I know this isn’t a popular thing to say, but I do love smoking. I know how bad it is, I know it’s stinks and is dangerous, expensive, stupid etc etc etc. But I love a good old ciggie! I have smoked since I was about 14. I’ve stopped several times, didn’t touch them whilst pregnant, breastfeeding and after surgeries. But every time I go back to it because I thoroughly enjoy smoking. But learning about the connection between smoking and hernias has shocked me into giving up the fags.
I saw my new surgeon Mr Adam in February. He told me I have a very high risk of complications during the surgery, around 75%! Mr Adam said I could drop that risk by 10% if I stopped smoking, even just changing to the e-cigarettes. Also he told me that there is a very real link between smoking and recurrent hernias. I was devastated to find this out.
On the 6th of February I had my last ever cigarette! I bought an e-cig and that was really useful to get me through the cravings of nicotine. Then I stopped using that in April and now I am officially a non-smoker.
Missing the smoke
I have to say that it’s still not easy. It’s been four months since I had a cigarette and 6 weeks since I used the e-cigarette. I still think about it all the time. I would say around twice a day I really crave a cigarette. If it weren’t for what I have learnt about the connection between smoking and hernias I would have started again.
Smoking and hernias
So smoking and hernias, what is the connection? After getting numerous hernias over the past five years since I started on this surgery journey for the Ulcerative Colitis and having multiple hernia surgeries I am so disappointed that the link between smoking and getting an hernia has never been pointed out.
Smokers develop hernias at a higher rate than nonsmokers. Smoking causes a decreased rate of collagen formation. This is due to the effect of nicotine, which weakens the abdominal wall. Patients who smoke are four times more likely to develop a recurrent hernia as a result of the effect smoking has on wound healing. This information comes from the Hernia Centre.
I think this is something that should be told to every single smoker who has abdominal surgery. Getting my stoma and ridding myself of the effects of Ulcerative Colitis saved my life. It made it so much better. But then having 6 hernias over the past five and a half years has ruined it all. The hernias have stopped me from doing so much, I’ve had repair after repair. Months of pain, so many tears and honestly, I feel devastated. I could have been doing something that has caused the recurrent hernias.
The cost to the NHS
It’s not even just the personal effects, I have had multiple surgeries to repair these hernias. The past two surgeries have been high risk, long, complicated surgeries. I’ve spent time on the HDU and weeks in hospital. How much does that all cost?
I have had to have so much time off work, my kids have suffered. My whole family has had to struggle through having a mum who is in constant pain and then having operations and then months of recovery. And maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have got these hernias if I had stopped smoking earlier. And I would have done, if I had been told.
I accept my own responsibility in this. Of course I knew smoking was bad for me. But it was in that general way that we all do things that aren’t good for us. Some smoke, some drink alcohol, take recreational drugs, eat too much red meat and sugar etc. If I had been told that skoming has a direct link to the recurrent hernias that have ruined the past five years of my life, I would have stopped.
I am not preaching, I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should do, but I wish someone had told me about this after my first surgery in 2013. So I just want to pass the favour on so everyone has the information and can then make their own educated decisions.