Shouldice Hospital is a bit of curious place. It is a small hospital dedicated only to hernia repair. The Hospital was founded in 1945 and performs over 7000 hernia repair operations a year. It is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada north of Highway 401 on Bayview nearer to Highway 407. As I mentioned, the grounds are very well kept. There is a full time landscaping crew that works to make sure that everything is kept in tip top shape. There are rows of apple trees on the grounds adjacent to the main entrance, flower beds planted in various areas and trees surrounding the well trimmed grass. To the south of Shouldice Hospital is a retirement home and to the north is a golf course, so it makes for a quiet and peaceful environment to make a solid start to recovery before heading home. Here are some photos of the grounds:
Inside the Hospital is like entering a time portal to the 1970’s. So much of the carpeting, doors, decor, walls, room curtains, etc. have a very nostalgic feeling. It’s all kept very clean and neat and it’s a very pleasant place to stay. The staff members are all friendly and polite as well. There are also recreational areas for patients (scroll down for pictures), telephones (there are none in the rooms, although you can have a cell phone with you on vibrate), and even wireless Internet available in the lobbies. If you’re only there for one operation, you’ll probably be able to keep yourself occupied. However, if you need to stay for longer, as in my case, you may want to bring a couple of books, laptop, etc., to keep you from getting restless.
Following is a daily journal of my stay at Shouldice. I hope it is helpful and informative.
Day One – August 29, 2011
I arrived at Shouldice a bit late due to traffic. I was supposed to arrive between 12:30 and 2:00 pm, but didn’t get there until 3:00. My wife and two younger children dropped me off in the parking area and I walked over to the main entrance doors. The receptionist told me to drop off my belongings in the foyer and head downstairs to meet with the nurses and doctor. So I went down and this what transpired:
A nurse hooked me up to the ECG: clamps on my wrists, ankles then suction probes on chest. This was to check the health of my heart.
Then another nurse took three vials of blood that would be sent out before 4 pm to get results back for the following day.
2. Then I went down the hallway to another office where another nurse took my blood pressure: 121/77. Nice!
She proceeded to ask health related questions such as allergies to drugs, if I had any body piercings, been in a hospital for over 24 hours in the past year, etc.
Then Dr. Katz brought me into his office next door. He has a great sense of humour. I apologized to him about my tardiness and he told me that I would pay for it later and asked the nurse to prepare the rectal exam. Then he told me that I’d been selected as a candidate for the acupuncture test group trials, that no anesthesia would be used, just acupuncture. :) Then he did the check up down under, asked the necessary health questions, and I was on my way upstairs again.
3. When I went upstairs to reception, I waited in the lounge for a couple minutes before meeting with Dr. C Burul, my first surgeon, who explained the procedure, checked out the hernias marked the first (right) side with a marker. He made me feel very at ease.
4. Then I walked over to the Accounts Dept. to pay for my stay. John helped me process the payment. It was $190 per night for the stay, however, the operation is covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan). No HST was charged on my stay. I am self-employed, but for those with insurance benefits, the operation and stay may be partly or entirely covered.
5. Nurse Gene met me in the hallway across from the Accounts Dept and showed me to my room (203). She told me that soup and sandwiches were available downstairs and that the info session started at 4:30 upstairs. She showed me the lounge with chairs, tables, TV, pool table, exercise bikes and wifi access. She also showed me the door to the outside grounds. I was informed that supper was at 5:30 and another snack would be served at 9 pm.
6. Back at my room I met my roommate, Dave. Very nice guy. He had been here before and was back again for a different hernia repair.
7. I toured the grounds before supper and took some pictures.
8. I attended the 4:30 pm info session with the nurse. There was nothing that the doctors didn’t already share with me, however, there was a massage therapist that came to do a presentation on her services.
8. Supper was at 5:30. We were served fish with a cream sauce, broccoli and rice with peas. We had canned pears or fruit cocktail for dessert. There was also coffee, juice and water available. Portions were adequate to have a snack at 9 pm.
Had a great conversation with the people at the table, especially a massage therapist/inventor from Florida.
