let's GO!"

Well, this girl can prep for surgery in 2!  So there.

This was the first instance of a Nurse (let's just call them all Ratchet) getting irritated with me.  There was more to come.

When I was looking for a picture of a mean nurse, I did a google search for Nasty Nurse and THAT was a mistake!   Gadzooks!
Ratchet came back and 6 or 7 of us headed into the elevators to the basement, where we were lead into the pre-op room, which I heard people refer to as the "orphanage" and/or the "morgue" - both apt names, I can assure you. The lights were low, we were shown to our beds and were told to lie down.  I didn't want to lie down.  My fellow herniacs all received their pill cocktails - Ativan / Lorazepam and Oxy something or other - hillbilly heroin?! ?  I received nothing.

We waited for around 15 minutes and I was getting annoyed because I hadn't received my drugs!  My friends were either fast asleep or they were chatty.  I was thrice-chastised for talking: "Lie DOWN and let the drugs do their WORK!" "Stop talking! My colleagues are getting annoyed!"

What were we, in Grade 2?

The best was when one of the dudes REFUSED to lie down (I think two of them did that actually) until they received their meds.  So funny!

The next group of people were brought in (another 5) and I watched as they all swallowed their pills.  At this point, I got up and asked if they had forgotten about me.  Ratchet reassured me:  "your doctor has special medication for you".

special medication?

I waited ~7 more minutes.  Finally, Ratchet was approaching!

What is THAT in her hand? ohhhhhhhhhhhh.  it's a needle.  

"These are Ativan.  Put them under your tongue, they'll dissolve there.  Get on your side please and pull down your pants. Have you ever had morphine?".

pull down my pants?

It is at times like these that I curse my lack of verbal filter:

"You mean that I am the only one who gets it in the butt?"

The person beside me cracked up so uproariously that I was in stitches too.  We could NOT stop laughing.  Ratchet was not amused.

Let me just say at this point, that I did not feel the meds doing ANYTHING.  I was still sane (questionable I know), I felt clear-headed and I did not become drowsy; however, I recall going to the bathroom before surgery and I was a bit dizzy (not in an overly unpleasant way).  I also recall watching others being lead like lambs to slaughter and they were all weebley-wobbley.

some moment in time later 

I found myself in the operating suite.  They put tubes in my nose for oxygen (dislike).  Topics of discussion included (but were not limited to): camping and whether I would be smothered by the "blue tent" draped over my chest, why were they using me as a coffee table?, please get that heavy thing off my stomach, who is that guy beside me who looks like an actor?, who is that lady behind me?, how many people are in the room?, I love classical music!, this doesn't hurt as much as childbirth, where is Dr. S? et cetera.  I am now thinking that I probably drove them crazy.  The last thing I remember saying was:  "How much longer?"

"About ten minutes".

"Okay, I can handle that.  That's not so long.  It doesn't hurt that much.  I can handle it..."


I think they upped the morphine to shut me up.


I woke up later that day in bed, still in my gown and pants.  RB and the kids visited me; they later told me that I was "out of it" and that they stayed for about 5 minutes tops.  This is when they took the following pictures. RB says that I asked him to take the photos.  COME ON!   Seriously?  I look ridiculous.  I don't remember this AT ALL.

At least I look sort of happy.  Then there's this:

I spent the remainder of the day in bed.  I woke up when someone brought dinner into my room and then things got fuzzy.  I recall INHALING some egg salad sandwich (no rating - ;-) and then yelling: "I am going to vomit, I am going to VOMIT. I NEED A BEDPAN! "  I also said that I was going to do it all over the floor (thinking of others :-)  .  Someone did bring me a vessel, but I can only recall spitting.  Lovely, I know. I passed out again.

RB and kids returned in the evening.  I recall little of the visit.  My second roommate, Rachel, later told me that I was "out of it" and "don't you remember meeting my husband in the lounge?".

No Rachel, I do not.

I fell asleep for the remainder of the evening.  I do recall hearing VERY LOUD crashing sounds in the night and my roommate yelled:  "Christine, CHRISTINE!!!  DO NOT DO THAT! Christine, you need a nurse!"  Not sure what happened next.



Day one, post-surgery

I awakened at 6am, feeling refreshed.  Relief.  I was obviously in a bit of pain and I found myself hobbling around but I was clearheaded and for that, I was thankful.

