Learn more about David's story at UPMC

Complex Hernia Repair: David’s Story

The 40-plus years David Graham spent working in steel mills, pipe shops, railroad and scrap yards took a toll on his body. Muscles weakened by decades of physical labor left him vulnerable to hernias.

In March 2014, the New Wilmington resident had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia. Six months later, he had surgery to repair another hernia, followed by additional surgeries in 2015 and 2016 to repair three more hernias.  “They just kept popping up,” says David, 64. “It felt like Velcro ripping.”

The Division of General Surgery at UPMC Passavant offers comprehensive and experienced surgical care. Learn more about its services. 

A hernia develops when an internal organ pushes through a tear or weak spot in the muscle or tissue holding it in place. Most hernias occur in the abdomen or groin area, and at scars from previous surgeries. Hernia repair surgery — one of the nation’s most common general surgery procedures — puts the organ back in place and fixes the tear.

When David’s sixth hernia appeared in early 2018, he was referred to Kevin O. Garrett, MD, a board-certified general surgeon and chair of the Department of Surgery at UPMC Passavant, who treats complex hernias, including recurrent incisional hernias.

“Dr. Garrett explained that the muscle kept giving out alongside the incision,” says David. After examining him and reviewing his medical records, Dr. Garrett opted to use traditional open surgery, instead of a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure, to repair the hernia, reconstruct the abdominal wall, and insert a mesh, which will eventually dissolve, to provide support during the healing process.

Although it was considered major surgery, the March 26 procedure took less than two hours. David’s wife, Margaret, stayed by his side throughout his week-long recovery at Passavant.

“Dr. Garrett and his team were on top of things and did such a good job of managing his pain,” says Margaret. “They watched over him and did a great job of explaining things. It was very comforting.”

David returned home to New Wilmington, where he has followed Dr. Garrett’s orders to “take it easy.” An avid outdoorsman, he has eased back into fishing and looks forward to hunting again in the fall (though he plans to leave the heavy lifting to his younger hunting companions).

“I feel 100 percent. I’m so grateful to Dr. Garrett for repairing my hernia and the great staff at Passavant for making my entire experience so pleasant,” says David.


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