From Fort Sanders Regional Health & Lifestyles

An overhang of vines on the deck of Norma Griffin’s Dandridge home provides shade on a sunny day. 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.

Norma is keeping up with her grandkids again after complex hernia repair.

“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 5-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.”

She showed the bulge to her daughter, who instantly recognized it as a hernia. “My innards were coming out,” Griffin says with a chuckle.

Dr. Joel “Trey” Bradley, III

Griffin was referred to general surgeon Joel “Trey” Bradley III, MD, of Premier Surgical. He explained the hernia was the result of multiple surgeries and scar tissue the colostomy had left behind. She was impressed with his knowledge, and also impressed with his compassion.

“He doesn’t act like he has other people waiting behind you,” Griffin says. “He acts like he’s got time to talk to you, and he gives you his full attention.”

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.”

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

Griffin says Dr. Bradley came in early to check on her and made her feel like she was the “most important patient of the day.” She is now healed, is more active, and able to keep up with her grandchildren.

“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, co-workers 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 the hospital.

“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 abdominal wall reconstruction and Premier Surgical’s Complex Hernia Center, visit www.