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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/30/13

How I Got My Husband to Take Care of His Body (Even Though He Just Wants to Take Care of Me)

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Bob and I smiled as we watched the checkout girl at the hardware store sass each customer who came through. She seemed to know everyone, and teased them accordingly--from the last-minute junk food impulse purchases they made ("What, didn't your wife pack you a lunch today?"), to the volume of nails they were buying ("Do you really need that many? Or do you just bend that many when you pound 'em?")

"Are you kidding me?" she called after me. "You hafta carry that yourself?" When it was our turn at the register to pay for our 20-pound bag of charwood, Bob removed his wallet, and I picked up the bag and headed for the door.

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I'm usually the first person to jump on the sass bandwagon. But this time I pretended to notice something interesting out in the parking lot. Her comment didn't incite the response she craved, so she tried again.

"He's not gonna carry that for you?"

Not unless I want his intestines to fall down into his scrotum, I want to snap back. But I say nothing. Bob, too, is pretending not to hear. Of course he would carry the bag for me. But we are in a quiet test of wills. He tries to pretend that he can lift everything he has always lifted with no problem. I try to sneak in ahead of him to prevent his further injury.

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He first noticed the inguinal hernia last fall after doing yoga. We talked to a couple of doctors. We kept an eye on it. But over the course of the growing season, it just kept growing. By August, he seemed to be adjusting and reinserting his viscera every few minutes. After a couple of nasty arguments, he began allowing me to help him carry the meat coolers. At my insistence, we starting packing more boxes for the market, but keeping them at half the weight.

Hernias are a common problem. "The surgeries are standard procedures," Bob told me from his reading. "No big deal." We could have it taken care of at any of the regional hospitals. I figured, since this was "no big deal," then I could leave him to make the decisions. Sometimes, I make a conscious effort to not be the controlling wife.

But a few days before our first appointment with a surgeon, I got a nagging feeling. If I didn't research what we were about to agree to, I would never be able to live with myself if something went wrong that could have been prevented with a little advance reading. I found a few books on the subject, Bob and I sat down by the fire, and I read them aloud.

We learned about the problems with standard hernia procedures--the polypropylene mesh that can cause foreign object sensations, infections, and, all too often, chronic pain. We read about recurrence rates and about the history of hernia treatment. Nevertheless, according to prevailing practice, the polypropylene mesh inserts done using laparoscopy (an operation performed through a small incision) are considered the best practice.


I put my book down. I really wanted his treatment to be his choice. I didn't want to interfere. Honestly But there I went.

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"This is your choice," I told him. "But if it were me, since I wouldn't even drink water from a plastic bottle, and since we work so hard to only eat clean and natural food, I wouldn't be inclined to let any surgeon permanently implant some piece of synthetic crap inside my body."

But we kept reading. We eventually learned about a new, less common, less expensive, tension-free procedure that has been in use since roughly 2003 that doesn't require mesh and that also seemed to have higher rates of success without the side effects. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he responded, although his eyebrows furrowed.

Called the Desarda Technique, it was developed by a doctor in India, and there are only a handful of surgeons practicing the method here in the United States. We found one down in Florida who had trained with the Indian doctor. We both agreed that this seemed like the safer option.

But while it is cheaper than conventional laparoscopy, we would have no assistance from our insurance company. We would have to pay the entire sum  out of pocket ($6,500 for a double hernia).

We drove to Albany to consult with an in-network surgeon. He dismissed our concerns, refused to look at the material we'd brought in about the Desarda Technique, assured us that there were never any side effects from using mesh inserts, and then directed us out to his receptionist where we could schedule the surgery.

I'm not inclined to do business with liars. I'm especially not inclined to allow one of them to take a knife to my body.

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