a hernia, hip-hip!

Yesterday my husband had hernia repair surgery up in DC.

“free” socks!

He was supposed to have it at our local hospital but several days prior to his scheduled surgery, a couple friends mentioned a doctor up in DC who specialized in hernia repairs and charged straight up. Just, 2100 dollars and ba-bam, done.

So then that information prompted a whole bunch of questions. What did the hospital surgery cost? How much would our insurance cover? Would a couple trips to DC — first for the consultation and then for the surgery — actually save us money?

My husband made a bunch of phone calls, trying to pin down an actual number. Nobody could tell him anything, really, but eventually he got a loose breakdown: The operating room would cost x-amount of dollars, they said, and the surgeon y-amount, but the anesthesiologist charged by the minute so… (insert helpless shoulder shrug).

Finally someone referred him to an estimation department and they told him that the hospital charges $15K, but the agreement between the hospital and the insurance company is that the most the insurance company will be billed is an estimate $7900. And of that, we’d be responsible for our deductible and co-insurance, blah-blah-blah. In conclusion: we’d probably end up spending between four and five thousand dollars for the surgery. But that was only a guess. One never actually knew how these things might go.

Except this doctor in DC knew. His surgery even came with a three-year warranty.

So we switched. My husband called the office and that evening the doctor — yes, the actual doctor — called him back to discuss his case. Wednesday, my husband drove up for his three-minute check-up — Yep, it’s a hernia — and then yesterday I went up with him for the surgery. (If he’d waited for another week, he could’ve done the check-in and surgery in the same day, but because of an upcoming project at work, he wanted to get the surgery over as soon as possible.)

Everything went like clockwork. They were ready for him when we arrived (on time), and when I went back to see him before they wheeled him into the OR, there was a small crowd loitering around his gurney, tying their masks and waiting for the nurse to finish finalizing the paperwork.

I read for a couple hours (Slow Man; it seemed fitting) before they called me back to fetch him. I helped dressed him, said hello to the doctor, got his home-care instructions, and then, a few minutes later, we were walking (or rather I walked, he shuffled), hand-in-hand, out to the car.

The whole experience felt efficient and neat, and clean. Whereas the hospital had seemed positively obsessed with contamination — they’d given my husband a whole list of detailed instructions: the night before surgery he was to shower with a clean bar of soap, dress in clean clothes, and sleep in a bed with clean sheets; the morning of, he was to shower again, with another bar of clean soap (what is this, As Good As It Gets?) and with a bottle of sterile solution that, according to the warning label, may or may not make a person go blind, and change into yet another clean set of clothes — the surgery center gave none. Just, don’t eat. Which made sense. At the surgery center, they were doing routine surgeries for mostly healthy people, but at the hospital, a place teeming with disease, the risk of infection was much greater. (So why are hospitals doing surgeries for healthy people in the first place?)

Back at home, the kids had cleaned the house. Our bed was made, a jar of flowers on my husband’s dresser. My mother brought us enough supper to feed us for three meals, and a chocolate coconut cake.

Today my husband is sore, but Ibuprofen and Tylenol are enough to manage the pain. The kids and I did school work and chores.

While I wrote upstairs, he monitored the chaos, sort of. All afternoon, he’s lounged on the sofa or recliner, taking catnaps, reading, watching somethingorother on his computer, and helping our younger daughter prepare for her driver’s ed test.

It’s fun having him here, all to ourselves, unable to do work and projects or lift more than ten pounds.

getting (rolling) up

It’s like he’s on holiday which, in turn, makes everything feel a little more relaxed, a little more special, like a party.

This same time, years previous: the big finale, southern sweet tea, five-dollar curtido, in my kitchen, in my kitchen: 5:25 p.m., the cousins came, regretful wishing.


  • Jennifer G

    Best to your husband on his recovery! I’m in my 40s and gave myself an epigastric hernia this spring while working out too hard. Recovery should become smooth pretty quickly, although little pains can linger a long time. Ten pounds is more weight than you think for a lot of tasks, so limitations on lifting aren’t that bad…for indoor things. The tricky part for me was knowing how much *force* is 10lbs. Like, if I pull a hose is that 10lbs of force? Anyway, glad for the side effect that you get more time with him too.

  • lisa

    Health care will change in our country, I predict, for a variety of reasons. And, I love your kitchen. Large families and cozy kitchens are among the very best things in life. 🙂

  • Jenny

    We price check e-v-e-r-y thing. My husband has juvenile diabetes. I've had four surgeries, not a lot but enough that the process is familiar to me now. We at least have an HSA account that we can pay medical expenses with whether it goes through insurance or not but often it is just much cheaper to pay out of pocket. And the service is always better because …well personal customer service right! We meet the people getting paid….they meet the people paying them. We agree between us how much, not some insurance giant deciding who pays what because you realize no one pays the same amount through insurance. There is no rhyme or reason at all behind the billing process.

    I'm seriously surprised you even got an estimate through the hospital. We've never been able to get them to give us a straight answer.

    Whew vacation… if this is vacation time then we've had a 20 yr vacation. Now how to get someone to cook meals & clean house for me plus all the other work that needs to be done….that would be a real vacation. 😉

  • Goatldi

    After eight years of walking the system with my late husband I was only reassured by what any person with common sense and a brain can surmise.
    The system is broken as is so much of our society. It is full of people seeking control and profit. But it is also filled with people who still care and are the real deal. Now if we could figure out how to get rid of the greed and egos without losing the real deal. Sigh.

  • sustainablemum

    It was interesting to read the realities of the American Heath Care system. I live in the UK where this operation is free, in some instances you get a choice over which hospital you go to but most of the time round here you are referred to the only one that offers what you need. I am so glad that you managed to get the operation sorted in good time and sincerely hope that a good recovery follows without any problems.

    • Nicky

      I was thinking the same. I can't imagine having to compare the cost of health care providers. We should be told the true cost of our NHS care and maybe thrn we wouldn't take it for granted and would fight harder to protect it.

  • Cheryl

    Those socks are pretty nice…after both knees replaced and my right hip, I have a sock drawer full of those suckers! lol.

    It's scary the whole surgery thing. Your mind goes to a bajillion "what ifs". Your husband seems to be doing really well and that's a good thing.

    You are right about the germ thing. I had to shower with special liquid soap (that makes the tub super slippery) not too great when you are needing to have joints replaced and can't walk or stand too well as it is! Than, you have to take these packets of anti-bacterial pads and rub them all over your body, 8 of them and initial the little tab! Finally, they stick this long q-tip up your nose so far it makes your eyes water and roll back. That's to check for mersa. A surgery center sounds like the place to go.

    Here's to hoping your hubby heals quickly, which he will, since he is young and healthy and has a great cook for a wife!

    The kids and your Mom are awesome! Clean house and flowers and food! Good kids!

  • Margo

    Fascinating. So impressed with this practical approach to getting medical care!! Best wishes on your guy's continued good recovery!

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