10. Obamacare, for my free annual checkup that led to the diagnosis.
9. The wealth of information online about Inguinal Hernia Repair. I got sidetracked surfing the web, coming upon a long list of surgeon slang words. "Virgin abdomens" define first-timers like me, doing nothing to reduce my fear of being cut open by a stranger. But I liked the inter-active decision-maker at another website. It helped me understand my personal priorities: balancing fear of the knife vs. fixing a problem that won't fix itself. Painful daily reminders by My Little Buddy, throbbing in my groin, tipped the balance.
8. Sharon, a family friend who'd had the operation, promising me it was "no big deal." That only called to mind what Vice-President Biden had whispered into President Obama's ear just before he began his speech on the enactment of The Affordable Care Act. Were Biden's words prophetic about the pain I'd feel in repairing my hernia? That it would, in fact, be "a big F-ing deal"? It turned out that they were both right, his words about taming My Little Buddy, and hers about the pain of the procedure.
7. Kaiser Permanente, for their computerized medical records. A written report was emailed to me within an hour of the meeting with my surgeon a few days before the operation.
6. Nurse Cheryl, who skillfully and discretely shaved the site of my operation. Putting me at ease with her sense of humor, she chuckled, "Now you know what women have to go through." I stifled the impulse to reply, "Be careful down there, Nurse Cheryl. Don't nick me, bro'."
5. Nurse Mari, who cheerfully wheeled me down to the operating room. She was the third nurse, as well as my surgeon, to ask me what I was there for and what side of my groin would be cut. I knew it was just their way of gaining my confidence there would be no accidental slices in the operating room.
4. Anesthesiology, for making my three-hour, out-patient surgery entirely pain-free. Entering the operating room was the scariest part of my adventure that morning, but the anesthesiologist was expert at making me more comfortable mentally and physically. After affixing a plastic mask over my nose and mouth, she asked me to inhale deeply three times, by my third breath, Elvis had left the building.
3. Modern medicine. It wasn't that long ago, measured by this septuagenarian's sense of time, that living with an unrepaired hernia was a life sentence. I'd have had to make a life with My Little Buddy.
2. Dr. Elliot. I wasn't there to see him, but lying naked on the gurney with my arms outstretched, I pictured a masked man in whom I'd placed all my trust, younger than my children, leaning over me with a knife. I thanked God, Allah, or whatever other power of the universe there is, for his expertise.
1. My life-partner, Karen, who has filled my prescription for health and happiness with her daily dose of love and laughter for 29 years.
Next month I'll be scheduling a return to the same operating room for two cataract operations. Which reminds me of how grateful I am for being able to do all of this without worrying about cost, thanks to the generous insurance benefits enjoyed by California State University retirees. The Affordable Care Act has brought health care through insurance coverage to many who have had to go without. But too many continue to be left out while politicians wrangle about whether health care is a right or a privilege.