Ken Pollitz: Surgery is no laughing matter

By Ken Pollitz - Guest Column

Almost two decades ago, early on a Wednesday evening, I found myself running all five red lights through downtown Ottawa. Hopefully the statute of limitations has passed, and I won’t be prosecuted for this delinquent confession of a handful of moving violations.

My acceleration through town was due to the unanticipated arrival of a sharp and accelerating pain just below my right rib cage, coupled with an acute clammy nauseating feeling. In short order, more red lights were ignored as I was later whisked, via an ambulance, to St. Rita’s. Zantac eased my pain, but after a fully-charged battery of tests, the doctors concluded my ticker was not quite right in its tick-tick-ticking.

Fast forward six months, and I’m on the runway queued up for open heart surgery and a valve job. Staring up at the bright lights, my appointed “mechanic” stopped by and asked what sort of replacement part I was interested in for my leaky aortic valve. My options were refurbished pig, cow, cadaver, new porcelain or the coveted titanium. Never having grown up on a farm, and not sure my insurance would cover those artificial options, I opted for the “dead guy,” hoping not to end up one myself, to be sure.

Thanks to a great surgical team coupled with the Great Physician, I came through surgery with a 3-inch incision, my own pieces and parts and a brand new extended warranty. Amazingly, my “master mechanic” tucked, folded and stitched me back to a much-improved level of aortic regurgitation requiring the minimal medication of one baby aspirin a day.

Knock on a stainless steel operating table with a scalpel, 20 years later, I still feel great.

Then it happened again. What, you ask? That clammy nauseating feeling along with an acute pain, only this time it was in my groin. It occurred 9,000 miles from home last November while driving to a medical mission clinic site in central Tanzania.

An inguinal hernia was diagnosed by a gifted doctor of radiology, a member of our team. He recommended surgery but not before first making a 9,000 mile flight back home. I gladly agreed.

A man of my word, I went to see a top-rated surgeon at Mercy Health in Lima. Upon learning I was delinquent in my once-a-decade colonoscopy, he told me they were running a special “two-for-one deal” during the month of February. I could get a “camera stuck up my butt,” as one comedian enjoys putting it, and get my abdomen all “meshed up” while under the very same anesthesia. Such a deal! Where do I sign up?

Too many humorists have made light of the popular prepping required on Colonoscopy Eve. That Sunday evening, while my wife sipped some fruity Pinot Noir and enjoyed early evening snacks, I, in another room, diabolically mixed and gulped down, 8 ounces as a time, my favorite secret blend of a gallon of Lemon Lime Gatorade combined with MiraLAX. What a rush, in many more ways than one.

The next morning, I was raring to go, even though I couldn’t, you know, “go,” any more by then. I chose to wear my funniest T-shirt attempting to offer levity for the ensuing outpatient festivities. It had lettering on the front with fonts taken from the Periodic Table which read, “S,” “Ar,” “Ca,” and “Sm.” In case you are unaware, those are the “Primary Elements of Humor.” Sadly, none of the nurses got the joke.

What was comical was what I had to wear instead of that T-shirt. Suffice to say the photographer would have access to every angle for that colonoscopy. I was a bit confused by the other apparel I was handed, particularly those slip-resistant footy tube socks. Thoughtfully they gave me the biggest pair, the XL, which almost made it to the heel of my size 17 feet. Paradoxically, at the same time, they secured a yellow band to my wrist which boldly stated, “FALL RISK.” Odd, I thought the socks were supposed to prevent that?

Quietly awaiting my inevitable filming in the operating theater, a kindly nurse asked if I had much hair on my stomach. Humbly, I said no, which didn’t prevent her from breaking out the electric clippers anyway. “That’s it?” I thought to myself. While getting dressed in post-op, I quickly realized I got an additional buzz cut just below the belt, too. I never met the robot who fixed my hernia. In the end, both procedures were truly forgettable. I don’t remember a thing!

And who needs prescription painkillers? After a restless first night home, early in the morning I relented and opened up the jar and attempted to pop a pill, but it slipped out of my hand. On all fours, I patted blindly in the dark under the bed, found a pill, and swallowed it. A couple hours later I was like “Eh?” as opposed to “Wow!” I thought those narcotics were supposed to “pack a punch.”

Two nights later, readying for bed, I looked down along the floor and spotted a white pill. I picked it up and made a quick comparison to my pill jar. No wonder my insides still hurt, I ingested an errant baby aspirin and not my prescribed painkiller.

About two weeks later, and my hernia doesn’t feel too “meshed up.” As for those pictures up my butt, surprisingly, they found no “Pollitz” up there. I’m thrilled they found no polyps either!

By Ken Pollitz

Guest Column

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

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