Glendale resident Maria Demestihas holds a photo of her husband Nicholas at their home on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Nicholas attempted to perform surgery on himself last weekend with a 6-inch butter knife. (

Glendale resident Maria Demestihas holds a photo of her husband Nicholas at their home on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Nicholas attempted to perform surgery on himself last weekend with a 6-inch butter knife. ( (Roger Wilson/Staff photographer)


For several days now, Maria Demestihas has been shuffling her way through the halls of Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, pleading desperately with doctors to remove a football-sized hernia protruding from her husband’s stomach.

Her husband, Nicholas Demestihas, gained worldwide notoriety last week when he attempted to cut out the large mass using a butter knife. Emergency crews rushed him to the hospital, where doctors addressed the knife wound, but left the hernia alone.

“The issue is the money because we don’t have insurance,” she said. “If he had insurance, they would do it right away.”

And at 63, he’s not old enough to qualify for Medicare services.

Adding to the drama is the fact that the hernia, Maria Demestihas said, exacerbates her husband’s schizophrenia, which doesn’t make it any easier to solicit surgery.

An Alhambra clinic once came close to removing the hernia, but doctors backed out of the operation due to his unstable behavior, she said.

The hernia emerged in 2005 after he punctured his stomach with a pointed object and received surgery that didn’t heal properly, she said.

Since then, Nicholas Demestihas has driven a nail into the growth, has tried to shave it off with a razor and punches it, his wife said. It all culminated in the incident this past Sunday, when police officers say they found him naked on the back porch, knife handle protruding from the hernia.

With the officers present, he removed the knife and shoved a cigarette he was smoking into the wound.

Doctors have since patched up the knife wound, but he remains in the hospital while his psychiatric needs are being addressed. Once he is stabilized, hospital officials plan to transfer him to the medical surgical unit, where a doctor will examine him and determine if an operation is needed, hospital spokeswoman Rosa Saca said.

The surgery typically takes up to 30 minutes, she added.

When reached for comment on a pay phone outside the hospital, Nicholas Demestihas said he was “doing alright.”

But Maria Demestihas said she fears her husband will attempt to cut out the hernia again if doctors don’t remove it this time.

Without meaningful progress this time around, she said she can’t take care of him. And even if she could, a dispute with their landlord means they soon may not have an apartment go to go back to.

“I understand he didn’t cut his intestines, but he is not mentally stable,” she said. “If he tried to do that, he will do it again.”