It's 4 a.m. and I hear a knock at the door. It's Bill Miser, friend and driver, who will take me to Sierra Surgery Hospital for my hip replacement procedure. Bill flew helicopters for the L.A. Fire Department for 30 years before settling in Smith Valley. Now, he drives anyone who wants a ride, or moral support, to the hospital. I need both.
Bill and I check in at the front desk at the hospital. It's 5:30 a.m. Paperwork done, I'm soon sitting in a pre-op cubicle wearing a tragically revealing, open-in-the-back gown. A young nurse is preparing me for my procedure. Bill and I induce a modicum of levity, to ease the tension. The nurse says, "Oh darn, I got the needle in on my first try," and she attaches an I.V. tube. Minutes later, wife Orllyene, son Randy, and good friend Marilyn wish me well. I can tell by the look in their eyes they know I need their support. The dreaded moment is here.
During our first meeting with Dr. Martin Anderson, I mention that I was once a dancer on the Perry Como TV show and ask if he could play Perry's music during my operation. "My new I-pod has over 7,000 tunes on it. It's a deal," he says. Now, gliding into the operating arena on my gurney, I hear Perry singing "Catch a Falling Star." It's show time.
Two sniffs of an odorless gas and I'm out. An hour or so later I come to in the post-op area. "I made it," I realize. Within moments, I am whisked away to my room. I can't help noticing the sumptuous ornate crown molding around the ceiling and the beveled mirrors. There is something gloriously reassuring about luxury at this moment. My euphoria is heightened when I am handed a menu from which I select dinner. I order tomato soup, white fish crusted in crab, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cheesecake for dessert. Starvation is not a concern.
I realize, these women don't just show up for work, they're treating me like a person, not a patient. This is the spiritual side of healing.
Diane, is high energy and keeps me on my toes intellectually. We have several serious talks, and confide to each other that "things don't just happen by accident."
Late one night, Lacrissa comes to my rescue. The alligator on my finger that measures my oxygen level has come off. It's a wearisome night and I ply her with questions.
On the subject of travel, we connect. "I love the excitement of New York City. But, one of the best times we ever had, was when we missed a boat ride around Manhattan. We ducked into a quiet, little cafe for dinner in Brooklyn. It was great," she says. I ramble on and on about Orllyene and my trip to Amalfi, Italy, each of us lost in wondrous memories.
Niki is the third angelic being whom I meet. Niki will have her first baby in July. She scolds me, coaxes me, and buoys my spirit with her joyous personality. Her bubbly enthusiasm goes well beyond the scope of strict medical protocol.
It's a month later. I am a proud "hipster" and reveling in being home. Orllyene is masterminding my recovery. She has picked up all the slack in our day to day existence. "Sweetheart, could you help me with my shoes?" I ask. "Come on, Ronaldo, don't shuffle along like an old man," she directs. Fifty years ago when we got hitched, I had no idea of the dividends I would reap. Thanks, sweetheart.