Archive for November, 2009

Inside my body are two state of the art titanium hips. Medical science claims I could get 15, 20, maybe even 25 years of wear out of each hip (your actual mileage may vary).

Whatever performance I get from my fake hips, I can’t do anything post-surgery without the aid of some amazing gizmos. Yes, I’ve got technology galore inside my body, but just get a load of some of the advanced technologies I have to help me cope with everyday life.

The Hook-y Stick Tamp-y Pole

The Hook-y Stick Tamp-y Pole

While this contraption doesn’t look like much, it is an invaluable tool to someone who cannot bend over for fear of dislocating his new hip. Note the hook on one end– a brilliant design to hoist one’s loungewear up over foot, leg and on to waist landing area. Ummm, elastic hold me tightly– who needs a belt with you to comfort me?

Note the other end with a clever tamping device. Use it to take pants off, or reach and lift something up with the opposite side.

A stick has never been so useful, so essential, so absolutely crucial!

Perhaps the greatest invention of all time-- The Sock Putter-Onner!

Perhaps the greatest invention of all time-- The Sock Put-Er-Onner!

Imagine for just a moment you cannot bend over, yet you enjoy wearing socks– especially on your feet. You might think this an impossible task: putting socks on naked feet without bending over, but it CAN be done, Buster Brown!

With a clever design and advanced engineering that borders on magic, the incredible Sock Put-Er-Onner (my name) is perhaps the greatest invention of all time (it makes sliced bread look like a crappy invention– try getting a sock on with a slice of bread, it can’t be done!).

The Sock Put-Er-Onner is a hard plastic half-tube. You place your sock over it, put your foot in the sock and tube, grab both ends of the rope–with comfy soft spongy handles– pull upwards, and SHAZAM, you’re socked and stylin’ faster than you can say, “Hey, is the house on fire? Where’s all that smoke coming from, and what’s with those flames?!”

Eat your heart-out MacGyver, you’ve never done anything this inventive.

With the amazing Picker-Upper, you can pick stuff up without touching it!

With the amazing Picker-Upper, you can pick stuff up without touching it!

When you’re recouping after major surgery, you quickly come to an ugly truth: no matter what you want, it’s not close by.

No worries, not with the technological wonder I call The Picker-Upper. It lets your hand play like it’s operating one of those claw machines as you grab the trigger, approach the wanted object, squeeze it firmly but gently, grab and hoist the object back your way.

It’s invaluable for grabbing the TV remote, the phone, a bowling ball– whatever it is you want that you cannot bend over to get. I am so skilled with this device I’ve actually picked up a corn flake and a Cheerio and brought them back unharmed. You’ll want to test your skills, your dexterity as The Picker Upper makes grabbing things an exciting new sport.

These incredibly amazing devices are what make painful surgery worth it. Go ahead, schedule your procedure and get to work on your recouping games. It’s all we’ve got until we get better.

It beats going out the window.

It beats going out the window.

And so it came to pass– one titanium hip, two units of blood, enough morphine to keep Keith Richards happy for about eleven minutes, and only the phamacy knows how many Percocets later… I was ready to be discharged from Piedmont Hospital.

Piedmont is an excellent hospital, the attention is first rate and the food is entirely edible. I highly recommend it for all your surgical needs; I just don’t want to be admitted back into it any time soon. I was ready and eager to go home.

Just like on TV and in the movies, when it’s time to leave the hospital, you go in a wheelchair. This is probably to caution against patients doing leg-splits, acrobatics or stupid antics, hurting themselves and lawyering-up to sue and make a bundle. No worries for me. I was more than happy to roll-on out.

My hip surgery was Monday November 2, and my discharge date was Friday the 6th. A couple weeks before surgery I had received a letter from my insurance company informing me they were graciously granting me a two-day hospital stay. If it were up to the insurance company, I’m sure they’d have rathered that the procedure be drive-thru with no hospital stay.

But, the surgeon/doc had made the call for how long I stayed, and I guess the insurance company was picking up the tab. For the next six months, a mountain of medical paperwork will be making its way into our mailbox.

Now that I was free, I needed to be very careful getting around. Placing my sore body in and out of a car is like watching a Quaalude-influenced ballet. The car seat must be leaning back and pillows must pile the seat cushion. I must enter the car butt-first, plant butt slowly, pivot bad hip in very slowly, and cautiously pivot good hip in. Buckle up, raise the seat a bit, exhale and go.

I've pimped my ride with irony.

I've pimped my ride with irony.

For getting around, I have a walker. Yes, I own a walker. I bought it, and many other necessary contraptions, with my last hip replacement. This go ’round, at the suggestion of my home physical therapist (Ms. Bonnie), I have pimped my walker with a couple tennis balls.

