The surgery that keeps on giving

Published 9:40 pm Friday, November 9, 2018

By Ruffin Alphin

For several years I had heard it, but not heard it; I had seen it but not seen it; I knew it, but didn’t want to know it. Like most normal, generally healthy human beings I recoil at the prospect of sharp stainless steel happily greeting my soft, submissive skin. But my doctor had forewarned me, “You’re gonna have to do something about that soon.” The “that” was a visible inguinal hernia — I didn’t know the meaning of that word either. Look it up, because I’d rather not describe the locale.

After a recent physical and the hernia getting larger, I succumbed and scheduled an outpatient laparoscopic surgery on a Wednesday, knowing I would not have to preach the next Sunday due to a guest speaker. My wife was anxious, primarily due to her mother’s difficult encounter with a hernia, but I suffered little nervousness Tuesday night and slept soundly. Why not? It’s a fairly routine procedure with minimal risk.


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Being anesthetized is a strange and wonderful experience. You not only get put to sleep, you get pre-put to sleep with the warm up stuff. They relax you before they completely relax you; that’s multiple relaxings all on the same day, which I’m all for. Going in, you think you’re going to remember the last thing just prior to going under, but you don’t. You groggily remember being wheeled into this room bright as the July sun on the Outer Banks with an audience of white-gowned people all around. Then the next thing you know, even after hours have passed, you are slowly waking up hearing a nurse trying to get you to communicate.

For some reason when I first saw my wife I was filled with a deep longing to hold her hand and kiss her and say, “I love you.” Must have been all the relaxing. Dorothy is still trying to find out the name of that anesthesia so she can two-day ship it from Amazon. The nurse returned and tried to tell me something about taking care of my incisions. “Is he always this happy?” she inquired of my wife. I’m telling you, that was some good stuff.

My instructions for recovery were clear: I was not to lift more than five pounds until I saw the surgeon in two weeks. Five pounds is not much — that excludes full kitchen trash can bags, pushing lawn mowers, all work boots, pulling covers up to make the bed, chain saws, large paint brushes, most screw drivers and other sundry items. You get the picture? I was forbidden to do work of any sort by order of the respected medical profession. About all I could do for the next week or two was sit around on my front porch and read great books and think great thoughts, guilt free and with my wife’s blessing. Hmm…

I have taught and will continue to teach that we should not expect heaven now; it’s coming, but it’s not yet here. And yet I wonder. I’m still recuperating and doing no physical labor to speak of and reading heaps of splendid books, though I can’t carry too many at a time to my front porch. I have a friend who’s had five hernia surgeries. That’s a lot of scars, but no one said physical maintenance would be easy. I am willing to pay the price if duty calls.

Ruffin Alphin is the pastor at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at