Hernias

Went to a Scottish Highland Games in that grand duchy of Scotland known as Enumclaw, Washington. Easy to spot the Scottish festival by the excessively long ticket lines created by heated negotiations of the entrance fee by each and every patron. Lasses and laddies pranced and flinged about on their delicate wee toes, real men sported kilts though apparently there must have been some smuggling going on under those kilts given the number of “Official Kilt Inspector” T-shirts, worn by hundreds of women and a fellow named Gordon. Gathering of the clans, eating of the official oatmeal, parading of the dogs, blaring of the pipes and drums (named after the parts of the lungs and ears which no longer function as God meant them to in those who use such instruments.) Turns out that the best band in the entire Scottish realm is none other than Simon Fraser University of Burnaby, BC.

The games portion included tossing the haggis, the hammer throw and the intriguing caber toss. For those who missed that event in Torino, a caber looks like a telephone pole on steroids, much I suspect like those who toss them. They lift the caber up, try to balance it and then with a mighty heave that would make Robert the Bruce lose his porridge, they toss the caber up in the air and hopes it lands on the opposite end and then falls over on one of the other competitors. Now what others didn’t notice but I did, being the consummate medical professional, was the hernias that these caber tossers were experiencing, judging by the sudden inflation of the front of their kilts as they grimaced and clutched their sporrans.

Hernias were/are the bread and butter of surgeons or at least the bread part as they make a lot of it fixing weekend caber tossers. Hernias come in all sizes and sorts and can involve places like the stomach, the groin and of course the attractive belly button bulge. A hernia is simply a weakness of a wall that allows something behind it to squeeze out part way; a piece of fat, a piece of bowel, Sigourney Weaver. 20 million groin (inguinal) hernias are repaired each year worldwide. In fact the widening of the world’s waistline is one reason, along with pregnancy and age that supportive muscles deteriorate and allow hernias to develop. Males get more hernias than females by 7:1, usually while operating the freakin’ dill pickle jar or playing pick-up cabers in the back yard. The main problem with hernia bulges, besides ruining your Lulu Lemons, is that a piece of bowel can get caught in the hernia and twist on itself or get pinched off, conditions known as strangulation and incarceration (sort of what happened to my cousin Jake). But the main problem with surgery is the post-operative pain that, in some patients, can last for months. Some doctors feel they should all be fixed before they get larger and harder to repair, others only if they currently cause discomfort.

In children all groin hernias should be considered for surgical repair but the umbilical (navel) outies never need to be fixed before the age of two. By age five if they still have a large outie then they might need a repair as the psychological scar of having classmates using their belly button to play horseshoes will last at least until snack time. Many adults with umbilical hernias like to get them fixed so they can waddle right back onto the beach, swinging those love handles to and fro with abandon.

Most hernias are fixed with a strong mesh device that doubles as a broccoli filter. Should stay strong and fixed at least until… the next Vlasic.

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