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Modern Medicine is impersonal

In the dark days before modern medicine, I worked in a drug store. I was a freshman in college and learned a lot working in the drug store that they didn't teach in college.

In the dark days before modern medicine, I worked in a drug store. I was a freshman in college and learned a lot working in the drug store that they didn't teach in college.

I had one problem, though. I could never remember from day to day where we kept the Alka Seltzer. This did not bode well for me as a college student. If you can't remember where the Alka Seltzer is, how are you supposed to remember the Battle of Hastings or where millet and sorghum are grown? I've never had a great memory, almost washing out as a young Lutheran because I couldn't memorize the catechism.

Last week I had another hernia operation, and it made me think about my drug store days.

Another hernia operation?

Well, yes. Several years ago I underwent my first hernia surgery, an experience that you'd never want to repeat. About a year ago the other side popped, and my primary care physician told me to get it taken care of before I got too old and they couldn't operate.

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The last time I had a rupture (that's what we used to call a hernia in the former West End where I grew up) I put the surgery off for several years for two reasons: I was scared, and I don't like to take my pants off in public places.

So I formed an organization of similar-thinking hernia suffers called Trussbusters International, about which I wrote several newspaper columns. When I finally got the first hernia treated, we disbanded and donated our remaining treasury to the Poor Farm, and that was it. Amen.

Then comes this latest hernia.

"I hope you're not going to trot out those stupid Trussbusters again," said a "friend." I put quotation marks around the word because with friends like that, you need them.

He went on: "Get with the modern world ... nobody today knows what a truss is, and even 'Ghostbusters' is history."

He had a point. I was first introduced to the truss as a therapeutic treatment for rupture when I worked in the drug store in my youth. It had never occurred to me that the average reader wouldn't even know what a hernia truss is.

At the drugstore, the boss used to fit them on old men in a special room upstairs (known as the upper room) where several trusses hung on hooks. The things were made of leather straps and hooked together with buckles much like parachute straps. Down where the rupture had occurred, an adjustable thingy resembling the head of a darning ball would contain the bulge created by the man's rupture.

Naturally, positioning and fitting of a truss involved exposure of what most people consider private parts, although not at the Club Saratoga. The men who came to our drugstore for trusses were old lumberjacks and steelworkers, many of whom had never revealed their parts to anyone without paying $5, maybe $10 in the nicer places with a piano in the parlor.

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So, no: Having already corrected my latest rupture, I guess I won't be trotting out the Trussbusters group again, but I miss the old bunch from time to time.

That's the trouble with modern medicine ... it's so impersonal.

JIM HEFFERNAN'S e-mail address is vheffernan@earthlink.net . For previous columns, go to www.duluthnewstribune.com .

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