Breakfast was big and plentiful (It gets an 8).

After breakfast, we had to be back in our rooms for a post-operative exam and clip removal.  The post-op was nothing more than a cursory look at the incision by a crusty and brusque surgeon.  I made it my mission to get him to laugh, but the closest I got was when I told him that Dr. S (my surgeon) was wacky:  "I'll be sure to pass that on to him".  This surgeon's name, oddly enough, was something like Staples, which is comical when you consider the next sentence.  Staples removed the first set of clips on the incision with speed and precision. He was quick, quiet and somewhat ornery and really, that's not so bad, all things considered.

I was initially wary of the clip removal, but it didn't hurt at all! You would think that the removal of metal staples from a fresh incision that rises up half an inch from the surrounding skin would be horrendous, but it honestly was not.  In fact, I forgot about this "blip" completely and had to come back and add this paragraph after I had already written Part II. I was only reminded of it after reading some Shouldice literature:

RB and the kids came and visited and told me all about their visit to the Toronto Zoo.  We played a game of shuffleboard, or rather the children fought over the shuffleboard (sigh), and then we took a turn around the building.  I showed them the dead muskrat in the grass which I had become somewhat obsessed with; I really should have been a forensic anthropologist.   It wasn't removed and every day it imploded a bit more. By the end of the week, it was nothing but fur and writhing maggots.  Gwen seemed impressed. 

Here are more pictures of the hospital grounds:

view from the 3rd floor balcony, dead muskrat is in the upper left corner ;-)

Is there anything more beautiful than a peony?  These are on their way out, but they are still breathtaking

rock garden with water feature - I loved the sound of this - so soothing
After our walk, we went upstairs to the lounge for the Exercise Class aka The Shouldice Shuffle.  This was hilarious.  I was a bit late, so space was at a premium.   The song was something by Queen - can't remember which one, but I know it wasn't Fat Bottom Girls ;-).  We rocked out as much as people who are on their first day post-surgery can.  Queen was followed up by some salsa.  At this point, we were traveling in circles and I watched some of the men salsa down the hallway and back to their rooms -- so funny!  I love watching grown men sashay.  I mocked one of the guys for his bad dance moves and I am ashamed to say that I think I drove him away.  Oh well, the truth hurts (literally in this case).  I missed the next day's exercise class because I was talking to a Ratchet.  I was sorry to miss it, actually.  They danced to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive.  I love that song!!

It rained for the remainder of the afternoon and I walked every inch of that hospital, while listening to my ipod.  It was only moderately painful.  At one point, I found myself in a darkened corridor in the basement, which was completely deserted, and I was a little creeped out.  What is it about a dimly lit operating suite in the basement that is so disturbing?  ha ha.  The Shouldice could totally be the setting for a murder mystery! In fact, one of the herniacs from out East was continually throwing plot lines my way, which was entertaining.

Okay tired again.  It's going to be in three parts. I have shit to do.  I am rethinking that last line there. Leaving it.  Everyone who really knows me, knows that I have a potty mouth.


June 26, 2013

The Hernia Hotel - Hernias R Us! - Part One

I blame The Punisher, aka Yelena, a one-time Olympic gymnast in her mid-fifties who still looks about 25.

Mid-January, Tecumseh Community School, gym floor:
In the 25 years that I have been working out, I have never injured myself (I'm not counting lactic acid build-up, pernicious leg cramps in Aquafit, the time I dropped a free weight on my foot or anything that's happened during a soccer game).  This workout, I was not to be so lucky.  Something inside me RRRRIPPED.

"OOh!  It burns!".  I rubbed my groin area (I know it sounds perverted but I'm leaving it in) and proceeded to dial down my activity level.  My guess was that I had pulled a muscle.  I managed to finish the class with only a modicum of pain and after a couple of days, the discomfort was completely gone and the incident forgotten.  The rip was no longer on my radar.

mid-March Break, Bruce Street, steam shower:
I was in the middle of some "(wo)manscaping" so as to take the children swimming at the Aquatic Centre.  I found a walnut-sized protuberance in my right groin.  I was sure I was dying.  Hyperventilation ensued.
Lump in the groin means cancer.  
Cancer means death.
Death means DEATH!!
breathe, breathe.  BREATHE!

