Down Home: ‘Laughter is the best medicine’? Not necessarily

In case you’re wondering, “It only hurts when I laugh” isn’t exactly true.

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The people who love you the most can hurt you almost the worst.

Take my wife. Please.

We were indulging our guilty pleasure—watching Raising Hope on TV—the evening after a young local surgeon and his crack team tore me open and put me back together. To be precise, they repaired a right inguinal hernia, but that’s about as specific as you probably want me to get.

In case you’re wondering, “It only hurts when I laugh” isn’t exactly true. At least it’s not true eight hours after a surgeon and his crack team tear you open and put you back together. At that stage, it hurts all the time. But this is true: “It hurts much, much, much worse when I laugh.”

Joanna suggested we watch TV to divert my mind from the pain. Good idea, since I was too loopy to read, unable to roll back the carpet and jitterbug (as if I could do that even before my surgery), and not ready to turn out the lights and try to sleep.

So, Jo settled into the easy chair while I propped up in bed with an icepack on my aching belly and a foam pillow over the icepack. For a while, everything worked great. We lost ourselves in the antics of Bert, Virginia, Jimmy, Sabrina and, of course, Hope.

But then the show got funny. Insanely, unstoppably funny.

Against my better judgment and heartfelt desire, I started laughing. My belly felt like the doctor pulled out a scalpel—or maybe a tin-can lid—and started the surgery all over again. This time, without anesthesia.

Anyone who has endured abdominal surgery will tell you to hold a pillow tightly over the cut place if you laugh, cough, sneeze, clear your throat, blink fast or even think about laughing, coughing, sneezing, clearing your throat or blinking fast. What they won’t tell you is plainly obvious.

This does not work.

So, as I laughed, I howled in pain. I pressed on the pillow. Oooh. This caused me to howl-laugh some more. And all this caused Jo to turn and stare at me. She mistook the laughter between the howls as a sign of mirth. She was wrong. But she joined me in laughter, which only made me laugh more. And howl, of course.

I don’t know if anyone ever actually died laughing. But I think it’s at least theoretically possible. And for a few minutes, it seemed preferable.

Our Raising Hope event provided the second-worst episode of my surgery and recovery. Let’s just say some side-effects of pain killers are far worse than they sound when the nurse lists them. Believe me, you don’t want to know any more, and I don’t want to tell you.

Other than that, surgery wasn’t so bad. Jo’s a terrific nurse, and she looked after me with loving care. It’s hard to imagine how I would’ve survived—our laughing episode notwithstanding—without her.

Over and over, I’ve thanked God for modern miracles—performed by people who study diligently, practice incessantly and then commit their lives to helping God heal bodies.

This whole situation started last fall, when my side began hurting as I ran. Since I suffered through a left inguinal hernia before, I knew what was causing the pain. But I was training for the Dallas Marathon—my first—and already invested so many miles, I made up my mind to get the hernia fixed after the marathon.

Stupid me. As my body compensated for the pain in my side, it put strain on other parts. Two weeks before the marathon, I pulled a muscle in my left calf, which knocked me out of the race, anyway.

The day after my surgery, I went outside for a short walk. The day after that, too. As I walked, I saw several runners. They all made me smile. In about a month, I’ll be out there with them again.

Just as long as I don’t laugh too hard.


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