Hernia Repair: Burnett and Jeff’s Story

Jeff York knows the stabbing pain of a hernia better than he’d like to. The 52-year-old Brookville, Indiana, resident had his first dose of it in 2015, which led to hernia repair surgery.

When he felt the same piercing pang two years later, he knew another surgery was just a matter of time.

“I was at work, and all I did was take a step,” recalls Jeff. “The pain was sudden, and it burned and stabbed just like it had before.”

A hernia occurs when an organ or another body part pushes through a tear or weak spot in the surrounding tissue. Hernias are most common in the groin, the belly button and at previous surgery scars. Hernia repair surgery sets the organ back in place and fixes the tear.
But Jeff was in no hurry to go through what he had with his previous hernia repair, even though he knew there was a risk of serious complications if he put it off. Blood supply can get cut off from part of the intestine, which requires emergency surgery. 

“My first repair was a three-hour surgery,” says Jeff. “It was open surgery, which meant I had a four-inch incision in my abdomen. I went home the same day, but I couldn’t move for four days, and I had to have help getting out of bed. I was in more pain after the surgery.”

For Cincinnati resident Burnett Wells, it was losing weight, not pain, that uncovered his first clue that he had developed a hernia. A change in diet and exercise routine was delivering the results the 63-year-old martial arts instructor and Homeland Security investigator was after—trimming down his 235-pound frame.

“I’m older, but I’m athletic,” says Wells. “I had more muscle mass and wanted to slim down to keep the spring in my feet.” 

As he lost weight, Wells said he could feel a mass of intestines pushing up in his chest. Over time, pain did develop and increase.

“I thought it was from doing sit-ups,” he says.

New Robotic Technology Offers Another Option 

It was pain that finally convinced both men in the spring of 2017 to see Jonathan Schilling, MD, a Christ Hospital Health Network surgeon with expertise in robotic-assisted hernia repair. 

“I was taking medication, but the pain was still bad; I couldn’t function,” says Jeff. “My co-worker’s dad said Dr. Schilling was the best surgeon in the region.”

Dr. Schilling has expertise and experience using the da Vinci Surgical System. It’s an advanced approach that allows him to perform hernia repair surgery through tiny incisions rather than the large incisions used in traditional open surgery.  

Both men said Dr. Schilling took time to explain the minimally invasive surgery in depth. They learned that Dr. Schilling would work from a console, controlling tiny instruments and a 3-D camera placed in the body through dime-sized incisions. The system gives Dr. Schilling better access and a high-definition view, along with a greater range of motion and surgical precision.

Although recovery from surgery always varies, Dr. Schilling explained that most people have less pain, shorter hospital stays and get back to their normal activities more quickly. It was enough to convince both men to move forward with the surgery.

Jeff says his second hernia repair was like night and day from his first. 

“The surgery was a little over an hour,” he recalls. I went home the same day, but this time I only had some soreness, like a bruise. I knew something had been done, but there was nothing compared to the pain from the first one.”

He only needed pain medication for three days after, in the morning and before bed, and was back at work in two weeks.

Burnett didn’t have an experience to compare his surgery to. He says though, that everything worked out the way he prayed it would, even though it involved two days in the hospital and a rough first few days. 

“I felt the pain the first week,” says Burnett. “Everything the doctor told me would occur did. But I followed the list of things he told me to do – take medication on time, get moving and get my system going. After 10 days I was doing light exercise. I ended up two to three weeks ahead of schedule with my recovery.”

Thanks to Dr. Schilling and the robotic-assisted approach, Burnett is back to light weight lifting and tai chi stretching, focused on whittling off the last 10 pounds he wants to lose. 

“I have no regrets,” says Burnett. “Dr. Schilling won my heart and then some.” 

Jeff, who’s back to chasing grandkids and getting plenty of exercise at work, seconds Burnett’s praise.  

“Dr. Schilling works miracles. If you need hernia repair, don’t hesitate; you’ll be happy you did it.” 

Think you might have a hernia or want to learn more? Join one of our upcoming educational sessions with our hernia experts, Jonathan Schilling, MD, and Gina Maccarone, MD, at our Green Township location, Sept. 14 or Sept 28