This is a post with the words incarcerated, defect, festered, and unremarkable and it’s a happy story for me. That’s because it’s my medical story for the past 2-1/2 weeks and things are good.
In earlier posts I mentioned that I was replacing my father-in-law’s roof. While I had done roofs on two other houses in the past 21 months, working on this one in July was a mistake. I had to battle high heat and humidity, plus constantly changing weather forecasts which made planning difficult. And it rained a lot in July. Because of these difficulties, I sometimes worked by moonlight spreading tarps over the exposed part of the roof and holding them in place with 70 pound bundles of shingles. It was tiring, and at the end of the day I may not have been as careful in how I lifted the bundles.
So, I seem to have given myself a umbilical hernia about 2-1/2 weeks ago. There’s usually a small hole in the abdominal muscle wall behind the belly button left over from when we received our nutrition through the umbilical cord while we were in our mothers’ wombs. I was surprised to discover that the belly button is a fairly common site for hernias, especially in young children. In adults, it means that some fat or fluid gets pushed through that leftover hole, and according to online information, it’s generally not that bad. It can self-repair, perhaps with a little help from massaging and gently pushing the bump back through the belly button.
For me, however, a couple somewhat painful bumps appeared overnight following one of those difficult days on the roof. They were pretty hard and I asked my wife about it. She didn’t seem all that concerned.
Now let me tell you a little about my wife. When she was in medical school, I asked her to look at my painful ear one day and she said, “You have some blood behind your eardrum. Did I tell you about the kid hit by the subway that came in today. His leg came in a separate bag.” Now how can I compete with that? I’ve had a pretty healthy life, but whenever I was concerned about something, my wife always seemed to blow it off as not that important. After this umbilical hernia, however, I realize that she wasn’t blowing me off – she’s just really smart.
I wasn’t very worried about the hernia because of my online research, but once she saw bruising, she hopped into action. After torturing me for 30 minutes with hydrogen peroxide and q-tips, she sent me to the emergency room.
Here’s what happened. While not lifting very carefully at the end of the day, I appeared to have pushed some fat through the small hole behind the belly button without causing any damage to, or enlarging the hole. That means that the fat was in a little pocket of skin on the rim of the belly button, but not connected to a blood supply because the hole closed right back up behind it. That is called an incarcerated hernia and it’s not a good thing.
I thought things would improve over the week I was a camp counselor when I did a lot of walking, but very little lifting, and the pain did get better, but the bumps were still there, although a little smaller. To my uneducated eye, it seemed to be doing what the online research suggested – the hernia was self-healing and the fat was going back through the opening. In reality, the bumps were shrinking because the fat was festering inside (because there was no blood flow) and becoming pus. Oops.
During my first night back with my wife after camp, a new bump and bruising appeared and the two earlier bumps had gotten much smaller. That evening the new bump started oozing pus and my smart wife sent me to the ER. After she tortured me with the peroxide and q-tips, that is.
Well, I had surgery yesterday in which the necrotic fat and tissue was removed and no hernia defect was found. That means that I did not damage the leftover umbilical hole. All good news.
The other good news is that I’m unremarkable. I had an abdominal CT while in the emergency room and the report says, “The liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas, adrenal glands and gallbladder are unremarkable. Visual loops of bowel are unremarkable.” When it comes to radiographic reports, we all want to be unremarkable. One other good bit of health news: it’s made me smarter. I have done my last roof!