Hernia repair: Graham and Tricia's story

October 2012

Graham and Tricia were looking for a surgeon who could tackle Tricia's complex hernia. In 2010, they met Spire surgeon Mr Andrew de Beaux. Read their story here:

"In late 2009, my wife Tricia’s incisional hernia developed rapidly so that by the beginning of 2010 it had become a complex incisional hernia. Due to the size and the position of the hernia, Tricia was increasingly physically restricted by what she could safely and comfortably undertake. Not only that, but its position caused her to look pregnant and, steadily, it began to affect her mental health; she didn’t want to leave the house because of the way people stared at her in public or asked her ‘when’s the baby due’.

We decided to return to see the surgeon who performed initial corrective emergency surgery on Tricia and who had been managing her case since March 2009. We were optimistic the hernia would soon be taken care of and after a short recovery Tricia would be back to normal. The reality was quite different, however. In December 2009 we visited our surgeon hoping he would undertake repair surgery once more, but he had since changed mind, having decided the hernia was too complex to be safely dealt with and, because it didn’t represent a physical threat, Tricia should learn to live with it.

To Tricia this felt as though all hope was gone that she might ever look or feel ‘normal’ again. I tried to remain strong for Tricia, telling her not to worry, that we would find a solution, that we’d come across someone willing to perform corrective surgery.

And so with renewed hope we began the next stage of our journey. It was to prove the most incredible experience, and took us from Birmingham and London to Liverpool and, eventually, Edinburgh. Back then, we couldn’t have known that along the way we would learn so much and meet so many remarkable people. Our medical adventure will live in our hearts and minds forever.

Things began in Birmingham with an appointment to see a surgeon recommended to us. This doctor’s opinion was that surgery was too risky, and that Tricia would have to live with her condition as it posed no immediate risk to her health. Tricia was beginning to lose all hope that anything could be done to help her. I strengthened my resolve and told her: “we will find a surgeon who will help you, no matter what it takes.”

I spent the next three months searching for a consultant, reading their website profiles, medical papers they had authored and researching hospitals they worked at, looking for someone who would be able to perform the corrective surgery to repair Tricia’s hernia.

In April 2010 I contacted The British Hernia Society and exchanged several emails with one of their senior consultants, Martin Kurzer. We made an appointment to see him in London, Tricia full of scepticism, me full of hope. In the end, it became the ray of light we had been hoping for.

Martin was full of empathy for Tricia’s plight and after examining her told us that operating could be possible, but not without significant complications. He recommended a leading expert he knew in Scotland, with the comforting recommendation that “if I was ever to need surgery, this is the only man I would allow to operate on me.”

The consultant recommended to us was Mr Andrew de Beaux, a consultant general and upper gastrointestinal surgeon with a renowned hernia specialism, based in Edinburgh.

Mr de Beaux was giving a conference in Liverpool around the time suitable for Tricia and I to see him, so to save us waiting, he suggested we meet him in Liverpool to discuss Tricia’s case, saying: “that way, you get your consultation quickly and it’s far less travelling for you than having to go all the way to Edinburgh.”

That was the first indication that we were dealing with someone special.

Thursday, April 15th, 2010 came around and we met Andrew in Liverpool, as agreed. Having researched his profile thoroughly in advance, we felt we knew everything about him before even meeting, so when he walked in to the reception area Tricia recognised him immediately and, from the lump sticking out of the front of Tricia, recognition was mutual!

He examined Tricia in private and discussed her medical history relating to the hernia. He showed us photographs of other similar procedures he had carried out and asked whether we wanted to go through with surgery. Tricia and I knew he was the one we had been searching for.

Tricia asked him how sure he was about operating on her and what possible complications we could expect. Thankfully, Mr de Beaux gave us the answer we had been praying for: “the prospect of repairing your hernia excites me. It is a challenge and that is why I became a surgeon, to bring hope and solutions to people like you. Of course there will be difficulties and maybe the odd problem or complication but that is the case with all surgery. I don’t expect to find any complications that I cannot handle.”

We talked more about the procedure and his approach - he would not only repair the hernia but would also do the plastic surgery to make Tricia’s abdomen look as good as possible.

It wasn’t until later we discovered that, by reputation, not only was Mr de Beaux recognised as the most outstanding surgeon in his field in the UK, he was considered to be probably the best in Europe and one of the leading surgeons in this specialism in the world!

On August 6th, 2010, Tricia’s surgery was carried out at Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh. We arrived with three days to settle in and get used to the journey from the cottage we had rented in East Linton to Edinburgh, just over 30 miles away.

When we arrived at hospital we met Andrew again before the operation and straight away he put our minds at ease. Much to our relief he was still the confident, adventurous surgeon we had met four months earlier in Liverpool!

Tricia underwent pre-op assessment and staff at the hospital were just wonderful. Tricia’s room was extremely comfortable, homely, clean and pleasant. The service was tremendous and our nurses were like nothing we had encountered before - it was 5-star in every respect. At every opportunity staff put us at ease, willing to answer our questions in a confident, professional and reassuring way.

Visiting hours were a real help too. I was able to visit any time between 8am-10pm and I could even have a meal there with Tricia.

Once Tricia had been taken to theatre I waited anxiously for three hours until it was all over.
Before long, Tricia’s anaesthetist came into the room to tell me her procedure was complete and everything had gone to plan. I praised God, Tricia was ok!

Before they brought Tricia back to the room Mr de Beaux came to see me and explained everything. He told me surgery had gone exactly to plan and Tricia was ready for a good night’s sleep. Mr de Beaux confidently reassured me, before changing into his cycling gear and pedalling his way home for the night.

They brought Tricia back from theatre and I stayed with her until visiting hours ended at 10.30pm.

The next day, I was at Tricia’s bedside by 9am. She was awake, sitting up and had already eaten breakfast. I am unable to describe her joy (or my own) at the work Andrew had performed. Tricia’s massive, herniated lump was gone and in its place were dressings and stitches over a flat tummy!

Tricia was up and about the day after the operation and within 48 hours she had her drips and various attachments removed. By the fourth day she was discharged and we returned to our East Linton cottage.

From the day Tricia woke following her surgery she has not experienced a single problem with the hernia repair. She looks and feels well. The surgery and Mr de Beaux have given Tricia her life back."

Graham and Tricia, 2012.

To read their full blog, click here.

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Tricia's complex hernia, before surgery

Tricia in hospital after surgery

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