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October 28, 2010 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Please look inside for a few questions about an inguinal hernia, particularly pertaining to surgery recovery, and being on disability.

Mr. BlahLaLa has an inguinal hernia. He's had it for a while, and basically lived with it (with a doctor's okay) but now it's causing a lot of pain and will have to be repaired surgically. Can you advise us about:

-- Recovery period after surgery. We've seen this question, but we're wondering if anything has changed in the years since.

-- Recovery in terms of going back to work. My husband works set dressing, which means he does a lot of heavy lifting. There is literally no such thing as "light duty." He will have to be able to do the heavy lifting or not work at all. Your thoughts about the timing of this, post-surgery?

-- Hernias and disability? Because of the abovementioned, I wonder if this will rise to the level of qualifying him for disability. We are in CA, and I have looked at the state disability website. But personal anecdotes or info is welcomed.
posted by BlahLaLa to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Best answer: IANAD... but If I remember correctly, standard instructions for basically any surgery of this level is to not lift anything over 5 pounds for a certain period, 2 weeks maybe? It also seems from talking to different people that everyone recovers at different paces from this surgery, and the age of the patient has a great deal to do with how fast recovery is.

Having had the surgery, I wouldn't want to lift anything heavy for at least a month, let alone to do that repeatedly. I pushed too far about two weeks into recovery and was very painfully reminded to take it easy (and I am a 25 year old male in relatively decent shape). I am about 9 months out, and I still have pain some days after more exertion than usual.

I can't say if my experience is typical or not. The good news is that past 2 weeks or so, all of the doctors I spoke with basically said "You'll know when you have gone too far" and that there is little risk of injuring yourself or doing any damage.
posted by alhadro at 9:41 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We were surprised in our household at the length of the recovery time. Up to a year later, there was sometimes still pain. (Guess what? That's apparently normal, as reported above.) That being said, it was only a few days of official post-surgical downtime.

I would agree with the above as well regarding the first month. At least! Even more than a month or two after the operation, at one point after some mild exertion there was even seepage/light bleeding from the original incision.

That being said, that's normal for recovery--and it doesn't mean that exertion can't happen. It just means it may be stressful.

Also, please, please, please consult with your doctor about the methods used in the operation. This surgery is performed differently by different doctors and you should have discussions with the surgeon about what methods they will be using and what you'll be comfortable with. Do your homework and reading beforehand. As with any medical care, my advice is always to treat yourself like a rich person, by which I mean: be an authoritative patient who asks questions until they're satisfied with the answer. Those of us who are not insured or are underinsured are not always our own best advocates because we feel like we don't "deserve" to be treated well, and that's nonsense.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:07 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had my inguinal repaired when I was 21. It wasn't huge, I guess, by inguinal standards, but when it was "out" the total volume was ~1-2 cups.

I had the screen-type repair, and honestly the thing that bothered me the most in the whole operation was the anesthesia. My experience was overall very horrible, but mostly because they elected only to butterfly-bandage the exterior incision, covering the wound with a big adhesive bandage. About, I dunno, 3 or so hours after I went home I got up to wee and realized there was extracellular fluid running down my leg from the bandage. So back we went, and all was well, but a bonus 12 hours in a freezing ER in a labcoat when I hadn't eaten since 8pm the night before was pretty awful. That, and having to show my fresh gonadal mohawk to the prettiest med student ever, and then having them accidentally expose me to the intellectually disabled girl in the next stall over.

BUT--My crappy doctor never even scheduled a follow up. I was back at work 2 days later, although I didn't do much lifting or running for about a week or so. I was, at that point, a rural outdoor rec program director.

My "scar" is mostly invisible, but it has migrated from parallel and beneath my waist line to semi perpendicular and running along my pelvic crease. The long term effect is that I do have a fairly large swath that is completely numb to anything but extreme pressure, THANKFULLY it did not affect my sex organs. I don't like to be touched immediately adjacent to them, however, because the sensation of being touched w/o being able to feel it is...unpleasant.

I have not had a recurrence of the hernia.


Now I work in disability advocacy. I can tell you, in my limited experience, that unless there is a new disability caused by the hernia, you're probably not going to get approved for federal or state disability benefits, besides by the time you navigate THAT holy hell, he'll be able to go to work again.

Short Term disability is your best bet, if you ever opted in to that coverage OR if his employer even offered it. It is rare, and depending on his employer it might only pay something like 50-60% of the wage he was making earlier.