I saw my Dr. pronto and she sent me for an ultrasound.  When I described my symptoms to her (none! except for a weird protuberance that stuck out during the day and disappeared when I was lying down), she predicted a hernia.

Dr. B called a few days later and recommended that I get it repaired.  She mentioned the Shouldice Hospital.  When I told my m.i.l. that I had a hernia, she had one word for me: Shouldice.  When I told others about my hernia, they all said Shouldice.

And that's how I found myself here, several months later:

Isn't it pretty?

Hospital Entrance - manicured lawns and tidy gardens
further along the front of the hospital
only of many lovely places to sit and listen to nature

12pm - time to check in!

Check-in, Pre-op and Day of Surgery

I entered the building and found myself in a hall full of luggage.  Reception was to the left and a vast waiting area could be seen through some French doors.  The receptionist gave me my chart, asked me to set my luggage down in the hall and directed me downstairs to the lab for a check-in with the nurse.  She spent all of a minute with me (efficient!), reviewing my blood work and ECG.  I'm not on any meds and I suppose that I am in otherwise good health so we didn't need to discuss much.  She dismissed me and I waited in the hall with about ten other herniacs.  The waiting area was well-appointed enough:  trashy mags (yes!! I love trashy mags but have neither the time nor $ to squander on them -- here, I had nothing but time!); current newspapers and periodicals; a water cooler; washrooms etc.  There was some "French" art on the wall.  You know the thing - rather blah mass-produced paintings that feature caf├ęs and bistros and are labeled as such. They put me in mind of photograph albums that say PHOTOGRAPHS on the front cover or picture frames that say FRIENDS- I mean isn't it all a little obvious? They should acquire some real art... they can bloody well afford it, I'm sure.  Artsnob diatribe over.

I spent five minutes with another nurse who wanted to hear about my mango and Elastoplast bandage allergies... she gave me a kelly green wristband to wear so that the staff would be aware.  The green bracelet came in handy - when I didn't like what was being served, I pointed to my wristband and asked for something else.  For instance, one day we had greyish beef that looked especially revolting and I asked if I could have seafood or chicken instead - no problemo!  I also rejected a fish meal (I had been served the fish at lunch and didn't want the same thing for dinner), some mushy vegetables (fresh greens instead!) and some dodgy-looking meatballs with "gravy".  I guess I am particular about what I eat.  I never thought I was, but it appears that I am.  What I will say about the food at the Shouldice is that it is plentiful! The gave us huge portions.  Typical breakfast: juice, coffee and tea, choice of porridge, Cheerios or All-Bran with blueberries, and then large plates of bacon, eggs and toast or waffles.  I was full after the oatmeal!  Butter was never served with any of the food; you had to ask for it.  Here's a shot of the dining room:

I loved the "rock" walls and view of the garden
Back to the nurse.  She assigned me my room (322-1 on the 3rd floor). Here's the stunning view from my window.  It felt a bit BC boreal-ish to me.

The nurse also gave me a nametag and then sent me back out into the hall to wait to see Dr. T - the admitting Doctor.  Everyone had to wear a nametag, which I thought was an excellent idea.  A quick glance at someone's chest and you knew their name and where they were from.  Here's mine:

I wore this the entire time I was there
My visit with Dr. T was hilarious.  He took my blood pressure, and asked me some questions about my health, physical activity and diet.  He also checked out the "site" by gently feeling it and the area around it, and then pushed on it quite hard and asked me to inhale deeply.  That part I got.  It was what he said afterwards that confused me:

"Push like you're having a bomb blurga blurga blooba".  This is what I heard.  Huh? Wtf?  I thought he said something about a bomb and so I exhaled really noisily -- sort of a longish, loudish grunt really -- and the good doctor looked at me like I was CRAZY.  He laughed long and hard at my best impression of a bomb going off and then said:

"Try again".

Oh oh.  I had to make that stupid sound again? Oh no, I wasn't doing that again so he could howl at me.  I knew that we were having a lapse in communication (he was Asian and he had an accent -- that was my problem) and so I said:

"What do you want me to do again?"

He replied: " Push like you're having a blobba blooba..."


"Pardon me?".  This was getting embarrassing.

And then he spoke very softly, slowly and clearly and said "like you are having a bowel movement". I died.  Laughed my head off.  So I inhaled deeply and did what he said and then I was briefly worried that something was going to COME OUT!  (it did not).  Much laughter again.

