On the 31/03/2011 I had a much anticipated hernia operation.
With the joys of modern technology, I was actually permitted to
tweet my experiences for most of the run-up and soon after the op
was finished. I'm adamant that the ability to do this not only
helped me take my mind off the looming op but also helped in my
relatively quick recovery. The staff at Neville Hall Hospital in
Abergavenny were all very positive about the fact that I was
tweeting and some even gave suggestions about what I could say. I
wanted to get the whole story down while it was fresh in my mind -
so here it is (with tweets). I hope by writing down my experiences
from diagnosis to operation - it helps someone with similar health
problems. If anything here is inaccurate -- it's probably because I
wasn't listening properly to the Doctor/Nurse/Surgeon...
Around Christmas time, I noticed a lump in my groin. I
say around Christmas time -- I think it had been there for a long
time (possibly years) but I just put it down to being "slightly
asymmetrical". While in the shower while at my inlaws I decided it
had definitely grown so I went to see the doctor in Machynlleth. I
was absolutely convinced that I'd got Cancer. Isn't that what a
lump means? I was sure it was!
The doctor made me cough whilst feeling my groin.
He immediately diagnosed it as a hernia (an inguinal hernia no less). The doc
explained what a hernia is (eugh) and how it happens and
recommended I go to my local doctor when I get home as it'll need
an operation to sort it out.
When I got home, I went to our local doctor's surgery in
The doctor made me cough whilst feeling my groin.
He immediately diagnosed it as a hernia and put me on the
waiting list for an operation.
So next up was the waiting. I spent most of this time
trying to pick things up that I shouldn't and being told off by my
wife. After the Diagnosis - your loved ones immediately decided
even the lightest thing is a cause for comment. Your family loves
you, so they exhibit this in two ways:
1. By asking you repeatedly if
you're ok whenever you pick something up.
2. By tutting when you pick up something they deem is too
This is usually followed by me uttering the phrase:
"I've got a hernia, I'm not dying!"
Followed with the reply:
"You might die if you get a strangled hernia..."
It was during this wait that I went for a pre-assessment
assessment assessment (or something) where they ask you questions,
weight you, measure you and make you cough while feeling your
I was down for an old-style open operation rather than keyhole
(keepin' it real) mainly because the waiting list I'd been put down
for was for Newport Hospital which didn't have facilities for
keyhole surgery (apparently). We went through the positives and
negatives for each type of op and I was given the option of
changing to Neville Hall and going back on the waiting list for a
keyhole operation. I decided against it because I like an easy
A Date For The Diary
I was expecting to get plenty of notice for the
operation, but this wasn't to be. On 29/03/2011 we received a call
asking if I could have the op in two days time. Two
days! Someone had dropped out last minute, clearly because
they were as scared as I am of having an operation. I checked with
(the wonderfully geeky company I do wonderfully geeky things for) -
they were amazing and just came back to me and said "Go for it,
your health is really important". And so the Tweeting began:
So, got a last minute op on
Thursday to put Herbert the Hernia in his place. Petrified of being
put under. At least it'll be done then.
The next day, I went for a pre-operation assessment at Neville
Hall to make sure I wasn't ill/someone else/knew my address &
date of birth.
The pre-operation assessment went better than I expected -- as a
geek, I do virtually no exercise so I was expecting that the be
reflected in my bloody pressure and heat-rate.
So - apart from the hernia it
seems I'm in tip top condition (so they're happy to cut me open
I saw a Lady who asked me my name, my address and my date of
birth and then was checked for health in various areas and told I
was textbook 100% which was really rare (*geeks rule OK!*) she also
took swabs from my mouth, nose and groin (I think she said this was
for MRSA tests). Then on to the next room where another Lady asked
me my name, my address and my date of birth. Then I was subjected
to a load of other tests and finished with her making me cough
whilst feeling my groin.
I got given the all clear - I definitely did have
a hernia and I definitely was well enough to have the
op. Hooray! Next up I had blood taken for further tests and then
got given a letter along with a load of reading matter saying what
they'd do and when. From this letter I discovered that:
The surgeon is a breast
specialist. Worried that I'll wake up with a boob in my groin and a
smiling man standing over me: "April Fool!"
And so that was it tomorrow I would have an operation!
Owen's TODO List for tomorrow:
Do drugs, get crotch shaved by a stranger, wake up in a strange
place with a scar.
That evening, I took out my eyebrow piercing as I knew I'd be
too tired to do so at 5am the next morning (when I had to get
Just removed eyebrow piercing
before tomorrow's op. Not taken it out for about 5 years. Feel
naked. I'm not though, wearing me jimjams :)
The Big Day (Herbert Goes Home)
5:30AM: Ouch. Too early!
Think the last time I was up this early was for a holiday. This
will be less fun. #herbetgoeshome
6:00AM: Had shower. They
say it's to help avoid infection, my wife says it's so they don't
have to deal with smelly patients.
6:55AM: Spaces at the
hospital carpark. Amazing!
7:00AM: Good start, bit I'm
meant to go to is locked. I have, however, found the mortuary
The scariest part of the whole thing was walking past the
Mortuary at 7AM and seeing a bin moving around on its own. So it
was windy? It was still scary.
7:10AM: Ok, so reread
letter and it says 8, yesterday they said 7. Going to assume
7:20AM: The coffee machine
is taunting me with its hi-tech blue flashing lights
7:30AM: Yay! Building I'm
meant to be in is now unlocked. I'm making progress :)
7:45AM: The lady opposite
me was also told 7 and they thought she was having a knee op when
it's her shoulder.
