Dr. Bernstein and the Double Hernia

Dr. Bernstein and the Double Hernia

     There are two very polarized issues that may come up for parents who are dealing with a “spirited child”- Hypochondria and, no kidding around, the real deal, ‘We are going to the emergency room’ – kind of illness. 

Most of us go through this as parents; it is a right of passage so to speak. We utilize our gut instincts and either breathe through the shenanigans, negotiate and love deeply and/or we take our child and our heart, the heart that would quickly become broken, fragile pieces knotted up within our logic and rational thought, to urgent care.

One Spirit moved me at seven; I was tireless and insatiable, but no dummy. So what did I do? I kept it a secret for as long as possible. 

I was just finishing a great afternoon swimming at the chemically potent and chlorinated YMCA off of Brown Deer Road. I changed out of my suit into my clothes and discovered what seemed to be a squishy lump below my belly on my right side. I pushed on it and pinched it and felt nothing; even as the heat poured thick and slowly over my head to my toes, I finished getting dressed and continued on with life. Believe me, I kept looking down, feeling around and investigating for weeks after the first discovery. Sometimes it was there, sometimes not. At some point I started to have pain and feel really sick and one morning at breakfast my dad saw me fidgeting and prodding and asked me what was wrong. Those of you who know me, know I could never play poker or any kind of game that had a need for secrecy. He knew I was infused within a lie and in less than an hour I came face to face with a specialist who had his hands around my waist and told me to cough. I looked down, then met his gentle stare and said,

“Well, it must have disappeared.”

“Cough please.”

His corner eyeball was an Olympic champion over my corner eyeball so he won the face-off.

“Cough Please.”

It turned out not only did I have one squishy lump I had two and was scheduled to go into surgery the next day. I was so terrified I cried, sobbed and blubbered like a lunatic for the rest of the day.  My dad, who by dinnertime looked a little bit like Charlie Brown after his 50th miss, asked me what would make me feel better. I told him a barbie doll and a prairie skirt. All night long I wailed and howled, 

“Prairie skirt!!” “Barbie!!”


I am not kidding. I will never forget it. I was terrified. 

Still, to this day, I have no idea what I was thinking about in terms of my requests, but when I came out of surgery I woke up all bleary-eyed and offended, yet my dad was right by my side and somehow Rocker Barbie was snuggling up in the crux of my left armpit. I have let the Prairie skirt go; he really had no clue what I was talking about.

The second Spirit moved me around age ten. I was still tireless and insatiable, but knew I would live another day.

WedMD was not around back then, but I had diagnosed myself with chronic stomach aches and headaches and I simply could NOT go to school. I could not, for one solitary second, succumb to the daily obligations put forth in front of me; my head hurt, I was sure I had a fever of a thousand degrees and if I even tried to go to school I’d throw up. This was a serious case and my father had no choice but to keep me home for as long as absolutely necessary. 

After this went on for days and days I woke up one morning before the sun rose to find my father hovering above me like a Holy Spirit in his robe, hair askew. He scowled, “Jessie, let’s go, Dr. Bernstein is waiting for us.”

Wait, what?

We drove in the dark, in silence.

What did I do?

As we slowly drove up into the rapidly glowing, sun-kissed cul de sac I realized my mistake.

My dad looked at me, nodded, and proceeded to leave the car and walk to the front  door of my pediatrician’s home. The door opened and the woman, who I had convinced myself was Glinda, listened to my dad, looked over at the car and then began to walk in my direction. 

I got out of the car and she asked me if I was okay. She checked my temperature and glands. 

I melted quickly in her arms like butter in a hot pan.

School was too much; friendship drama too much; nannies, too much; I missed my mom…it was all too much. 

My pediatrician, aka Glinda, in her satin robe made from a unicorn’s mane (She was Dr. Bernstein, she could have any kind of robe she wanted!!) told me she was always there for me and to try and go back to school. I would have a check-up in two weeks.

I saw my dad wink and nod at Dr. Bernstein. I saw her nod back. Both of them in cahoots in their robes. 

That night as I was getting ready for bed and flicking covers this way and that, making myself a cozy spot like a rotating tired mutt, I saw my dad looking down upon me once again; but this time his hair was tidy. He handed me a pen and showed me how it lit up at the tip. He said I should use it if I needed to write down my thoughts in the middle of the night or if there was ever a blackout and my message was needed for immediate governmental covert Intel. 

I still have this pen next to my bed. 

Whether it is a double hernia about to explode or a mock who knows what – it’s in there and needs to come out one way or the other.