GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Ed Salm from Valders isn’t your typical 86-year-old. He finds ways to stay active no matter what, but Salm’s vibrant lifestyle was in jeopardy last year when those activities started to come with more pain than pleasure.
“Well, I still did activities, but not at such a hot, fast pace,” Salm said. “You just gotta slow down and I did that as long as I could before I had to go have the operation.”
There’s not much that can slow Salm down, no matter what the limitations are.
“We came up with that noodle and that balloon, playing volleyball with the balloon,” Salm chuckled about an improvised game he plays with those not quite as agile in their 80s as he is. Indoor volleyball, played with fly swatters and a balloon in the sunroom, is another of Salm’s creative ways to stay active.
Growing up on a local farm with 14 brothers and sisters, Salm knows all about working hard and playing hard.
“That’s how we always were. Even when I was young on a farm, we did that,” Salm explained. “We played basketball up in the barn. For our hoop, we had a wooden cheese box that we nailed to the beam.”
Last year, however, Salm noticed a sudden pain in his abdomen when he lifted something heavy. Salm had developed a hernia.”
“A hernia’s a weakness in the wall of a structure,” explained Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a general surgeon with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. “We typically see hernias in the wall of the abdomen.”
Johnson says what Salm experienced is a common symptom of a hernia.
“Some people will have that happen where they say, ‘I lifted something really heavy. I felt this tearing sensation and then I looked down and there was a bulge,’” Johnson said.
She says getting a hernia is not necessarily an emergency, but it can be.
“The important thing is that if someone knows that they have a hernia and it’s suddenly firm, painful, and hard, that’s something we need to look at right away,” Johnson advised
Johnson repaired Salm’s hernia with robotic-assisted surgery. The procedure requires smaller incisions, meaning less pain and faster recovery time.
“For someone like Ed who’s active and that’s what’s keeping him healthy, the last thing we want to do is say, ‘Well, sorry now Ed, you’ve got a hernia. I don’t want you to lift anything for the rest of your life and I don’t want you to be as active,’ because we know that telling people to be less active has some pretty significant implications for their overall health.”
Salm did have to take it easy to recover after surgery, which he readily admits is not easy for him.
“I don’t like to sit,” he said. “I like to be up doing things.”
After about six weeks, Salm was back up to his old activities again and even learning some new ones.
“Pickleball,” Salm explained. “My brother was up here this summer and he got us going with it.”
After all, he’s got 13 grandchildren to keep him busy.
“We play all the same things with them when they come,” Salm chuckled. “Little kids play right with us.”