I was then booked in, they asked me my name, address and date of
birth and then after a while I was moved through to the next
waiting room (or Level 2). At which point they asked me my name,
address and date of birth.
8:15AM: I'm going to end up
with crotch boobs!
8:30AM: There is a box of
toys in reception *tempted*
8:40AM: For those of you
who are confused herbert is my hernia, having an op today to send
him back to his intestinal brethren
8:45AM: Book of choice
during this adventure. Voyage to Venus by C S Lewis. Apparently
it's really weird.
It is as well! Although I didn't read much on this day as I was
too busy Tweeting!
done. Surgeon seems nice. They drew an arrow on me and now I feel
The surgeon talks you through the operation after checking your
name, address and date of birth. He also draws an arrow on you in
biro (this way up). Presumably so that he can get drunk and not
worry about forgetting what op you're having and giving you breasts
in your groin. He also got me to cough whilst feeling my groin.
9:30AM: Haha! Just like the
rest of the nation I will shortly be suffering from a period of
9:40AM: They've given me a
name tag on each arm, presumably in case they accidentally lop one
A different Nurse comes over and asks you your name, address and
date of birth. Then they put a wristband on each arm with your
name, address and date of birth on it. Like some kind of rubbish
9:45AM: They've also drawn
an arrow on me to show which way up I go. Op is around 10:30 will
tweet as much as I can til then
9:46AM: Wonder if they can
cut my hair while I'm under. I hate going to the hair
9:48AM: Accidentally let
slip to the surgeon that I do stand-up. He has now asked the nurses
to introduce him to the theatre.
9:49AM: Hope he has a good
9:55AM: All gowned up.
Didn't realise I'd get paper pants. Sexy!
They recommend you bring a dressing gown and slippers. THey did
this because no-one wants to see your hairy arse. Especially not
when there's a small chance they'll die on the operating table and
one of the last things you see is someone's hairy buns.
10:00AM: There's some
hoo-har about notes not being here and patients not being told
where to go. Fun.
10:15AM: Spoke to
*makegosleepman* also nice. Thought he was going to agree to let me
tweet while I'm put under. Shame.
Ok ok, so I couldn't remember how to spell anaesthetist. He
was nice although reminded me a little of the trendy surgeon in
Greenwing. He asked me my name, address and date of birth and then
we went through the general anaesthetic procedure, talked about
pain relief in general and about Tweeting. He did not go near my
There are no more pre-op Tweets, I was expecting the 10:30AM
time to be more like 11AM but it was spot on and before I knew it I
was whisked into another room. Once in Level 3 (after a fun bonus
game on a bed with wheels) a man (I think he was a Porter) asked me
my name, address and date of birth. Just to make sure I wasn't
lying, he checked on my wristbands.
After a little wait in Level 3 I got moved quickly to Level 4, I
was pretty sure this was the last level before the end of game
boss. Bonus! In this smaller room another *makegosleepman* put a
needle in the back of my hand and started pumping me full of drugs
(I think he said this started with painkillers). This was (of
course) after he had checked my name, address and date of
That's the last thing I remember before:
1:01PM: Just woke up. Still a
but woozy. Feels like being drunk. Lovely staff took me straight to
1:10PM: Think op went ok,
when local runs out i'll know how much pain i'll be in.
My one criticism of the whole experience was that after the op,
no-one came up to me and said "The op went fine" or anything like
that. I just had to assume that because no-one said anything, it
must have gone OK!
1:15PM: Still can't believe
they're letting me tweet in the ward. This is progress!
1:30PM: I have a slightly
metallic taste in my mouth. Is that normal or did they turn me into
They put a tube down your throat to keep your airways open while
you're under, so this sometimes leads to a sore throat. I'm
assuming this is where the taste came from too.
1:35PM: Coffee! They're
getting me coffee :)
1:35.30PM: And biscuits
1:40PM: The surgeon said I
should tweet to say he looked like George Clooney, will wait to see
if there are complications first ;)
1:50PM: On my second
coffee. Think they're trying to wake me up the same way I do every
2:00PM: Thanks for putting
up with my constant tweets today. Really helped me get my mind off
the op. I'll stop when I'm home
2:10PM: I have to wee
before they'll let me go. *morecoffee*
2:20PM: I have had 5
biscuits. When the cuts come - will they enforce a biscuit
2:30PM: I've been given
local anaesthetic in my groin. If I play with myself will it feel
like I'm pleasuring a stranger?
2:35PM: About to get up and
try to wee. Wish me luck, it hurts when I try to sit up...
2:36PM: Managed to dress
myself. They shaved my leg! Wish they'd done them both lol
2:45PM: I weed! Can I go
2:56PM: Just waiting for
the cavalry and then I can go home. Hooray!
And that was that, packed off home to recover. I recovered
relatively quickly (think average recovery is 2 weeks+) I was ready
to go back to work after the first week although held off driving
for a little while after that just in case.
Sneezing, coughing and laughing really hurt - that was the worst
bit. Now I have to not do any heavy lifting until 6 weeks after the
op and then just be a bit more careful about exactly how much I
lift at any one time.
You can follow me on Twitter on twitter.com/owenniblock or if you've
got any questions about the op I'd be happy to answer them - just
email me on firstname.lastname@example.org