I am now stealth on wooden floors with my walker– like a Navy Seal in my ability to advance quietly. But when I see the tennis balls, I have ironic flashbacks to the orginal diagnosis of my arthritis. (WAVY LINES, WAVY LINES, SFX: HARP MUSIC)…

Ten years ago, I played a lot of tennis in two different leagues. I had been playing for years, and suddenly my knees hurt. I went to see my G.P doc. He X-rayed the knees and told me I had arthritis. “Should I give up tennis?” I asked.
“No,” he told me in his honey-smooth Southern accent, “not as long as you don’t overdo it.” He wrote me a script for a steady diet of arthritis drugs, and off I went to play more tennis.

A year and a half later, my hips were killing me, so I went to see my doc. He X-rayed them and told me that I now had arthritis in my hips, too. “Should I give up tennis?” I asked again.
“No,” he said, “not as long as you don’t overdo it… and if you do have pain, then maybe we might wanna oughta get you some stronger medications.”

Suddenly it hit me: I was taking medical advice from a guy who says “maybe we might wanna oughta.” So I thought maybe I might wanna oughta get a second opinion.

I took my X-rays to a doc who specializes in arthritis. He looked at them and somberly said, “It’s not a question of if you’ll need hip replacements but when you’ll need hip replacements.”
“Should I give up tennis?” I asked. The doctor looked at me like I was the village idiot on a particularly slow day.

Soon I'll raise a cane.

Soon I'll raise a cane.

“You play tennis? That’s the worst thing you could do with arthritis,” he said sternly. “The human skeletal structure is not designed for lateral motion, and sudden starts and stops on hard surfaces are horrible for your joints. Yes, you should give up tennis immediately.”

No maybe… no might… no wanna… no oughta. NO TENNIS!

I retired immediately.

Many say the game hasn’t been the same since. They say my 34 mph serves and punishing 28 mph volleys were a major attraction for all fans, not to mention my slow advancements to the net so my opponent could slam a ball 126 mph at my noggin. Alas, go I must and go I did.

Now I have tennis balls on my walker. I roll with sweet, sweet irony, baby….

I've got to give myself shots to the belly.

I've got to give myself shots to the belly.

The road to recovery is littered with many things, spent hypodermics for example.

To combat the danger of blot clots, I have to give myself a small shot of blood thinner in my belly fat (good thing I’ve been stockpiling the stuff). The magic elixir enters the blood stream and orders all blood cells to “Keep it movin’, folks, nothing to see here. Get on back to work! Don’t be clustering all together. Break it up, break it up!”

In the hospital, the shots are administered every 12 hours. Once sprung from here, I will have daily shots. It will go on like this for 28 days following surgery.

They tell me I’m getting better. My hemoglobin count is up, the doctor says I may get out on Friday. My surgery was Monday, my freedom may be Friday.

I’m ready. I’ve heard there is air out there. Free air, and free air is the best air to breathe.

Proof that perhaps I should have been in the psych ward...

Proof that perhaps I should have been in the psych ward...

For many years, I have played a silly little joke for no good reason other than the amusement that I only receive in my imagination.

It goes like this: if I am in a room with a dry erase board, I like to write AVOID THE BOLLINGER EFFECT on the board before leaving. My unrequited amusement is imagining the people coming into the room later, reading the “Bollinger Effect” caution on the board and wondering what it means.
“‘Avoid the Bollinger effect’– what’s that?”
“I dunno. Probably some new corporate initiative.”
“Yeah, sounds about right.”
“Who’s Bollinger?”
“Got me. Any idea what the ‘effect’ is?”
“How am I supposed to know? I get like 140 e-mails a day– I’m not about to read all of them word-for-word…”
“O.K., I get it, you’re busy. I’m busy, too. But if we see the effect, we’d better avoid it.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’m all about avoiding the Bollinger Effect.”

And so on.

Well, mid-way through my hospital stay I decided to write AVOID BOLLINGER EFFECT on the dry erase board in my room. Why?

Boredom? Silliness? A bad case of the smart ass?

Your diagnosis, doctor. Writing it did make me feel better, though.

Believe it or not, one day after total hip replacement surgery, physical therapists will come around, get you out of bed, put you behind a walker and make you take some steps all by yourself— just like the big boys and big girls do!

No, you won’t be doing tap steps, soft shoes or leg kicks like a Rockette, but you will be taking Frankenstein-like motions forward, ably assisted by your trusty walker.

The highest seat in the land.

The highest seat in the land.

It feels good to be up out of bed, even if it is just to sit in a tall seat. Why a tall seat and elevated toilet seat? Why are you advised to place pillows on any seat? Because for the next 12 weeks, you must adhere to strict HIP PRECAUTIONS. If you do not follow these rules, your pretty new titanium hip could get dislocated. You do not want to double down on your pain.

