Kirk Novak: I Lived with a Hernia

I was around six years old. I was standing in front of the toilet trying to pee and I noticed that my scrotum was inflated like a Garfield balloon during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I did what little boys do whenever they come across a deformity on their body, I poked at it a few times. It didn’t deflate. It didn’t hurt either, so I did the other thing little boys do and just let it go. I’d like to say it was several days before I said anything to someone, but it could have been several minutes. I was really young and my spatial-temporal reasoning was not the sharpest. It still isn’t.

My Mom took me to the doctor. I had a hernia. I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t know what a hernia was after visiting the doctor either because I guess they didn’t think my diagnosis was appropriate for children, even the child being diagnosed. I imagine he spoke with my Mom in hushed tones. I later learned that I had an inguinal hernia which is when your intestine slides on down into your scrotum. After they talked I was scheduled for surgery and given a Saf-T-Pop (a sucker with a loop instead of a stick so you can’t put your eye out with it) to promote good health and pass however long it was until I was admitted. I don’t know how long that really was due to the whole spatial-temporal reasoning thing I mentioned earlier.

I wasn’t scared. I was real excited for my surgery. I had a lot of friends getting their tonsils taken out and I heard that they got ice cream afterwards. Why would getting your intestine taken out of your scrotum be any different? I sure couldn’t wait for the ice cream that I was going to get and imagined they gave you after all kinds of surgeries. When the time came, my parents took me to the hospital.

I don’t remember much about the admissions process. I recall that I had on one of those gowns that are the reason Moms tell you to wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the emergency room. Oh, and that my Mom dispelled the notion that I would be getting ice cream immediately after surgery right before the doctor was about to take out my digestive tonsils. They give you ice cream when you have your tonsils removed because your throat is sore after surgery, she says. If I had developed the keen sense of comedic timing that I possess today, I would have asked if they could just put the ice cream on my sack because that would be sore afterwards too. No, I would never say that to my mother, but that is a clever joke.

Once I was on the operating table it was like out of an episode of Dr. Quincy M.E. with people in surgical masks surrounding me as I lay under a really bright light. I had no idea what was going on, I was getting a little freaked out, and then they put the mask on me to give me the gas. The last thing I remember was shouting into the gas mask, “HEY! WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?” No matter how much we grow up, some behaviors never change. Then I was knocked out, and then I woke up with a heavily bandaged abdomen.

I don’t remember any post-surgical pain. Perhaps I was given children’s Vicodin. I do remember that the types of neighborhood dudes who probably smoked roaches with those clips that had feathers attached with a leather string always asked to see the scars. They’d peer in with their mirrored sunglasses sitting on the bridge of their nose and say something like, “Whoa, dude, gnarly,” which is totally creepy the more and more and more I write about it. Anyway, I healed up fine; everything in the intestine and scrotum department works as designed. I guess the moral of this story is that life isn’t going to give you ice cream, so lower your expectations.


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