Over the Hill

Once-dangerous surgery is no big deal today

I’m glad to be living in the early 21st century. It’s a good time to have a hernia operation. I know because I had one 2 1/2  weeks ago.

I’m glad I’m not living back in 1976, which is when my “Funk & Wagnalls Family Medical Guide” was published. That guide was somewhat discouraging about hernia surgery.

The guide’s hernia information is out of date. It says hernia surgery can be dangerous for the “old.” I’m 85, which many of you probably consider “old.” This medical guide also says, “The convalescent period can be long.”

But here’s what actually happened to me: I arrived at the surgery center in Templeton at 6:30 a.m., had the operation and walked out of the surgery center around 10:30 a.m.

I’m not exactly sure about my departure time. I may have been a little groggy from the anesthetic. I was unconscious during the operation. But whatever time it was that I left, I walked out of the surgery center under my own power, with financial help from Medicare.

Of course, I didn’t drive home. My daughter, Sandy, did. The doctor, however, did say I could drive as soon as I stopped taking the pain pills. I quit taking them in a couple of days.

Then, just this past Monday, I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. He said I seemed to be doing fine. I asked when I could mow my lawn. He said any time I wanted to. He did say, however, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 50 pounds in the next six weeks. He also made an appointment for April 11 if I felt the need to see him.

We’ve come a long way from the practices described in my 40-year-old medical guide book. And we’ve come even further from the practices the late Millie Schasteen, remembered from her early years as a registered nurse.

She worked as a nurse for 56 years before retiring in 1992 from Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton. Before that, she worked for the Paso Robles District Hospital and various hospitals in Missouri.

She told me that in her early nursing years, she cleaned and sharpened hypodermic needles so they could be used over and over. She also remembered washing rubber gloves and reusing them, and even patching any holes in them. Patched gloves, however, weren’t used in surgery, she said.

So, today, I’m feeling thankful for the conscientious doctors, nurses and scientists who continue looking for better ways to keep us well.

But of course, I’ll again soon take them for granted.

There is, however, something that we should never take for granted.

That’s Medicare.

Without our Medicare cards, many retired people like me couldn’t get the effective medical treatments we need. Medicare works.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.