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Surgery sure isn't what it used to be 69 years ago

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When I heard the old Community Hospital was to be torn down it brought back an old memory. Prior to the spring of 1937 at age 17 a hernia developed in my right groin. I finally had to see our family doctor and surgeon, Dr. L.H. Rutledge. Following an examination he said it should be taken care of immediately. A surgery date was scheduled and I reported to the Community Hospital, registered and was assigned a room.

Preparation for surgery was simple compared to today. I remember being wheeled into the operating room and having a cover placed over my face to receive ether, which was the anesthetic used in that day. My nurse, Mable Bjerke, gave me the ether (she remained my nurse during my stay). Inhaling ether was an awful experience. Coming out of ether following surgery was another awful experience; I was terribly sick and vomiting. It took some time before I was clear of ether. My mouth was dry, I was dehydrated and I was thirsty. I was refused anything to drink or eat for what seemed an eternity. Finally I was given a small glass of grape juice. The amount was not enough to satisfy me, but that was all I was allowed. Little by little I was given more fluids and then solid food. I don't remember any IVs, catheters or sup hose.

I was not advised to flex my leg, however, due to the soreness in my groin I kept it pulled up -- when straightened it would pull on the incision and cause a lot of pain. Dr. Rutledge came in every morning to check on me. After 14 days in the hospital I was released to go home. Mable Bjerke came in to help me sit up and to get dressed which made me dizzy. I had to lie down a while before trying again.

In the meantime our neighbor, Erwin Nelson, an employee of Englund Furniture and Funeral Home, made arrangements with my folks to take me home as we did not have a car in those days. Do you suppose he was out drumming up a little business?

Instruction from Dr. Rutledge was: no work all summer. That was tough for a 17-year-old. Come fall how was I going to make any money for hunting licenses and shotgun shells? I was working in Norby's grocery department Saturdays, holidays and summers -- that was out! I refer to those days as "surgery in the raw."

In the summer of 2006 a few members of Sons of Norway and I were working on a float in my backyard. Suddenly I felt a pop in my right groin. I knew what that was. I pushed it back and told the fellows I needed to rest. I went back to work, but knew I needed to see my primary care physician, Dr. Nordmark. He verified the fact that I had a hernia. His nurse, Tracy Holmes, made an appointment for surgery with Dr. Goldstein. Upon completing an examination, Dr. Goldstein showed me a brochure describing various methods of repairing a hernia and told me which method he was going to use on me. Arrangements for surgery were made with St. Mary's Hospital.

I reported to St. Mary's at 9 a.m., got registered and was taken to a room for surgery preparation. This included IVs, catheters, shots, pulsating leggings and, oh yes, the nurse handed me a marking pencil and told me to mark the location where the incision was to be made. That was no problem -- I put the mark directly on top of the scar left from the incision from 69 years ago. I was wheeled into the operating room where the anesthetic was injected. After waking up in the recovery room I was told I could go home. The time was 3 p.m.

Dr. Goldstein instructed me not to lift anything over 10 pounds. My trap gun weights 9 pounds. 8 ounces., a box of shells about 2-1/2 lpounds. So trapshooting was over for the rest of the summer. Thanks, Doc! Really, I didn't feel like it anyway. Total time spent in the hospital that day: six hours.

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