Aside:  After the fact, one of the herniacs made an observation that Dr. T's hands were shaking like crazy while he wrote and that all he could do was hope that this wasn't his surgeon!  

I went to Accounts next to produce my health card and more importantly for Shouldice, my credit card. I think it's $200 a night, which is reimbursed by your insurance company (if you have semi-private coverage).  It was there that I received my I.D. bracelet.

As I am writing this, and consulting my notes, I am realizing what a busy day that first day was!

After accounts, I had my first lunch in the dining room. I enjoyed pleasant conversation with an ethno-musicologist and ate minestrone and a turkey, lettuce and tomato sandwich on (stale) white bread.  Soup was good; sandwich was 6 out of 10.

Back upstairs I went, into the light-filled main waiting area, which I would describe as American Colonial meets Canadian Hospital.  Fireplace, three sets of French doors, more mass-produced art, mags and papers, lots of big windows with fussy window treatments and floral upholstered sofas and chairs.

In other areas of the hospital, it's more MCM-ish (this is for you, Sandra Miller):

Anyhoo, upstairs, things have gone awry in the decorating department.

While waiting to see my surgeon, I watched the 24-7 Herniavision on the telly in one corner of the waiting area.  Shouldice propaganda at its best. Two of my favourite quotes:

"Our hernia repairs last a lifetime, because we do it right the first time"

"Our complication rate is less than 1/2 of 1 percent"

I waited here for a LONG time - at least an hour and a half before I saw two different surgeons. Here are some of my wacky notes that I took while waiting.  The line "Really bored! 4:25 pm" pretty much sums it up.

I was finally taken to see one of the surgeons - Dr. K - who did a cursory examination and told me that I had an inguinal hernia.  He left the room and in came Dr. S., who also examined me.  He told me that I have a femoral hernia - not inguinal after all - and that the operation takes longer to do and longer for me to recover from.  Great.  He also said that there's no way of telling until you go inside (during the operation).  He looked over my chart, saw that I am an avid soccer player and then we talked soccer, which he seemed rather into.  He asked me who I thought the best soccer player in the world was - like I know! ? - and I said Pele, of course.


"Uhhh, Ronaldo?"


"Uhhh, David Beckham?" I am really grasping at straws now.

"No!"  Openly laughing at me.

"Some Dutch dude?"

"No!"  I was started to feel harrassed.  Not really, but still.

"Okay, I give up. Who?"

"George Best!!"


"You're Irish and you don't know George Best?"

"I don't know George Best".

"Shame". This coming from the Asian with the Scottish accent (seriously - it was funny!)

The he told me all about George Best and his womanizing and drinking and short-lived career before he said, "wait a minute...you're not even in my room".

I paused.  "What does that mean?"

"Uh.  I'm not your surgeon".

"Yes, you are! We have a good rapport.  You're going to do it!"

"Ummm... okay uh well, Dr. G is your surgeon".

"Who's Dr. G?"

"He does colonoscopies now.  He just comes in once a week to keep up.  He's worked here forever".

"Keep up?! So what you are telling me is that he's RUSTY! I don't want him!"

"Okay, okay, I'll go ask the chief."

He left the room and I followed surreptitiously, and watched him enter a room at the end of the hall.  He didn't close the door and so I could hear him say "there's a lady and she is scheduled with Dr. G but she doesn't want..."

At this point I walked into the room and said:  "I don't want Dr. G! I don't know him and he only comes in once a week!"

The two other surgeons looked at me, a little shellshocked.  One seemed annoyed but I wasn't too worried about him because he was sitting on the other side of the desk (not in the Chief's chair) and the Chief looked like he had a sense of humour at least.  And so, to make this very long story short, I got Dr. S after all.

I am tired of typing right now, I need a break.  I'll type part two tonight and/or tomorrow. I'm halfway through my notes and so I will finish tomorrow.

I will leave you with a cute picture of the ladies room door. Sorry about the red eye.

I love the beehive!

Click here for part 2:  Hernia Hotel, Part II

June 03, 2013

Baking and Breathing

I have been stressed out for two weeks.  With a dying family member, large-scale event planning, a major backyard renovation involving the removal and/or relocation of trees and gardens, and physical and mental preparations for my upcoming hernia operation - I feel like Mombie.

