MY HIATUS HERNIA by Joy Barrow

I thought it could be useful to share my latest medical adventure with you.  Many years ago, I went through various tests and during one of these it was revealed I had a hiatus hernia.  My doctor said a lot of people have this and it is quite common; but let’s hope you don’t need to do anything about it because it is a long and relatively dangerous operation.  So that was that! I had no further thoughts about hiatus or any other kind of hernias.

For the benefit of those who don’t know what this is (I was one) I quote: A hiatus hernia is a type of hernia in which the upper part of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity.

I had appalling jaw pain and I thought one of my tooth implants must be pushing through the bone and causing this agony.  Sometimes I felt food was stuck in my chest and I was choking. But as I hadn’t eaten, I knew this had to be something else, but I was not sure what it might be.

However, before I had a chance to visit my dentist or my doctor, I had an equally painful chest pain.  I rushed to the hospital where I had tests that showed my heart was strong, but I should visit my G.P. who in turn referred me to a surgeon.  I had no idea that the pain in my jaw was referred from the oesophagus which was being squashed and bruised.  The jaw itself had no problems.

I was sent for a barium swallow which was totally painless and the mixture I was asked to drink was acceptable (I had heard it was awful).  The barium test showed up a large tear and I was scheduled for surgery.  The fears of the original prognosis were quelled as this was many years ago and opening the chest these days is very unusual. The operation was  via laparoscopy and it is performed in the abdomen using small incisions with the aid of a camera.  However, the tear was even bigger than that shown by the barium swallow test. I later read that if the stomach is caught in the hole it results in the death of the stomach which cannot be reversed and ultimately therefore in the patient!  Perhaps I was all too casual!

The surgery was scheduled for 2 hours and five incisions were made to repair the tear.  A mesh was used as the damage was large and stitches would not have held.  I came round from the operation at 6 o’clock and just under thirty hours later I was on the way home.

My instructions were a recovery period of twelve weeks.  No lifting for twelve weeks and only gentle exercise after the first month.  I began a liquid diet which I dreaded, however, my fears were false and after 2 weeks I hadn’t craved solid foods and I didn’t become bored with the restriction.

Thank goodness for smoothies and blenders.  I enjoyed mango, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and mixed berries with natural yogurt.  I drank ‘green’ mixtures of spinach, kale and apple.  Red drinks of carrot, orange and ginger.  Owing to no solids constipation was always going to be a worry, but I solved that with a morning glass of pure prune juice.  The drinks are all available from supermarkets and most are organic.

Not long into my liquid diet I discovered a brand of soup called ‘100% Organic’ and enjoyed their all-natural product with the help of the bar mix which pulverized the chick peas, quinoa  and other chunky vegetables.  I will add this to my pantry for days when I need a meal in a hurry.

Clothes were a problem.  With five incisions I couldn’t wear a bra and I couldn’t have a waistband.  Leggings, tracksuit pants and loose shirts became the daily uniform.  I have ordered several bras on line which are super soft, no clips or wires and was advised to get a size larger than normal.  They haven’t arrived yet, and I am hoping despite the warning photograph they are not too ugly.  Anyway, it won’t be for long.

No one is sure what causes hiatus hernias.  Reasons cited are sporting injuries, coughing, pregnancy, born with a weakness or especially large hiatus, or weight gain.  I don’t know which category I fit into.  But I do think I should have paid more attention to the first finding rather than ride along in oblivion for a decade or more. 

Bring on 2019 after a great diet, lots of rest, positive thoughts, beautiful sentiments of flowers and good wishes from my many friends I am ready to celebrate in style.