[It’s Memorial Day weekend when we remember our fallen heroes. For some reason I am remembering when I first got my new hip. I now have a matched set. SB SM]
As publisher of The Silverback Digest, I’ve struggled to reconcile my recent encounter with the health care system with my environmental philosophy. There comes a time when the male of the species realizes that the herd has left him behind. As the lions circle and the hyenas hang back to pick off the stragglers, the herd takes off in magnificent unison. A single one lags behind, a fringe of grey around his muzzle, hobbling to keep up. That would be me.
The lions and hyenas lick their chops.
My strategy regarding the health care system in America can be summarized succinctly: “Avoid it at all costs.” Thus, I was in a dilemma when an orthopedic surgeon told me that my old hip had worn out.
“Should I get a second opinion,” I asked.
“Only if you like having the same thing twice,” he said.
I countered with “Food is my medicine. Can I eat my way out of this?” He shook his head.
“Can I exercise my way out of it?”
I am now officially the straggler. No matter how tough and stringy the carcass, it looks tasty to the lions and hyenas out there.
“What are my options?”
“Continued pain and deterioration,” said my doctor, “or a nice new, synthetic hip.”
Hello, traditional health care! Howyadoin’? Bionic hip replacement, here I come.
My doctor is tall, good-looking, has white, even teeth, diplomas up the ying-yang, and the sublime self-assurance of someone who knows he is a superior human being. He uses big words as if he knows what they mean, even if he knows that I am nodding in dumb agreement. While I would resent these qualities in a next door neighbor, I am happy to have a smart-ass, on-top-of-the-world surgeon, brimming with confidence. I hope his wife is beautiful, his children perfect, and his car pretentious.
The surgery went fine. I will spare the horrific details of what they did to the holy temple of my body, but in less than two hours I was sitting up happily pressing on my self-administered morphine drip. My care was turned over to the hospital staff, whose collective job is to get you out of the hospital as soon as possible. The liberating event is dependent on passing a two question quiz.
“Did you pee?” and “Did you poop?” Of course, they have fancier terms. I could write an entire essay on the importance of stool softeners, but I can’t imagine any subject that could get you to hit delete faster.
After 36 hours the health care system was ready to return me to the cruel world of decent food and afternoon television. I left with of Chinese-made gew-gaws that looked to have been purchased from a late night cable TV info-mercial. “And if you place your order within the next ten minutes for your Deluxe Home Hipster Kit you will receive not only the Super-Stretch Shoe Horn, the Sock-a-Matic, the Gizmo Grabber, AND the Extend-a-Throne toilet.
Next, my care has been turned over to … (cheesy background music, please) … visiting nurses. No term is more provocative to the male libido than “visiting nurses.” Well, maybe “twins,” or “stewardesses,” or the “Swedish National Bikini Team” but guys know what I’m talking about. You’ve been reading about them since those steamy Grade B novels in the 1950s. The nurse comes in, acting all buttoned up and professional. You’re sitting there, vulnerable in your bathrobe and three-day stubble, ready to be taken advantage of.
For the record I had two visiting nurses, an RN and a Physical Therapist. Both nurses were completely professional, but that’s part of the ruse. They changed the dressing of my wound, gave me exercises, and explained my medications. They were quite complimentary about my progress. That was enough, even in my weakened state, to tickle my vanity.
After each session I was asked to sign off on what we had done. The notes were cryptic and scrawled. Maybe it was code. I did note the frequent use of “SS” which I took to be the abbreviation for Super Star or perhaps the more provocative Super Stud. The next time I was asked to sign off, I pointed to the “SS” and asked my physical therapist. “And this is short for … ? “Stool Softener,” she answered without hesitation.
Somewhere out there in The Jungle, a visiting nurse is laughing her ass off at this.