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American Pie: Surgery On The Fast Track

...Two days later I was on my way home, with a mind clouded by drugs and medications that would take a week to disperse. The simplest task of hygiene or eating; or worse still, working on the computer, strained my mental processes and concentration to the limit. From the initial visit to Dr. Hackett, it had been less than a week!...

John Merchant emerges from hospital with a new hip.

So, its Sunday afternoon, and Im sitting at my computer, filling time until 3.30am tomorrow when Ill shower with the special soap they gave me, by-pass breakfast, and even deny myself as little as a glass of water. No, Im not going to the moon, or earth orbit, or anywhere glamorous.

Im heading to hospital to get a new hip, and I guess orthopedic surgeons like to get going early. Three years ago, when the surgeon and I got together to replace my left knee, he cheerfully predicted Id be back in a year to get my hip replaced. Well he underestimated the durability of my joint cartilage, what was left of it, but basically he was right.

It was only about a month ago that the nagging, toothache-like pain started. Initially, I dismissed it as just another symptom of too much action at the gym, and that it would fade in a week or so. But it didnt, and when it began to wake me at night, I knew it was going to be another When in doubt, cut it out experience.

I had seen doctor Hackett (not his real name) only last Tuesday, for the first time since my knee replacement. He hadnt changed much in the three intervening years; perhaps become a little less overbearing, but perhaps that was because I was a returning customer. In any case, I liked his brusque manner, and I think he knew that.

For longer than is normal these days, we chatted happily about Titanium prostheses versus stainless steel and porous Tantalum. He was building a house when last we met and its now complete, so he gave me a run-down on that.

A couple of X-rays and an MRI quickly confirmed the diagnosis, and hes asking me what I want to do about. Fix it I say. What about next Monday? his administrator asks. Though the rapidity of events knocked the wind from my sails. I readily agreed. The alternative could be a month-long wait; an eternity when one is in constant pain.

Even for a retired, old guy like me, life is full, so I spent the weekend worrying about all the things I should be doing in the next few days that would have to be put aside or reworked in some way. My column was due on Wednesday, and since I first began writing American Pie, I had never missed a deadline, through two knee replacements, house moves and other alarms and excursions.

Well, nobody could write it for me, and writing it myself was not on the cards, so Id have to trust in the understanding of my kindly editor, and miss an edition. Sorry, Peter. Also I had two important art exhibitions coming up, and needed to present my work for jurying. My always willing wife stepped into the breach without hesitation.

At 3.00am on Monday, I was out of bed and wide awake. Thirty minutes later I was showered, shaved and dressed, and wondering how I could fill the time til I left for the hospital. I tried the computer, but couldnt concentrate on correspondence, and Im no browser. Im in the middle of setting up a new computer for my wife, but though I enjoy it, it requires concentration, and I had little of that.

Soon enough we were on our way along the dark, deserted streets and highways for the 45 minute drive. The hospital at first seemed deserted too. An unmanned reception desk was supplemented by temporary cardboard signs, telling surgery patients where to go. Two floors up an elevator, then through a door into a receiving room, and once there, quickly beckoned into what turned out to be the pre-op suite.

In no time I was divested of my street clothes, draped in a gown, and heading into the maelstrom of tests tabulations and preparations. A needle in my fore arm was delivering saline and whatever else they wanted into my body before I hit the table. For the eighth or ninth time I was asked for my name, date of birth and which hip was being replaced.

Then it was Doctor Hackett asking the same question. Having heard my reply, he scrawled his signature across my hip with magic marker; just as unreadable as it would be on a prescription. Somewhere along the line they had introduced the memory blocker, and after a brief chat with the anesthesiologist I woke up in my hospital bed.

It was a few days later that I realized there was a gap in my recollection, and when I checked with my wife she said I had kissed her and told her I loved her, and been trundled off to the operating theater. After a surgery without complications, and hour in recovery, we were reunited in my room.

Two days later I was on my way home, with a mind clouded by drugs and medications that would take a week to disperse. The simplest task of hygiene or eating; or worse still, working on the computer, strained my mental processes and concentration to the limit. From the initial visit to Dr. Hackett, it had been less than a week!

Do I think that early release from hospital is a good thing? After three such experiences I say yes. It puts a certain amount strain on your family, but as long as they are prepared, its not unmanageable and home cooking is definitely a plus, for me anyway.

**

For more of John's words on medical matters and many other things please visit http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=john+merchant

And for a colourful display of ar works by John and his wife Sandra visit www.jonsangalleries.com



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