Dr. Steven Merrill

Today’s Provo Daily Herald has an interesting article about Dr. Steven Merrill, an internal medicine physician who was drafted as a young man to serve in the Vietnam War.

Lindon doctor tells of miracles and mayhem during his service in Vietnam

He tells some interesting stories, such as an account of two drunk soldiers who ingested vodka and C-4 explosive putty, but that’s not the reason I’m writing about him.

About four years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. I was running three days a week and swimming three days a week, and lifting weights six days a week. I was at my goal weight, I had built up some muscles, and I was in very good cardiovascular condition. But sometime over Christmas break, I developed a pain in my lower right abdomen. Most days I could go to work, but I would come home and lie down immediately; other days the pain was bad enough that I just stayed in bed. I went to my regular doctor several times, but he couldn’t find any problems. The pain was in the same general area of a hernia I had repaired some ten years previously, but x-rays and scans showed the mesh panel in there was holding up just fine.

A few times the pain was so bad that I went to the ER. Each time, they would do an x-ray or a CT scan and find nothing, so I would go home frustrated and discouraged. My wife encouraged me to get a second opinion and then a third and then a fourth. No one could find anything, so the doctors’ consensus was that I would have to see a pain-management specialist and learn to live with it. I was discouraged and ended up getting a TENS unit to manage the pain, but life was pretty miserable. My wife, however, refused to give up and insisted I see another doctor.

That’s how I ended up in Dr. Merrill’s office some nine months after the pain had started. He walked in the door, and I immediately wondered if I was wasting my time. He was elderly and had a lot of hair growing out of his ears, and as I recall, he was wearing cowboy boots. He opened the folder full of my previous scans and x-rays and said, “You know you have a hernia, right?” No, I did not. He then poked his finger up through the pelvic opening and said, “Does this hurt?” Why, yes, it did. “You need surgery,” he said, giving me the name of a surgeon who he said was “the best in Utah County.” My wife and I were almost in tears because we finally had an answer.

When we saw the surgeon, he asked us why we had waited so long to go to the doctor. I told him I was just grateful that Dr. Merrill had figured out what was wrong with me. He told us Dr. Merrill was one of the good ones. I heartily agreed. Immediately after the surgery, I felt better than I had before, and after a few days’ recovery, I was back to normal.

It was a good lesson to me never to judge someone by their appearance and, especially, never to give up until you have an answer.

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5 Responses to Dr. Steven Merrill

  1. jiminpanama says:

    Amazing what a “hands on exam” can do. Age and wisdom beats youth and high tech. In my paramedic trading we were always drilled to touch the patient. Look for things. Visual and tactile. Still holds true.

  2. vikingz2000 says:

    I have lots of hair growing out of my ears, I’m old, and I had a hernia operation a long time ago at the world renowned Shouldice hospital north of Toronto (“7,000 hernia repairs every year, with an unparalleled track record of success.”). Glad to hear that all went well! P.S. After I had the operation I gave up Tae Kwon Do; I think really pushing it with all of the stretching exercises in order to do a 180 split (think Claude Van Damme) did me in. Know your limits!

    • runtu says:

      I wasn’t meaning to suggest that the ear hair was a bad thing, just that I made a snap judgment that turned out to be completely wrong.

      • vikingz2000 says:

        Trust me, ear hair is a *bad* thing! – LOL! I have resorted to tweezing it, which needs to be done about every two or three weeks. Ugh! Although the thought has occurred to me of letting it grow for a long while, then take a Bic lighter and setting the ‘bush’ on fire in a quick fizz. However, I let go of that thought because it may be like lighting a wick into my head and my brain could explode.

  3. anon nona says:

    Took seven years to get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacks all muscles, including organs. Dermatomyositis. I figured it out three years ago but could not convince any doctor, all doctors just looked at blood work and not symptoms, nor physical changes and obvious physical signs. The very last doctor I swore I would ever go to (I resigned myself to being bedridden and an early death) took one look at my physical symptoms, ignored all the fancy blood tests. Yep, I had it. Started treatment immediately. No cure, will never regain strength or stamina, treatment makes me very sick, but treatment will slow progression and early death. Treatment also breaking the bank even with insurance, but hey, that is alright, and within six months should see improvements. Treatment is immunoglobulin (plasma) therapy by intravenous line, two days, once per month. For life. Can’t work anymore either, no energy or strength to do what I love: hiking, swimming, biking, weight lifting, walking dogs, outdoor work, gardening, horse back riding, bowling, tennis. Sucks. But could be worse.

    Also recently had spine surgery for ruptured discs.

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