8. I returned to my room to hang out. Talked more with Dave.
9. I was called down at 8 pm to the nurses station to be informed about my morning schedule, activities & surgery. I was to be shaved at around 8:30 am, shower at 9:30, and have surgery in the afternoon.
10. The snack at 9 pm consisted of apple or orange juice, water, coffee, tea, cookies, muffins. I asked for a caffeine free tea and had Lipton Lemon; it was delicious. Then I went upstairs to bed.
Day 2 – August 30, 2011
1. 6:45 am I was shaved on my right side by Elaine. Very nice lady.
2. 7:00 am I showered with hygienic soap. The shower is in a small room next to the nurse’s station. Dave went down to surgery at 9:30 am. Mine was in the afternoon.
3. 8:00 am Went to the nurse’s station for a glass of apple juice.
4. I was in my surgery clothes by 9:00 am.
5. Dave came back at 11:30. He was pretty out of it. Another nurse came in and washed him down and then changed him into his own clothes. He acknowledged me when he came in but then at 11:55 am he woke up again and said, “Hey! You’re here.” He didn’t even remember the nurse washing him.
6. I went down at around 3:00, they gave me my little cup of pharaceutical cocktail (3 OxyContin sleeping pills and 1 Gravol pill) and then I lay down for a while in the pre-op/recovery room. The room had 14 beds and most of them were full with groggy men half asleep. I fell asleep and about an hour later they came to arouse me for surgery.
7. I barely noticed they had touched me. It felt like it was over in no time. Short and sweet. When I woke up I was already changed into my clothes. Didn’t even know that they had helped me with that. We were told to stay in bed for 4 hours before attempting to get up. Then only to sit up on the side of our bed, then lie down again, then try a little later to walk around the room a little.
8. 10:00 pm I ate a bit before I attempted a walk. Successful! After a tuna sandwich, apple cake, a couple of crackers with juice & water, I was able to get up and walk around. My gut above my groin area felt like the remnants of having been kicked in the right ball really hard, though. ;/
Day 3 – August 31, 2011
1. 5:00 am A nurse came in to check up on us then I went back to sleep.
2. 7:40 am I woke up to wash up for breakfast.
3. 7:45 am I went downstairs for breakfast. We had cereal (I had All-Bran) with milk, water and coffee. Then we had eggs and whole wheat toast with orange juice.
4. 8:20 am We came upstairs and Dave and I got some pain killers (two extra strength Tylenol/Advil). I probably could have done without but I knew we were going to exercise at 11:00 am.
5. 8:50 am A doctor came in to remove some staples. I had 15 but he left 11 in; usually they remove half. He said that Dr. Burul didn’t use too many anyway. I took a nap.
6. After lunch I spent most of the day walking around and resting in the room with Dave, watching 28 Days Later. Another doctor came by to say he will do my left side tomorrow morning. I went for another walk.
7. 5:30 pm Supper was a chicken stir fry thing with white rice and a rye bun. Canned pears for dessert. Coffee, juice & water to drink.
8. 9:00 pm The snack was muffins & cookies. I had apple juice and Lipton Lemon tea.
9. Dave and I had a plan to get through one of the Lord of the Rings movies that I brought, but both of us fell asleep.
Day 4 – September 1, 2011
1. 7:45 am Elaine came to shave the left side of me. Then I changed into my surgery clothes.
2. 8:00 am I went to the nurse’s station for two glasses of apple juice. They’ve discontinued the cranberry juice because it looks too much like blood in vomit if patients do so during or after surgery.
3. 8:15 am I had my first bowel movement since Tuesday morning before surgery. What a relief; I was a bit worried. BTW, the washroom vent always brings in the smell of toast up from the downstairs cafeteria. :/
4. 8:45 am Doctor came to remove the rest of the staples on my right side. OUCH! This guy pulled a bit when he removed them, unlike the other gentlemen.
5. 11:30 am I went down for my second operation with Nurse Joan. Beforehand, Joan asked me all the necessary questions and took my blood pressure. Downstairs I got my cocktail of pills again (3 OxyContin sleeping pills and 1 Gravol pill). I was out deep but apparently asked Dr. Ross (my second surgeon) all kinds of questions while on the cutting table at 12:30 pm.
