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Getting healthy again

Orllyene created a beautiful home for us here in Smith Valley. Now she’s gone and it’s just a house. The songbird who sings in my heart has flown. Last Wednesday at 4 a.m., we loaded up our vintage Town Car and headed for Sierra Surgery Hospital in Carson City. She has to have an operation on her lower back. Ouch.

Being enormously pleased with Dr. Martin Anderson, who has given me two brand new hip joints, we ask about his colleague, Dr. David Jones. “Dr. Jones has a great set of hands and is a wonderful orthopedic surgeon,” he replies. That’s good enough for us and we contact Tahoe Orthopedic.

Surgery Coordinator Antonia, is bright, happy, and a stickler for accuracy. Nurse Practitioner, Candice is unflappable, when we probe the hazardous waters surrounding spinal surgery. Dr. Jones exudes expertise and energy. He cautions that to relieve Orllyene’s leg and back pain, lumbar disks four and five need to be fused. However, he is very clear that the decision to go ahead with the procedure is strictly Orllyene’s choice.

Orllyene sees the X-rays and makes the decision. On the day the spinal procedure takes place, Orllyene is “scared to death,” to use her words. Our son Randy arrives from Reno and daughter Marla flies in from New Jersey. Each tries to bolster Orllyene’s spirits.

After the pre-op is finished, Orllyene is wheeled into an operating arena that resembles an intergalactic space station. It takes three hours for the procedure to be completed. Dr. Jones meets Randy and me in the consultation room. He is smiling. “I had to clean out a lot of arthritis, and get rid of some bone spurs. I also decided to fuse L-3, along with L-4 and L-5,” he says. Making the decision to fuse L-3 shows initiative. “We don’t want to have to go back in six months,” he says.

Later that afternoon, I visit Orllyene’s room. My heart sinks. She is pale and hardly awake. I leave, promising to come back the next day.

When I return, Danielle, a Certified Nurse’s Assistant is there. I remember Danielle from my recent trips to Sierra Surgery. At the moment, she’s scolding Orllyene. “I told you to never apologize for asking me to do something for you,” she says, with a smile as big as the Salt Flats in Utah. “I’m sorry,” Orllyene mews weakly. Danielle lights up like a pin ball machine. “You did it again,” she says with feigned rancor. Orllyene and Danielle are obviously friends.

“When I was here the last time, Danielle, you said you inherited your dad’s outspoken ways,” I comment. Danielle looks pensively at me, and then Orllyene. “I feel sorry for my dad. He never liked children. He had me when he was 38 and when I was 5, my mom died. Cancer. He raised me on his own, and I sure give him credit for that,” she says. “He must have been gruff sometimes,” Orllyene says, joining in. “Oh yes, he sure was, but he trained me well until he passed away,” she says.

Danielle is refreshingly outspoken. An easy going conversation is exactly what Orllyene needs. “Do you have a significant other?” I ask. “Nope, I’m too busy studying at WNC. I’m going to be a nurse.” Jumping to her next thought, she says “I own my own home, and guess what? A water pipe broke in the wall yesterday, so I ripped open the sheet rock and fixed it.” As she leaves, Orllyene whispers, “I want to send that girl a thank you note.”

Orllyene stays an extra day in the hospital. When we bring her home, Marla is an absolute angel. She anticipates everything Orllyene needs, making her feel special and loved.

Two weeks have passed and Orllyene’s body is healing remarkably well, thanks to cheerful people like Marla and Danielle, her spirit is too. It comes as no surprise, that our house is beginning to look like a home again, too.

Ron and Orllyene Walker live in Smith Valley. They can be reached at