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Get your medical treatment on the Internet – with music!
Written by Ray Turner following an adventure in Baja California, Mexico

A hernia is one of those medical afflictions about which most people know nothing until they get one. (Others include most sexually transmitted diseases, gout and dropsy.) The word rarely comes up in conversation. When it does, it is usually in a joking way, such as “I helped move a piano, NEARLY GOT A HERNIA! Hah! Hah!” The only warning I ever heard about hernias was “Don’t lift any heavy objects.”

Its true nature was revealed to me while camping in Mexico, far away from the winter and the British Columbia Health plan. I have no idea what caused it, but it could have been the enormous wave that threw me out of the ocean, ripped off my mask, half my shorts and a flipper, leaving me high, dry and foolish. After throwing up a gallon of salt water, I was able to walk away from the beach quite comfortably. Shortly after, however, I knew there was something wrong. I discovered, after first gently probing and then moving to full frontal exploration, that something was wrong “down there” (the medical term for the location of this particular lumpiness.) I wondered if a passing squid had delivered its version of
I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

Now, when you are alone in a foreign country and illness occurs, many fears arise. How much is this going to cost? Have I made my will? What about those thousand dollar a day hospital charges in the States? How quickly can I get back to Canada and free health care?

I put my body on hold. Beach activities like swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and general vigorous leaping about were reduced to plain staying still. “It only hurts when I laugh” comes to mind. I managed to lift the occasional cerveza. Other campers told me their oh, so funny, hernia stories. I knew I had to leave the remoteness of San Roque and get medical help. Without laughing, I checked to see if I could drive. I could, and I knew two sources where I could get free medical help: a doctor friend in San Diego, and the best of travellers' friends, the Internet. Off I sped. Well, not “sped” because the first thirty miles were over washboard roads and that was painfully slow.

My anonymous friend (Doctor Mick O'Flynn,) after laughing and telling me one or two of his hernia stories, gave me unsatisfactory information. He described a hernia as an aberration in our perfect human bodies, an unexpected weakness in the array of muscles, ligaments and other stuff “down there” protecting, again using technical language, the “guts.” It should not happen but it it does. I think it sprang upon us in olden days when Joe Neanderthal decided that standing upright was better than walking on four legs. Just wait, polar bears will also become afflicted with hernias and become the subject of studies by some group or other.

My hernia – I was feeling quite possessive about it by now – was of the common inguinal variety and about average for a herniated male of my age.

“What could have caused it?” I asked my doctor friend.

“Anything,” was his concise reply.

I told him that was the same kind of unsatisfactory answer I had been given by another medical expert to explain a sudden back pain that put me out of action for a month. That doctor's response was a shrug of the shoulders and "Whatever."

"I only bent over to pick up a toothbrush," I confessed.

"So, it was not a heavy object?" He sounded disappointed.

“Is it dangerous?” I asked him, meaning the condition of my back.

“Picking up a toothbrush?" he replied, deliberately misunderstanding. " Obviously.”

Only rarely do doctors and humour merge well together. I asked my doctor pal the same question.
He gave me more information than I really wanted.

“The worst thing that can happen is that the intestine pops through and gets strangulated. Most people can pop it back in.”

I gulped, “What treatment do you suggest?”

“Well, you can have it stitched up, maybe have a mesh reinforcement put in. They use keyhole surgery now. Some people just live with it."

“How much will an operation cost?”

“Here in the US? Thousands. You had better hightail it back to Canada,” said my friend. “In the meantime, don’t lift any heavy objects. Maybe get yourself a supportive device from the pharmacy.”

Thirty dollars later, with my loins girded, I was more or less comfortable, and hot-footing it back to BC for the free health care that I knew was available. I was also aware that long waiting lists for operations had become a sore issue in British Columbia. What steps should I take while living with a hernia?

Those were the exact words I used when I went to see Doctor Google on the Internet. I am totally in awe of my computer and what it can do. Two or three times a week, I just look at the screen and say "You can do
that?" In a confident, detached state of mind I addressed the screen. It was time to say "Let's see what you can do with this."

I opened Google and entered LIVING WITH A HERNIA. Just those words, but not in caps. Nothing more, nothing less. Pressing the enter button produced a blue list of responses, all amazing and all containing the words LIVING WITH A HERNIA. It was a true moment of Zen . . .

XVR27's "Weird Al" Yankovic Homepage – Lyrics – Living With A Hernia
Living With A Hernia is the first (1st) song on the "Polka Party" album and the sixth ... The music video of Living With A Hernia is located on "Weird Al" ...

Feeling like I had found the Holy Grail and almost with tears in my eyes from laughing, I downloaded an mp3 of the song and listened, over and over again. It's a wonderful parody of "Living In America" by James Brown.

Wanna hear it? Click away.

But it's the Words we are interested in. They are worth reading with or without the music . . .

Living With A Hernia
by Al Yankovic

All I do is grunt and groan
Hurts me to walk anywhere
Went to see my physician, Dr. Jones
He took my trousers off, told me to cough
Doctor says there ain't nothin' to discuss
He tells me any day I might have to wear a truss

Living with a hernia, ow
All the time, such aggravation
Living with a hernia
Gonna be my ruination
Living with a hernia
Got to have an operation
Feel so old, ow

Too much bad pain
Good God, drives me insane
Can't run, barely crawl
Got a bulge in my intestinal wall

Walk real funny, bless my soul
Can't play tennis and it's hard to bowl
You can't even do the splits now
Say it
Better call it quits now
Now I'm sick of all this dancin' anyhow

Living with a hernia
Hurts me bad in a tender location
Living with a hernia
Had enough humiliation
Living with a hernia, yow
Got to have an operation

Ow, I
live with a hernia
Can't get up, can't bend over
Now I
live with a hernia

Wait a minute
You may not be familiar with the common types
Of hernias that you could get
So just settle down, let me clue you in

There's incomplete (
Epigastric (
Bladder, huh (
Strangulated (
Lumbar hernia (
lumbar hernia)
Richter's hernia (
Richter's hernia)
Obstructed (
Inguinal and Direct

Living with a hernia
I said it's causin' me such irritation
Living with a hernia
Have to have my medication
Living with a hernia

Yeah, I feel bad

Thank you, Al. The song cheered me up no end. I did not go so far as to stand up, throw off my truss and dance but your song was as good as any doctoring. I am certain you were inspired by a hernia of your own.
In the spirit of literary criticism, I have to say there is one line that could have been included: “Don’t lift any heavy objects.”

Update: After working my way through the British Columbia Medical Plan's waiting list, I had a successful operation at the age of one hundred and twenty seven. The subdermal squid is quiet now. My only worry is that now it feels less squishy and more like a cell phone, presumably left in there by the surgeon.