6. Not sure what time I made it upstairs. The nurse helped me change into my clothes. They brought me some food to eat as I couldn’t leave my bed for 4 hours.
7. I slept most of the afternoon and into the evening. At 9:00 pm I went down for a snack with Dave. Apple juice and Lipton Lemon tea again.
8. 9:30 pm I FaceTimed with the family. Then went back to watch LOTR with Dave. He fell asleep almost right away, though. Oh, BTW, there is only one area on each floor that has wireless Internet, the lounge. Here are some pics of the lounge and some other areas for patients’ convenience and recreation:
DAY 5 – September 2, 2011
1. 5:10 am I woke up early again this morning; I couldn’t sleep. I went down to the lobby to do some work on the computer. I picked up some more pain killers (two extra strength Tylenol/Advil) at 6:00 am.
2. 7:45 am I went down for breakfast. I met one guy from Hamilton and one from Guelph; Dave was also at the table. Today he leaves for home; lucky guy.
3. I came back to the room to wait for the doctor. At 9:00 am Dr. Ross came to the room to remove half of the staples and informed me that he had stabbed himself with one of the needles used on me and asked permission to have my blood tested. Of course, I consented. I wasn’t too please with his clipping job, as he left a lump of skin at the base of the incision. I hope it heals better than it looks now. :(
4. I went for a little jaunt around the front of the hospital, took some pictures of the parking lot, the green house and the hospital again. When I came back Dave was ready to leave and so we said our goodbyes and I got to meet his father. Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree; his dad was a solid gentleman as well.
5. Dave moved out and Marcus moved in. He was in the upstairs annex until they had room for him down here. Seems like a nice guy, but pretty much sticks to himself.
6. I spent the rest of the morning outside walking in the sun, getting my Vitamin D and energizing myself a bit. I came back in at around 11:30 to sponge bath myself and get ready for lunch at 11:45. Marcus had already gone down to surgery.
7. 11:45 Lunch was green beans wrapped in a filet of fish and vegetables with the first bit of fresh fruit I’d seen since being admitted; nectarines. Met Maria from Columbia and some other nice folks.
8. After lunch, I still felt quite swollen from walking outside for so long, so I decided to come in and lie down for the afternoon. It was quite a while before Marcus returned to the room and he had an IV in his arm, something neither Dave or I had to have; not sure why, neither was he. I stayed in bed for the most part, reading and snoozing until supper came round. I did, however, have my second bowel movement, which was another relief. We were visited three times by three different staff to check on Marcus and one to see if I needed pain killers. I refused them until I got up before supper. Two extra strength Tylenols.
9. 5:30 Supper was chicken breast with mashed potatoes w/butter, broccoli & cauliflower with apple juice and water. Dessert was canned pears again, but I asked if I could have fresh fruit as well and the server came out with another nectarine. Score! We also had the option of coffee or tea.
10. Sat in the lounge typing out this blog till 7:00 p.m. I overheard that some guy apparently walked out onto the balcony within 4 hours of coming out of surgery and fell down, had to be taken to emergency. He got 3 or 4 stitches in his chin and broke a tooth or two. Ouch. Some people just don’t want to follow doctors’ orders.
Day 6 – September 3, 2011
1. 6:18 I woke up this morning early to call home, walk around a bit, and then I spent some time on the stationary bike.
2. 7:45 Breakfast was the same as usual: cereal, scrambled eggs w/whole wheat toast and juice, water & coffee.
3. I came upstairs and waited in the room until the doctor arrived at 10:00 am to take out the last of the clips on my left side. Then I went to the shower room and had a sponge bath. As you can see in the picture, there is a fair bit of swelling and bruising. On the lower end of the wound on the right of the picture (actually my left side), you can also see the skin that the second surgeon left when he clipped me up.
4. Went outside in the sun. Sat on a bench with my shirt off for 20 minutes or so and then walked back and forth on the lawn for another 20 minutes. Gotta get those D’s.
