My Personal Challenges of Aging

It’s happening again.
I am headed into an unplanned surgery this coming Friday to repair a hernia. Bummer. I will be on a much reduced program of healing for as long as 6 weeks. I have a plane ticket already purchased for a flight from Maine to El Paso on April 16, when I cobble together rides to reach the Mexico border at Chihuahua , then turn around and start a 3,000 backpacking walk to Canada, over the Continental Divide Trail.
How did I get into this situation? I even had a physical at the beginning of December when I asked to be checked for a hernia on my left side. My physician did the deed, I coughed, and she told me that I did not have a hernia.
I’m sort of an expert in this questionable skills area, as I have already experienced three hernias on my right side. I told her that I had been feeling fatigue in my lower abdomen for some time- not pain, but an awareness that that part of my body begins to ache when I hike all day.
Thankfully, she was not defensive, and suggested that I contact a surgeon to get a second opinion. Enter Dr. Paine. He was booked solid for many weeks, so I requested to be put on the wait list for a call. This past week, I was home working at my desk when that call came in at 10:20 AM for an 11:00 opening. It took Dr. Paine all of 1 second to tell me I had a hernia. When I explained about my hiking plans, he assisted the secretaries in bumping people around to fit me in for the surgery this week. Good man.
I have several physical concerns that are a part of my life. Granted, I’m healthy, with no known diseases that require prescription medication. I do have a chronic Vitamin D deficiency that has not improved after three years of various D3 treatments, including 50,000 unit capsules. Other than that, I’m the picture of vigor.
However, not all is rosy. I’m wearing out!

Here’s a graphic representation of what’s going on (as of today):

The Real Story- graphics by Arlo Jamrog
The Real Story

1- Repair chronic shoulder impingement syndrome, including trim of collarbone- date @ 1986
2-Surgery to remove arthritis and repair suspected torn rotator cuff ( 2006)- cuff was fine, “You have the shoulder of a man in his 80’s” Complete shoulder replacement predicted to be necessary between 2011- 2014.
3-Three right side hernias ( same location)- 1966, 1972, 1982. OK now.
4-Hernia repair scheduled for 2/15/13 ( Friday!).
5-Bone on bone situation in wrist, w/ chronic pain in 2001. Surgery recommended to cut and remove section of my forearm bone, and install metal plate with screws holding it in to alter wrist function, trim arthritis from wrist. Declined.
6-Right knee- traditional surgery to remove torn meniscus- 2 large open incisions. No further issues. 1980’s?
7-Left knee- arthroscopic surgery to remove torn meniscus – good repair- 1994
8- Chronic inflammation of 2nd metatarsal in foot-> nerve damage- surgery suggested going in through the top of the foot- Declined. Orthotics prescribed and used. The damage was due to a biomechanical gait problem which I have worked to correct after two years.

So I plan to ask my doctor to give me highly specific directions of how far I can walk, when I can increase mileage, and what I can lift in the 6 weeks it will take me to heal. I have agreed to have my wife, Marcia, come in with me and hear what he tells me. I have NO interest in blowing this recovery. Even if I require the full 6 weeks to heal, I will have three weeks to fully train for the hike. In the past I have healed much sooner than expected, but I’m older now. Dr. Paine told me that I should be able to start backpacking in mid- April, and I plan to be a good patient and be in flight on April 16, and in decent shape. I’ve looked at the elevation profiles for the first week and it’s fairly flat, which should help.

12 thoughts on “My Personal Challenges of Aging

  1. dennis grannis-phoenix

    Hey Tom – I had hernia surgery with Dr Sedlak at Waldo County Hospital early Jan, 2013 and feel great today. No mesh repair, sutures only. The surgery team was fantastic and my recovery has been good enough I lightly swung a maul to split some firewood thursday…hope your recovery is as good….Dennis


  2. Hey Tom, let’s reframe all those hack jobs as vital in vitro experience which will lead to swift recovery from the upcoming surgical event! We’ll have to post the “after” photo when you are back in action, all buoyant and raring to go! xoxo


  3. Good luck on your surgery ! You come from good strong peasent stock ! I’m sure you will be flying down that trail in no time. Remember you can’t kill a old polish peasent with a ball-pen hammer and those youngsters should be looking to you as a inspiration.


    1. He’s Dr Paine, no joke. He used to have nurse Blood in the office as well ( her real last name). He’s an experienced professional and i have real faith in him. I have had very good luck with most of my surgeries.


  4. Doug Sensenig

    Tom, I’m available to drive you hither and yon if needed. Let me know if I can assist in any way (carrying wood in, etc.) Though the timing isn’t great, I’m glad you’re getting in to fix it when you are.


  5. ShadeTree

    Hello Tom,
    I’m a displaced Mainer living in NC and an avid runner and cyclist whose dealing with an inguinal hernia. Would you mind sharing some information regarding your 3 right side hernias? Did you have surgery to repair them also or did you use an alternative method? If you had surgery, was mesh used or was it suture only?
    It sounds like you are making a strong recovery from your latest surgery. Best of luck to you on your CDT trek.


    1. Three surgeries right side, two were sutures only and blew out, same incision. The third time employed mesh and has held. On this left one both a mesh panel and a specially cut mesh ” plug” were sutured in place. Good luck.


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