Hans Rueffert is no stranger to surgeries. He has battled cancer for years, traveling often to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Texas, where surgeons have cut into, pulled out and inserted things into pretty much every part of his body.
His most recent surgery, and by far the most painful, removed his stomach.
Although this may seem unimaginable to most of us, especially considering Hans is a chef whose passion for food is well known both locally and nationally, perhaps the most unbelievable and admirable thing is how he has maintained a positive attitude throughout his ordeal.
“I’m optimistic that this is the one surgery,” Rueffert said Monday on a call from his hospital room. “We tried hard to save the stomach and esophagus, but when they just went ahead and went stomach-less, it should fix the problems.”
Hans keeps everyone updated through his blog at and his report from Sunday provides good insight into his surgery.
He wrote: “I don’t have a stomach. The genuine simplicity of that truism continues to surprise me as we work toward finally escaping this hospital. I was being ‘fed’ through my veins via TPN (total parenteral nutrition), but that has been gradually tapered off and we’ve begun using a nutrient and calorie dense fluid pumped in through my J-tube (jejunal tube… comes in to the left of my belly button).”
Although the “milkshake” being pumped into him for nourishment keeps him alive, he said on his blog it looks like a melted “Frosty” from Wendy’s and doubted it had any redeeming flavor. In an earlier tweet, he lamented, “I just felt the urge to tackle someone for their chocolate milkshake. I’ve never tackled anyone for anything – depravation inspires strange.”
Rueffert said in the phone interview that the medical technology involved inspires awe, even with it’s gruesome nature.
“I have been cut in four different areas to make all this come together,” he said. “It’s science fiction but it’s all working now.”
Rueffert said he could go for weeks or months with nutrition being funneled through his “gut” via the J-tube, and the longer they allow his “new” digestive tract to heal, the better.
“Emotionally I’m ready to eat but mentally I know it’s best to give it some time to ensure my custom digestive run to thoroughly heal,” he wrote on the blog. “While my digestive tract heals on the inside, I still have a good deal of structural healing to do as well. I need to draw a diagram of this surgery at some point, but essentially there were four surgery ‘fields’ in this epic operation. There’s the thoracotomy where they went in through my back, just under and around my right shoulder. I’m losing count, but I think they’ve been in through that area about five times. They had to go into my upper left thigh to harvest and ‘borrow’ some blood vessels that were used to supply blood to the piece of jejunum that they took out of my belly. It’s that long incision that’s hurting me this morning. It’s starting to improve but the approximate 8” cut that snakes around my navel makes me sitting up a challenge.”
He continues on the blog, “Lastly, the cut in through the front of my neck is still full of staples and stitches. I think those will finally be removed on Wednesday (13th), which should finally offer me some relief from the constant tension in that soft tissue. It all hurts, and it will for some time.”
“I’m not holding my breath, but the rumor round the nursing station is that I’m getting out of here soon…LET’S GO,” Rueffert wrote on his impending release from the hospital to a connected hotel. He has since relocated to the hotel.
Rueffert said he has been awed by all the support he and his family has received.
“It’s incredible when someone gets sick and the whole town rallies behind him. There may be other places like this, but it is amazing. If we could bottle this up and sell it….”
Rueffert said he doesn’t need any balloons or flowers but asks everyone to eat at The Woodbridge Inn, his family’s restaurant, to help with the finances.
Copies of Rueffert’s book, Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow where he details his health battles and love of food are available at the Pickens Progress, Jasper Drug Store and the Woodbridge.