The Price of Ego
Back at the turn of the century (that’s what I call early 1980's), this young writer was at the pinnacle of his physical condition. During that time, I had a job moving furniture and other large objects. To some, I might have looked like an ant moving five times my weight but unbeknownst to anyone I had a secret. I learned how to maneuver objects around (with a little help from my work partner, of course) and I soon understood that even with the heaviest pieces, there was always a way to get them into and out of buildings without hurting myself.
About a few months later, I was asked by my supervisor if I could make certain that a container of laundry detergent was taken up to the second floor. After all of my previous training, my ego quickly said yes and I rolled the somewhat heavy cylindrical container to the edge of the stairway. I peered up the twenty towering steps before me and reviewed my options. Without assistance, the best way to get this thing upstairs would have been to flip it over from one end to the other, that way, the bulk of the weight stayed on the steps and not me. Not wanting to damage the cardboard container, I opted to pick the thing up and carry it up the laborious incline. To this day, I can remember the stress and strain to my entire body, as I made the quest towards the far away landing at the top. Of all of the herculean stunts I had performed, none stands out more than the stupidity of that day. I mean, what was the problem? The container only weighed 100 lbs.! It might have been the accumulation of all the past exertions but I truly feel that this was the antic that pushed me towards the dreaded consequence called the HERNIA.
By the latter part of 1984, I was happily married. My wife and I had a bouncy baby girl who was a joy to keep up with. Along with the joys of fatherhood, there was another addition to my life. I began to feel a slight bump-type swelling between the lower left side of my abdomen and my upper thigh. It would come and go and I tried to not give it much thought. Isn't it grand how the male ego works when you feel that you are indestructible? What could possibly go wrong?
What was going wrong was that the swelling was becoming more regular and it seemed to occur mostly when I was standing.
My theory was that while in that position, the blood would rush to that area and not recede unless I lied down or used my finger to push the little lump back into it's little home. Odd as it sounds, I became a master at doing this unique maneuver through my pants pocket. I had decided not to share this embarrassment with anyone, hoping that this particular swelling in my groin area would just go away. This self-denial seemed to be working fine until that dreaded day in October when the hernia demons finally caught up with me.
I had gotten a job as a manager of a group home and I was determined to make a good impression even though I had to take three trains, a city bus and then walk ten blocks to get there. I'd just gotten off the D train at 59th Street and was standing on the subway platform waiting to take the #7 train to Queens. My left hand was in my trusty pocket, pressing the little bump but it didn't seem to make a difference. There was no denying it. I was beginning to be in a lot of pain. The windy rush of the arriving train cooled me as it pulled into the station and I said a silent prayer. This particular prayer was answered when I was able to quickly get a seat. I thought this would relieve some of the stress but as I sat there with my hand in pocket, sweat began to roll down my forehead. The biting agony would not recede. The pain was determined to follow me to the next train, the bumpy bus ride and then the long agonizing walk to my job. I suddenly had no choice. I got off the train at the next stop and began the excruciating trek to take the two trains necessary to get me back home.
This was in the days before the convenience of cell phones, so when my wife heard me come through the door she was more than a little curious about what I was doing home. I bypassed her and her questions and made a beeline for the bedroom. For the first time in a few hours, I lied in a supine position on the bed, with my knees up. It was only then that I finally felt some relief as the swelling slowly went away. Mr. Macho had no choice but to spill his guts about what I had been going through for the last few months. She called our family doctor who gave her the number of a specialist.
The doc said what I described sounded like an inguinal hernia. It was probably caused by strain on the groin. It seems that fat or a piece of small intestine pushes downward through a weakened space into the groin area. Inguinal hernias are often painful and could become strangulated (this is when blood flow to the affected area is compromised). That could be life threatening, so whether I liked it or not, surgery was in order. So much for the, “Don’t ask, I won’t tell," slogan of Mr. Macho.
To be continued..........
I love my New York home. Its diversity inspires me. I would not for the world trade my multitude of experiences there.