5. 11:45 am Lunch started with barley soup, then we had two thin slices of roast beef with corn and a quarter piece of roasted potato.
6. After lunch, I watched a movie on YouTube, received a call from home and met Orazio’s (a solid Italian gentleman I met from Toronto) family.
7. I came up to my room after the movie and had a nap from about 3:00 to 5:00 pm; Marcus’ partner arrived shortly after I lay down. I got up and went downstairs to have supper at 5:30.
8. After supper, I spent the next while reading in my room until my mother arrived for a visit at 7:00 pm. She stayed until 9:00 pm.
9. 9:10 pm I went to ask the on duty nurse what the indicator should be to know if the swelling is worrisome. She informed me that if the area was hot, if I could not urinate, became constipated, had a high fever or the swelling became so enlarged that the wound began to open, I should come back to the hospital. However, she mentioned that this happens in less than 0.1% of patients.
10. Watched LOTR for a while. Took my painkillers at 11:45 pm. Slept at midnight.
Day 7 – September 4, 2011
1. I had a bit of a hard time getting to sleep, but once I did I was out cold. Woke up when the nurse came in at close to 7:00 am. I called my wife at 7:03 and then went to have a sponge bath. Came back to my room, shaved and packed my things.
2. 7:45 Breakfast consisted of cereal (All-Bran, Cheerios, oatmeal), a hard, crunchy waffle and one slice of tough ham (butterknife almost couldn’t slice it).
3. After breakfast I went upstairs to the nurses’ station and was informed that I was already signed out. When I returned to my room my bed was stripped. On my way out I took pictures of the remaining areas of which I didn’t have any record.
4. I carried my things to the main waiting room to wait for my wife and kids to come pick me up and got a chance to say goodbye to the massage therapist/inventor before he took a taxi to the airport to return home.
Shouldice is THE best place, bar none, to get your hernia repaired. They are professional, caring, clean and punctual for the most part. You NEED the quiet and time to heal and recover after surgery. Don’t believe any doctor that tells you otherwise. I have heard too many nightmares about people who had their hernias repaired at other places. There is, however, one particular area that to which I felt there could be improvements made:
Although the portion control is good, the nutritional content of the meals is not very good. My suggestions would be more raw, green organic vegetables to get more fibre and enzymes your body needs. Eliminate any stimulants (caffeine/sugar) from the selection of foods, especially at 9:00 pm snacks. Replace all canned fruit with fresh, organic fruit. Switch to certified antibiotic and hormone free meat, wild seafood and use farm fresh organic eggs. Even if an extra $10/day was charged to improve the recovery diet, it would be worth it.
Update – September 11, 2011
Well, it’s been a week since leaving Shouldice. This past week I’ve been very swollen and sore. When I arrived home I immediately resumed taking my vitamins, as well as eating as healthy as possible (all whole foods, mostly organic and a lot of fibre). Also, I’ve been keeping relatively active, walking around everyday, going out for errands, resuming some work but no heavy lifting. The swelling is always worst when I’ve been on my feet for too long or I’ve been sitting in one position for a lengthy period (driving for example).
Things I’ve noticed is that the bruising is really starting to subside now. The swelling on the left side has gone down quite a bit but the right side is taking a bit longer. Today was the first day that I took a full body shower and got the repair area wet. I have also started to apply fresh cut aloe vera sap to the wounds. Despite the discomfort this week, my energy levels are great.
Update – September 16, 2011
It was two weeks yesterday since my final surgery. There is still a degree of soreness, especially in between the two incisions. Perhaps because of the pulling on the centre abdominals that were stretched over the hernia and sewn up? Also, because the hair on my lower abdominal is growing back slowly, the skin gets quite itchy rubbing against my clothes, especially around the scar areas. I think this is the most annoying thing to date. I have continued applying aloe vera to the area.
Despite this, my mobility is improving quickly. I am able to get out of a horizontal position without rolling out of the bed, I can walk as quickly as I was before the surgery and the scars are healing well. It really helps to have my wife and kids being so supportive.