Your state MAY and LIKELY does provide short-term unemployment/lack of income insurance, especially because he is someone who DOES work and does WANT to work. I would check w/ your local unemployment services office.

NOW---because you've said that he has an inguinal AND he does heavy lifting for a profession, I'm assuming you're pursuing this as a workers comp claim, right? If you're not, you should be. Especially because, depending on your state, an inability to work caused by injuries obtained at work SHOULD entitle you to 100% compensation (or real close to it) until he can go back....as well as pay for the surgery and any resulting treatments.
posted by TomMelee at 5:13 AM on October 29, 2010

I should also add that mine really never hurt, but that I also loathe pain meds. I didn't take anything from the moment I left the hospital. The weird "there's something in there" feeling got less strong over time, but I occasionally still feel it, especially when stretching.
posted by TomMelee at 5:15 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had mine on a Thursday and was back at work on Monday without too much problem. But my job doesn't involve lifting. I was a month before I felt comfortable with moderate lifting, 2 before I did any sustained heavy lifting. If you start working try and "push through the pain", you can tear the area of the repair, and that will suck a *lot* worse than not working for an extra week or two.

I should note, it's been something like 5 years, and I still occasionally get a weird pain there, especially when I do lift-twist kinds of motions.
posted by kjs3 at 6:28 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: TomMelee, could you elaborate on the disability issue? Particularly the new disability caused by the hernia? I'm not sure what that means.

I guess I'm being naive, but I thought that the state disability coverage was specifically for when you have an injury or illness that keeps you from doing your job?

Mr. BlahLaLa doesn't have a Short Term Disability policy -- it's not offered by his employer and we have no outside policy.

As for workmen's comp -- I don't think he would be eligible. The hernia didn't arrive out of any specific situation -- he didn't lift a big box and go ouch. Instead it has apparently developed slowly over a period of time, and only now become troublesome. Hubby has worked in this profession for 30+ years, but the way the industry now goes is that he works on one film, then moves to another, then perhaps to a TV show, etc. All of those are different employers, so it's not as if he's worked for one studio for 30 years. Thoughts on this?
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:34 AM on October 29, 2010

Best answer: Posting from a phone, so sorry for typos, etc.

There are different disability coverages offered by individual states. I know that here, the wait is long and the coverage is crap. The best I can say is to call your local department of health and human resources, or whatever your state calls it. To the best of my knowledge, the only disability coverage my state provides is for permanent disability.

Regarding new disabilities, I will give an example. Here, obesity by itself will not get you disability assistance, even though it meets the definition. The accompanying diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, respiratory distress, etc, can be. If, as a result of the issue, he is permanently unable to do his formally trained job, or if a new issue, as a result of this injury, keeps him out, you may have grounds.

pressing post now...will be back.
posted by TomMelee at 1:03 PM on October 29, 2010

Best answer: Re: workers comp.
seems to me he's a perfect candidate. Inguinals almost always start tiny and grow over time. If he's been doing this job a long as you say, it is most certainly his constant lifting, etc., that has aggravated the injury enough to require surgery and down time. I world, without question, discuss this with your doctor. Additionally, if you still have questions, I would call your workers comp claims office and talk to them, without giving them your name. They certainly will have an 800 line. This is exactly the kind of situation that workers comp exists to address, taking advantage of it isn't stealing, believe me he's paid in. regardless, free surgery and benefits make it extremely worthwhile, especially because they absolutely do not wasn't him back early to re injure it and cost them more money.

Hope that helps.
posted by TomMelee at 1:11 PM on October 29, 2010

Also, for anyone out there wondering, apparently numbness in the area is normal. Mine is just below the incision and reaches about an inch and a half. I was told they may have to cut nerves to complete the operation, and feeling there is unlikely to ever return.

Your doctor should definitely tell you about all potential complications and/or side effects. There some really creepy/serious/rare ones you should know about.
posted by alhadro at 1:19 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm,glad,that it was helpful, hopefully moreso, than my egregious use, of commas.

Let me know if there's anything else I can skirt the edges of answering helpfully. ;-)
posted by TomMelee at 2:43 PM on October 29, 2010

Response by poster: For anyone following up on this later: FYI hubby did easily qualify for short-term disability. He was approved for four weeks automatically, and will probably be able to extend a few weeks beyond that.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:40 AM on November 29, 2010

Response by poster: And...a further follow up: He did qualify for additional weeks of disability coverage, mostly because his job involves heavy lifting.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:17 AM on February 25, 2011

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