Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hip-hip hooray! Replacement surgery a smooth ride


     “Another one of those chopped-up weeks,” said Sam, a friendly Metra conductor on the 6:26, when asked how it’s going.
     ”Exactly!” I enthused, delighted at his unintentional double entendre.
      He meant New Year’s Day coming midweek, like Christmas, breaking up his December schedule. I was thinking of why I was on an early train: to head to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to be cut open, the second time in six months.
     ”Chopped up” is not a polite description of the surgical process, ignoring the years of laborious training doctors go through, the great skill and care they exhibit. I apologize for that. But humor is essential for getting through even a fairly simple operation, like having my arthritic hip replaced with an artificial one. In the weeks up to the event, I developed a patter to explain to friends and, more importantly, try to convince myself just how easy hip surgery is.
      ”The thing is very quick,” I’d say. “You stroll in to the hospital, stop at a mark on the corridor floor. A medical team rushes out, like a pit crew at the Indy 500 changing a tire. One yanks your pants down, another swabs the affected area with Bactine. Meanwhile, the surgeon ambles by, whips out a knife, makes a few Hibachi chef-slicing motions — shwick, shwick, shwick — your old hip is glistening on a metal tray, and the new one is slapped in. Up go the pants, the surgeon puffs on his fingertips and strolls off in one direction while you stride happily away in the other.”
     The reality was a bit more complicated. At Northwestern, we were given a number on a card, which my wife tucked away.
      ”944091!” a compact young woman in green scrubs announced. My wife fumbled in her purse, but the card eluded her fingers for a moment, prompting the woman to call out “Steinberg!”
     We sprang up, babbling apologies. She marched us int o a room, ordered me to undress, followed by more instructions, with the air of a drama student in an acting class challenged to express contempt through a set of ordinary commands: “Take your clothes off.” “Put them in this bag.” “Put this under your tongue” and such. My wife and I exchanged glances. Maybe we’d picked the wrong day to do this.

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  1. Glad ur ok. I dig these columns especially b/c this stuff is my future, I presume. And thank you for keeping NU hospital staff properly occupied this year, Devil's hands and all that. This is literally the anniversary of my first colonoscopy (s/o Rush Oak Park), the one and only time I "went under." I'm always curious about procedural details but also try not to let them frighten me. Here, I was OK until the needle to the stomach bit. I"m like "Maybe I'll just learn to limp." Nah: when the time comes I'll buckle down, knowing I heard enough about it from a columnist I trust & not some stranger on Google. Thanks again.

  2. I am so glad the surgery and recovery went well.
    Thanks for posting about this in detail, both because medical things fascinate me and because I may well be hobbling and samba-ing in your footsteps one day. Good to know how it works.

  3. One night in the hospital for a new hip? Wow, that's...efficient.

    Glad it went so well. May you be free of complications, including getting through metal detectors.

  4. Excellent result! A very interesting synopsis of your hip replacement experience. Curious how the anesthesiologist says it's not a "general anesthetic" but somehow it acts just like one: you wake up after it's all over. The same thing has happened to me, several times.

  5. In 2011, as a result of extreme back pain I saw an orthopedic surgeon, who after taking pictures of my deteriorating lower spine, recommended surgery, cautioning that postponing it could lead to paralysis. The X-ray was a comical first for me: the nurse directed me to stand in front of the machine and then said, “Drop your pants.” The resulting photos along with the Surgeon’s admonition persuaded me. I agreed to the surgery and he referred me to a colleague for an epidural to relieve the current pain. After scheduling everything, the image of having someone stick a big needle in my spine gave me second thoughts. Maybe acupuncture would be worth a try. After a few acupuncture sessions, the pain subsided. Exercise that the acupuncture doctor gave me on 11/11/11, the her last day before returning to China, staved off further difficulties until last year, when I experienced similar but somewhat different pain for which the very same surgeon recommended physical therapy. The therapy didn’t seem to have any lasting effect, but immediately after my last session, the pain went away completely. I expect a recurrence some time — the surgeon cautioned against thinking myself “cured,” but I’m still doing those exercises, basically leg lifts, and hoping for the best.


  6. You didn't pick the wrong day, Mr. S. You just got the wrong nurse. Did someone pee in her corn flakes or what? What possible reason did she have for being so bitchy?


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