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Uncomplicating Life

Posted on July 14, 2017 in Patient Stories

Patient is back to keeping up with her grandchildren after complex hernia repair at Fort Sanders Regional

There is a large and lush fig tree outside Norma Griffin’s home in Dandridge. An overhang of vines on the deck provides shade on a sunny day, and a mountain vista provides a scenic backdrop. It’s a peaceful place for Griffin to recover from successful hernia surgery at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center – and peace is welcome after several years of medical chaos.

“I felt well cared for,” Griffin says, reflecting on her treatment at Fort Sanders Regional, “very well cared for.”

Living with undiagnosed diverticulitis for years, Griffin first underwent emergency surgery to treat a ruptured colon while she was attending law school in Virginia. She wound up having a colostomy, a surgical procedure in which a piece of the colon is diverted to an artificial opening in the abdominal wall in order to bypass a damaged part of the colon. Griffin underwent additional surgeries over the years, including a reversal of the colostomy and total hysterectomy.

When an area on her abdomen began to swell last year, she ignored it. She didn’t feel well but assumed it was because she was adjusting to the physical demands of keeping her grandkids. Griffin didn’t know it at the time, but a complex hernia had developed at the site of surgical incisions.

“My life had changed; I’m now running after a five year old. I was doing things I hadn’t done in a long time,” she says, “doing more laundry, more lifting, and I just thought that’s what it was – strain from doing the kind of activity that I’m not used to doing.”

The symptoms became more intense and harder to ignore. “Eating was becoming uncomfortable, and movement was becoming uncomfortable, just day-to-day things.”

Griffin was referred to general surgeon Joel Bradley III, MD, who explained the hernia was the result of multiple surgeries and scar tissue the colostomy had left behind. Griffin and her husband had a lot of questions, and Dr. Bradley patiently answered them all. “He was very good to explain things, step by step,” Griffin says. “I just felt really, really comfortable with him. It mattered what I said.”

Dr. Bradley explains Griffin had what is commonly referred to as a “Swiss cheese hernia.” “The individual hernias are small, but when you add them all up they make a fairly large hernia,” he explains. “It’s one hernia, but it’s usually comprised of multiple small defects that look like a block of Swiss cheese with a bunch of little holes in it.”

Because of the complicated nature of the case, Dr. Bradley was assisted by Kris Williams, MD, a surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center. In the process, they discovered a second hernia had developed at the opening once created for Griffin’s colostomy.

“I really couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Griffin says. “The hospital staff was really, really good, and Dr. Bradley made me feel really comfortable.”

With her husband, grandchildren, coworkers and friends all counting on her, Griffin is glad to be better and happy to have her energy restored. But from her perspective, the most definite evidence of the surgery’s success was when she was able to carry out her own personal post-surgery ritual just a week after coming home from Fort Sanders Regional.

“When I come home, I don’t feel like I’m on the road to recovery till I have chicken and dumplings,” Griffin says with a laugh. “I had my chicken and dumplings, and all was right with the world.”

To learn more about surgery options at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, visit, or call (865) 541-1111.