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Mountain Home Magazine

Let Me Outa This Joint

"Kiddo, we are out of options.” It’s bad enough to hear those words from your plumber or the Electoral College, but hearing them from an orthopedic surgeon is a major bummer.

The dour man in the white coat turned the screen so I would have full view of my crumbling right hip. We had tried everything; physical therapy, injections, heat treatments, and medication. But I hated the thought of giving up some of my original equipment. I believe you should go back to God at the end of your life with the same stuff He sent you out with. How else was I going to get my security deposit back?

“I’m too young for hip replacement,” I protested, but he shook his head. “You are right in the middle of the age spectrum. I’ve had thirty-year-olds do this.”

At last, I once again have something in common with a thirty-year old.

A blur of preoperative preparation later and it was the day of my surgery. Bob and I had attended “Joint Camp,” an anxious gathering of my fellow sufferers, and had most of our questions answered. Our home went through its own prep, with the area rugs coming up, walkers and canes installed, and the herd of cats lectured against “getting in Mommy’s way.”

With moments to go before my journey to the operating room, a charming nurse pushed “a little something to help you relax” into my IV port. Suddenly, the world looked like a Disney dream, complete with animation and musical score. The soap dispenser on the wall smiled at me, my Styrofoam slippers winked, and Jimmy Durante stuck his head in the door and gave a thumbs-up. I have the foggiest memory of propping up on my elbows and questioning, “When did they stripe this room? It looks awesome!”

Bob turned to the nurse and said, “She’s ready to go.”

“Rehab” is a deceptively nice word for a painful process that hurts the body and frustrates the mind, but I was determined to regain my mobility as soon as possible. The primary purpose for the facility I was in was long-term care, so me and my fifty-something age were in the minority. That didn’t stop the young activities director (and I mean young—I have black dress shoes that are older) from trying to engage me in the daily fun.

“Hi, Mrs. Barnes! Wow, you look wonderful today!” (I looked like death on a cracker, but the kid had a quota to meet.) “We are playing bingo today. Won’t you join us?”

I declined, but suggested if someone kicked off a round of Texas Hold ’em, give a shout. “Deuces and Queens are wild, opening bid is two pairs of support stockings.” She was not amused.

The only event I did roust myself out of my room for was a visit from the local animal shelter. I was having moderate-to-severe withdrawal from my kitties, so a few minutes with a sweet Labrador was just what the veterinarian ordered.

Of course, I made several trips to the “exercise room,” where a cheerful cast of therapists attempted to move my new hip via techniques I am quite sure the Geneva Convention had banned.

When your mobility is severely compromised, eating can become the highlight of the day. The food was good enough, but some of the menu selections brought forth an “Ummm...” more than a “Yummm...” One day, my half-sheet of dietary delights included the following: franks and beans with Brussels sprouts, chipped beef over toast with pickled beets, and stuffed cabbage casserole. Good Lord. I’m trapped in a middle school in 1954!

When the dietician came to pick up my menu, she said, “You haven’t selected anything.”

I said, “Forgive me, there is nothing on that summer camp menu I want to eat.”

“You have to eat to recover from your surgery.”

“No worries. I have activated the emergency response system. At this very moment, Seal Team Six is rappelling down the side of a pizzeria in an undisclosed location. In about twelve minutes, a flash bang is going to immobilize the nursing staff while the team breaches this window and hands me a large with pepperoni and extra cheese.” Health care workers can be so humorless. I bet they eat the food.

The pizza did appear as predicted, though in the hands of my dear friend Eleanor, who looked at my menu choices and shook her head. “And they wonder why old people are cranky,” she said. The next night my husband secured his nomination as best spouse ever by showing up with my favorite entrée from a Valley restaurant. Between a steady flow of contraband and the occasional lucky find on the menu, my cupboard was never bare.

I recovered fully and now enjoy setting off the theft alarms on my way into various stores while yelling, “Haven’t had time to steal anything! It’s just my hip!” Seriously. I now carry a card in my wallet to validate that that part of my anatomy came, not from the mind of God, but from a factory in Warsaw, Indiana. Wonder if the vending machine there doles out chipped beef?

So, if joint replacement is in your future, fear not, I am here to help you plan. Bring comfy clothes, have faith in your surgeon, do your exercises, and pack a lunch.

And a breakfast.

And a dinner... 

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