When I'm really busy, I ignore myself and my friends and focus only on my immediate family and what I need to get done day by day.  Some days this means that I neglect to eat and drink enough.  I ignore my body's signals because I'm an idiot.  I'm not proud of this; it's just been the pattern my entire life. The only good news here is that I lost the eight pounds that I put on this winter after guzzling too much wine and pigging out on garbaggio (smoked oysters, salsa and nacho chips, loaded baked potato chips, brie and camembert with red pepper jelly and fancy crackers etc).  I haven't been eating enough due to stress and poor time management and I am going to change that this week!  Enough about me though.  Let's talk bread!

Today we are going to a neighbour's gathering - Champagne, Crackers and a Chin-wag.  Said neighbour has invited all the fun neighbours (every house abutting and across from them).

I am bringing bread because I have been asked to do so.  I was initially overwhelmed by the request, because I have a lot going on, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that baking bread is exactly what I should do to save what remains of my sanity.

I am attempting to bake Oatmeal Bread.   

From the New Canadian Basics Cookbook, it's also known as Maritime, Porridge or Rolled Oats Bread.  I like an oatmealy texture -- it's dense and delicious.  My only concern with this recipe is the baking part. ha.

I am going to substitute maple syrup for the molasses (mine expired in 2011!) and do half white flour and half whole wheat.

Here's my yeast proofing.

I think I should have proofed it in a bowl instead of a measuring cup; when I dumped the yeast into the oatmeal mixture, there were some granules that hadn't yet dissolved.  No biggie.  Lesson learned.

I mixed in the flour, kneaded the dough by hand for 8 minutes, oiled a bowl and tossed it in. I rolled the ball around in the bowl to evenly coat it with vegetable oil (and prevent it from becoming hard and dry).

I'm going to let the bread rise now and tell you about my yard sale adventure.


I have been a diehard garage saler for twenty years and I LOVE IT.  Garage "sailing" is one of life's great joys.

Earlier this morning, the only item on my list was a reel mower.  I sold my old mower in a yard sale three years ago and I regret it to this day.

Well guess what?  I found one! When I spied it, I began to pant heavily (hahhah! that sounds wrong but I'm leaving it in).  I tried the mower out on the seller's lawn and it would barely move, never mind cut grass.

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's been neglected; it needs oil, a cleaning and a sharpening.  It's ten dollars".

I responded: "Do you know how much these things cost to get sharpened?"

I didn't say it to be a peeve, but the owner was definitely irritated.  Back-pedalling, I immediately told her about the time I had my old mower sharpened.  I had been puttering in the house and the sound of a bell tinkling outside got my attention.  It grew louder and louder and I went out to see if I could find the source.  I saw an old wise-guy tooling around in a red pickup.  I registered the wooden sign on top - "SHARPENING" - and I think I was taken in by the nostalgia of it, because five minutes later I found myself paying the shyster $40 for approximately 4 minutes of "sharpening".  At least I can laugh about it now.

Her response to my tale : " How about $5.00?"

I thought about it for about 30 seconds and told her I'd take it for five.  I pushed the mower to the van, brought it home and put RB to work.  He spent 15 minutes outside with it, came into the house and told me that he thought I'd be happy.  I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to go try it out now.


I can't tell you about the mower right now because I'm too annoyed. I'll save that for later.

Here's the bread:

The monster has grown. Let's remove that towel!


Now to punch that baby down! ---  shplat.  I like punching the bread down; it makes me feel tough.

Time to shape it into loaves.  

I know, I know.  They're ugly.  What's with all those scratchy, fingerprinty marks? I must work on the shaping of the loaves.  These look pathetic really. Were they made by a toddler? The next time I bake, I am going to try to make them prettier.

Here they are 45 minutes later (after the second rise):

Before putting the bread in the oven, I brushed one of the loaves with a lightly beaten egg and left one plain (according to the recipe, the egg is optional). I wanted to see the difference after baking. 

And thanks to the marvels of technology, here it is.  The egg-washed loaf is the one on the right.  I think it looks more professional and as all of you know, I am nothing if not a consummate professional.

Oh and about the lawn mower.  For now, it's enough for you to know that my mower rips my grass rather than cutting it.  It is also hard to push.  It made me swear.  At least the bread worked out.


Addendum, June 10th.  Good news.  We got suckered again:

This time, I paid $30 for 10 minutes --- an improvement!  And now the mower works like a charm.  Not bad for a $35 investment.