Hindman eager to resume duties after surgery

Gentle exercise and little food are part of his slow recovery from surgery.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:05 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Weighing about 20 pounds less than when he went to Pittsburgh for surgery last month, Mayor Darwin Hindman is back and already receiving calls involving city business.

But Hindman is not rushing back into public activities and is not sure when he will fully return to his duties as mayor.

“The doctor has warned me not to overdo it and get plenty of rest, and I intend to slowly work back in,” he said Tuesday in a phone interview. As he heals, he will slowly resume his normal schedule, he said.

“I think part of it will be how I feel, and we’re trying to be on the conservative side,” he said.

Hindman returned to Columbia on Monday afternoon. Hindman, 70, spent more than a month staying at a friend’s house while recovering from the July 7 surgery, which he underwent to avoid developing esophageal cancer.

Although he hasn’t kept a close eye on City Council business, Hindman said he thinks Mayor Pro Tem Jim Loveless has done well in conducting council meetings.

One difference Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash has noticed during Hindman’s absence is that council meetings have been a bit shorter, owing to Hindman’s more thorough approach in discussing council issues, he said. Loveless “tries to keep things moving at a pretty good clip,” he said.

As a rookie councilman, Ash said he would also be happy to have Hindman’s veteran perspective to turn to at coming council discussions over such issues as hiring a new municipal judge and annexing the Philips tract.

“He’s kind of been the heart and soul of the council, so it would be good to have him back,” Ash said.

Earlier this summer, Hindman spent a long time thinking about whether to undergo the surgery after doctors found some cancerous cells in his esophagus in May. No tumor had been detected in Hindman, but he decided the surgery, which involves replacing the esophagus with part of the stomach, would be the best course of action for avoiding a particularly deadly form of cancer.

“The process of this surgery is pretty dramatic, and it will have some long-term effects, I assume,” he said. “But I can’t help but be pleased that I don’t have to worry about this particular cancer spreading.”

Hindman had the surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center by James Luketich, who specializes in a minimally invasive version of the procedure performed through many small incisions.

One complication arose a little more than a week after the surgery, when an incision in Hindman’s neck started to leak. He was given clearance to come home a few days ago when doctors determined that the wound had completely healed. When the leakage occurred, Hindman’s diet had mainly been restricted to clear liquids such as Jell-O and ice chips, but it has since been expanded to include soup, crackers, cottage cheese and extremely well-cooked meat.

“Basically, anything you can squeeze through a tube,” Hindman said. Spicy foods, raw vegetables and most meats are still off-limits, he said.

“Eventually, I should be able to eat anything,” he said, although his meals will probably always be smaller than those he ate before the surgery.

In addition to choosing his meals from an expanded menu, Hindman’s also been getting some exercise by taking short walks about three times a day. Relative to other patients, Hindman said his recovery process is going well. But it’s still been difficult, he said.

“When you’re healing, it never seems to go all that fast,” he said.

While staying with friends in Pittsburgh, Hindman received “at least a couple hundred and probably more” get-well cards from Columbia residents. Hindman said he and his wife, Axie, appreciated the support.

“It really has improved things sometimes when we’re down a little bit. It really helps,” he said. “I’m just proud to be a Columbian and looking forward to getting back to being mayor again.”

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