This time I don't spend a year and a half suffering. I promptly make an appointment with Dr. Martin Anderson. Sensing my apprehension, he offers to give me shots to postpone my decision. I will have none of it. Bolstered by my loving wife, Orllyene, I now have a spanking new, titanium, right hip to match my left one.
Prior to the operation, I ask friends and family to refer to the event as a "procedure," not an operation.
The mind hears every word we speak. Everyone cheerfully complies, mostly because they are relieved that the "procedure" involves me, and not them.
During pre-op, I wear three ID bracelets, fill out stacks of forms and am stamped with an "X" on my right hip, as a final reminder which hip is to be replaced. Next, the anesthesiologist stops by.
He cheerfully explains, in far too much detail, his plans to put me in "la-la" land.
Finally, having removed my upper and lower dental partials, I am wheeled into the operating arena. Each technician is dressed in Star Wars regalia.
Infection is unknown in a Martin Anderson production.
The next thing I know it's all over and I'm being wheeled down the hall to my room, and mystery of mysteries, my dental partials are back, snug in my mouth.
There are only 15 private rooms at Sierra Surgery Hospital.
The ratio between nurses, CNAs and physical therapists is radically in the patient's favor. Immediately after settling into my "space age" hospital bed, I press the call button. Moments later two nurses I met on my previous visit arrive. Being fawned over by attractive, young health professionals is not an altogether unpleasant experience.
The truth is, one feels very vulnerable following a "procedure," and any attention you get from another human being is golden.
My next visitor is Soledad, the hospital nutritionist. "Magnifico?" she exclaims as she enters my room.
Holy smoke, she remembers me from my previous stay. I'd told her a story about being in Mexico, and informing our young Spanish teacher that I wanted to be known as "Ronaldo el Magnifico." Now, six months later, she sees me, and exclaims, "Magnifico, is it you?" What a lift to my spirits.
For each of my three-day stay, my vital signs are religiously monitored and my personal needs attended to. "How's your pain level on a scale from 1-10," I'm asked, countless times. With an IV stuck in my arm and a clothes pin device taped to my finger to measure my oxygen content, the days come and go.
Kim, my night nurse, never once makes me feel that I'm imposing, when I press the call button.
We talk of her mother, who takes care of her children during her shifts, and her extended family in the Philippines. Each morning before going off duty, she brings me a cup of coffee. Brenda, a CNA on the day shift, becomes an integral part of my life. In her soft, caring way, she is as beneficial as the antibiotics that flow through my IV. "We're having barbecued salmon, when I get home tonight," she tells me.
Hallelujah, life is still going on outside my hospital room. When I comment about Brenda to a young girl who is cleaning my room, she says, "Brenda has become my mom, while I am at work. I love her."
The days are long in a hospital, and the nights are longer.
Without these remarkably caring women, it would be a dungeon.
Even small touches, such as holding a porcelain cup instead of a Styrofoam one, don't go un-noticed. Suzie, a bright light from Smith Valley, drops by to see me.
"Ron, this is like a spa," she exclaims, and in many ways it is. However, just as important as the Rodeo Drive surroundings are the true stars of the show. Each a headliner in their own right, Kim, Brenda and Soledad have won my heart and helped heal my body.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.