Here’s the rules you MUST obey:
1. Don’t bend your operated hip beyond 90 degrees (sitting low is asking for trouble)
2. Do not cross your legs
3. Do not turn your operated leg foot inward

Think carefully before you pivot or bend to pick-up something. Guide yourself into a chair slowly and use your arms to lift yourself out of a chair. Take it easy on that hip! Suffice to say, doing cartwheels and summersaults are not advised (pity, that).

You can do it, yes you can!

You can do it, yes you can!

Adhere to the rules, they are your friends.

Two days after your hip surgery, you are encouraged to go for a longer walk– down the hospital hallway. It’s like walking The Green Mile, only not so green and not quite a mile long.

You move slowly forward, heel to step and go and go. Soon you’re eating up linoleum at a glacial pace. Your walker’s wheels are warming, your new hip is slowly getting broken-in. You’re smokin’, babe, you’re smokin’!

Three days after surgery, you are encouraged to do what seems impossible: go up and down stairs.

When you first look upon the stairs, they appear like Mt. Everest, without the snow. You cannot imagine making this journey solo, but your physical therapist becomes Knute Rockne and gives you faith– makes you believe in yourself.

Come, ascend into thin air...

Come, ascend into thin air...

For this journey you have two basic rules:
1. When going up, lead with your strong leg
2. When coming down, lead with your operated leg– very carefully

Hold the handrail and use your folded walker as a support. And whatever you do, do it slowly. You do not want to end up another senseless stairway casualty.

You do as instructed, your physical therapist cheering you on, and amazingly it works. You go up, you come down. You can do the impossible. You are truly incredible! You are absolutely amazing! You are a physical dynamo!

You are also tired as hell. You hobble back to bed anxiously awaiting your next dosage of pain meds. As the ancients said (after their hip surgeries), “The journey of 1,000 miles begins one pain-filled step after another.”

The cell has few bars, but you're not going anywhere anyway.

The cell has few bars, but you're not going anywhere anyway.

“Whaddya in for?” asks the inmate.
“Hip replacement. And you?”
“Ain’t none of your bee’s wax,” he says whittling a bar of soap into a hotel-size bar of soap. “Just never you mind,” he says as he rides a goat on a merry-go-round and his head goes Linda Blair in The Exorcist as unicorns dance a jig on hind legs and penguins play saxes and do backflips.

I wake up. It’s another nurse. She wants blood. Tie-me-off-and-jab-and-ouch-and-tape- the-bleeding-hole and I’m back to sleep again. Then woken-up in a couple hours to have my blood pressure and temperature taken.

And I go back to sleepville for a few hours until the nurse and an assistant come to prop me on my side placing pillows at my back for support.

Plus sign = Less pain!

Plus sign = Less pain!

Throughout it all, I maintain a four hour watch for “Daddy’s Little Helpers.” I’m off the morphine drip but I need something to take the edge off.

I had asked to get my pain pills every four hours, but sometimes they will miss a feeding. I learned with my last hip replacement, you never ever ever want to get behind in your pain meds. Once you get behind, it’s hell getting back to the joy of dull pain instead of suffering agonizing pain. The meds are for pain management, not enjoyment. There is no enjoyment in hip replacement surgery–I think some president may have said that.

On my legs are air-powered wraps that work pressure up and down the limbs to keep blood moving. A big danger following any operation is blood clots. These leg-air-wrappies work to alleviate that threat. And they feel good, to boot.

Another thing to reduce the risk of blood clots is giving myself daily shots in my belly with small hypos of a magic blood thinning medicine. I must do these for 30-straight days and the shots do not feel nearly as good as the leg wraps do.

So slow this time does go so slow.

So slow this time does go so slow.

During the day, I face perhaps the ultimate painful challenge– finding something decent to watch on TV. I grip the remote and channel surf up and down like an anteater in search of just one tiny morsel to enjoy. But there is little entertainment nourishment to be found.

Come mealtimes, I search the hospital menu. It reads well, but none of the food delivers on the deliciousness of the thought of said meal. I can’t say it’s bad food, who knows, maybe the drugs have altered my taste buds. I keep playing menu roulette and am served plate after plate of disappointment.

I read. Books comfort me. But I have not chosen happy literature. “Cold Spring Harbor” by Richard Yates, a brilliant writer but not a pick-me-up kind of storyteller. My other book is the last known journal of Richard Brautigan. Not long after writing this journal, Brautigan pulled his own plug. Hmm, maybe I should have packed something a little lighter.

It doesn’t matter. At this point it’s all about serving your time until they spring you. I’m serving hard time, hospital time– where every hour takes four hours to complete.