In the words of Weird Al Yankovic:

Livin’ with a hernia, all the time, such aggravation;

Livin’ with a hernia, gonna be my ruination!

Right now I am not living the good life. I’ve had this hernia for years, but it only bothered me once a month, if that often. And it didn’t hurt very much. My doctor uses a 0 to 10 pain scale, with 0 being “I’m not hurting at all!” and 10 being “I’m dying here, Doc!” In the good old days when this thing flared up, it rarely got to a 4 on the pain scale. Now we’re up to 7+.

I discussed this with my Cardiologist when I first felt the symptoms. “Let’s delay any surgical repair,” was the advice I received, “If you think you can live with it.” Surgery usually isn’t the best option for me because of my low blood oxygenation level. The average heart healthy person on the street is going to have an oxygenation rate of 95% or better. Because of my defective heart, mine is about 80%. An Anesthesiologist is not going to view me as a walk in the park. I want to talk to him before any operation, to make sure he knows I’m not so easy to deal with. The problem is, you meet some Anesthesiologists in the operating room, when he walks in and says “Hi, I’m Dr. Jones, I’ll be in charge of putting you to sleep. Now breathe into this mask…” That’s not going to fly with me.

When you have a CHD, you need to be prepared to take an active role in your health care. This goes beyond following the doctor’s advice when he says to watch your weight. You’ve got to keep your head in the game, and when you don’t understand, you have to ask questions. What exactly is the problem with my heart? What was done during my surgical procedures? How did it change how my heart works? What should I look for in the future that may be a sign of a problem. And on and on.

Most doctors are going to be very happy to sit down with you and answer your questions. Occasionally you will find one with an “What’s with all the questions? I’m your doctor, just trust me!” attitude. If you find yourself sitting in his examining room, my advice to you is to leave. Gather what is yours and go. It’s not that you don’t trust your doctor, but you are placing your health and your life in his/her hands. Blindly following the doctors instructions without knowing anything else is not smart, especially if you have a serious health problem.

I blame Dr. Alfred Blalock for getting me into this mess. Yes, he died two years before I was born, but this, in a way, is his fault. I saw a copy of The Papers of Dr. Alfred Blalock online for a very low price, so I figured I would buy it and then resell it on eBay, with the proceeds going to the ACHA. I placed my order, time passed, and soon there was this box on my front porch. It didn’t look that heavy…. but I found out that The Papers of Dr. Alfred Blalock is two hardcover 1000 page very heavy volumes!


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