The Great Fall - Part One: Flying
by Joyce Johnson
It’s exciting to have something to say after a dry spell of a few months, so here it is: Recently I performed, as my neighbor Debra called it, the “piece de resistance” of a tumble, (the jewel in the crown, as wiki defines that). The big one! The fourth of four spectacular falls in 2 years. And boy did I go for the ride of my life.
It’s been only 2 months since my last similar fall around the other side of the house. There was nothing to trip over that time, but I tripped anyway and did a swan dive onto the miraculously soft ground padded with tall thick spring grass, in the shade with minimum injury.
But on July 27, I was coming back from a stroll around our neighborhood and in front of our place was that very noticeable green garden hose which was draped over the log fence which....must have.....how in the world?...anyway I tripped over it and went airborne and landed full weight on my left hip and knew that I had really hurt myself. Again.
I laid there and cried, but we all have survival instinct. I yelled for Ron.
So glad in retro that this happened right in front of the house, Ron’s office window open, amen, and he came out and tried to help me up. I was lying on my hurt side, immoveable, on the gravelly weedy dirt, not at all soft this time, in a position like a Lady holding court on one of those reclining sofas in Victorian paintings. When I moved it was excruciating so dear Ron, strong enough to toss me over his shoulder, said he had to call 911. I said “NO, sob NO!” My inner plan was to lie there til I expired because a big part of me was so tired of the chain of mishaps I’ve had. The 911 phone person stayed on the phone til the truck came and told Ron to get me a pillow, so I lay there holding on to his socks, flicking off the occasional ant and pulling little weeds around his big feet while we waited and I apologized and sobbed at his socks for my messing our lives up. Again. After a while Ron, my rock and protector and best friend looked down and said completely straight-faced, “Don’t worry dear. Shit happens.”
The Emergency guys arrived it seemed like hours later but was actually only a little over 11 minutes from the Fire Station near Chico. They gave me some fast acting drug so they could move me.
The whole experience however, was a mistake or bad dream, like I was trapped in a Reality TV show, or a play that I did not audition for. I was embarrassed. A garden hose? oh really... Do others feel like this when accidents happen? Still, I was grateful for the peaceful and painless little ride to.... somewhere. And I said to my Emergency guy, “hey do people simply dislocate a hip or perhaps sprain it sometimes? He hesitated and replied kindly, ...”uhhuh,...sure.”
They xrayed me in Livingston, but I only remember seeing out the door of my little room into a big room with a bank of phones where my emergency guys were seriously communicating. Ron wandered in and out with that set buddhic face of his. At one time there were 6 or more dark blue uniformed, emergency guys energetically talking over my form, about all manner of business, and I was entertained. I must have heard, “She tripped over a garden” hose 50 times in the days to come. Maybe my bright rainbow colored bell bottom baggy pants from India, red sandals and purple tank top amused my heroes. But they were so handsome and caring and earnest and liked their jobs. I get teary eyes remembering these early scenes. I had the privilege of being surrounded and cared for by them. All mine.
Wonderful Wild MOntAna: There are no Orthopedic surgeons yet in the brand new hospital in Livingston, nor was the Ortho surgeon in Bozeman back yet from vacation. I think I have that correctly. So Xrays were emailed to another hospital and the Ortho team there said it was a fracture at the hip but which also had arthritis around it so they wanted to be practical and simple put in a new joint.
They said I’d just want a hip replacement like everyone else a few years down the line anyway. Made p p p perfect s s s sense to me. Gulp. But my heroes had frowns on their faces out at the phones. No transport available!
Horses tied up in waiting at the hitching post out front, but no wagons to haul my butt in. (One of my nephews in L.A. thinks that we in Montana still have horses tied loosely to a wood bar outside our saloons and stores.) I thought but not sure if I actually asked, “Doncha have an old van maybe parked ‘round back?” I thought I asked, “Can’t Ron drive me?” Instead I was stuffed into a spiffy little 2 engine airplane and again went airborne, honest to God. I had my first lady Emergency hero and one of the Emergency guys with me on the plane plus a hero pilot. Really wasn’t room for Ron I noticed but I dismissed him in Livingston to go buy pizza and go home to take care of our pets. The twilight sky was so splendid out the windows of the plane, I was rubber necking the whole flight and actually enjoyed myself. Perhaps the drug tweaked it just a tad, but I was so in the Moment, you know. Landing was a little bit of an ouch. Way more “medicine” than any time in my life and as it turned out 5 or 6 days, but, I appreciated it
greatly because I otherwise I would have started a slug-fest if they tried to move me without a pill.
At the hospital, the ER got a flood of traumas and broken bones that preempted me in line for the OR, and so I ended up waiting 2 days for surgery and all the time hoping I’d fit in, I wasn’t allowed to eat. Finally Friday night they gave up and handed me a menu, with a promise that I’d be first in OR next day. l ordered ice cream and stir fry in that order. Decaf tasted like nectar of the gods. Actually their coffee was very good, a sign of class I think. My Chiropractor yesterday laughed so hard at this next thing he nearly dropped me mid adjustment, so I had better share it: I simply repeated what my surgeon said when he introduced himself to me before wheeling me in to the OR. He said, “By the way I am old school. I use a saw and chisel.” I smiled and he said “I’m not kidding.” This quote might give him away because he probably tells all his patients that, but my mind since then has created a neat little picture of a small flat, platinum, velvet lined case with a tiny little jewel quality gold saw and chisel in it, maybe each only 2 inches long, for those hard to get at places in joint replacement? Hmmm? But it might explain what I experienced next. When I came out of the OR and anesthesia (another planet) I for a moment was so lost and scared I tried to call for my mother. It was like I was a baby just born. I couldn’t make a sound at first, and thrashed, and grabbed the male attendant’s hand in my Recovery stall, and alarmed him I noticed, and he looked around for assistance, which further upset me. (He, a hero in training, should have just said, “Hello dear, I’m here.”)
Why I am sharing this with readers – I heard this story from one of my nurses: My very same surgeon replaced both hips at the same time of a patient also a nurse, only 2 years younger than me.
You see how trendy and common and apparently no big deal this is? And that they had me up and moving around with a walker only the second day after surgery is another amazing thing. And the Ortho ward was a traffic jam of Boomers with new joints, on walkers.
That’s why I’m writing this. So many of you out there relate and some might be curious, and will sooner or later volunteer for this wonderful medical technology. So many Boomers are already running around with joint replacements. My brother in L.A. is looking into have same hip as mine replaced as I write. A friend said she has so many metal replacement parts she’s more bionic than her real self, and they set off all the bells and whistles at the airport security stations. (you may know her by that quote) I’m looking forward to lunch with her soon as I’m running around again.
It’s 2 weeks after the surgery right now at submission time, and every day I feel stronger. I however must watch out that 1) I do fall again or as my neighbor said, “you will find your ass back in ER and going through the whole thing again,” and 2) I must take care not to get infections or to treat them immediately upon discovery, because they tend to gravitate to the fake hip. I am sure they will soon perfect the already very body-compatible material of the prosthetic to be less vulnerable to infection. It is a small risk but to be safe we have to take antibiotics before and after dental work, which I’m thinking might not be a bad idea for some dental procedures anyway. No, I’m not in pain anymore just some rather achy muscles around the hip that need to recover and strengthen.
I so want to charge out the door and walk around the pond or jump in the pool at Chico. My Chiropractor said to practice doing it in my mind/imagination. I know that is true because I used to practice swimming the relays in my mind at night, when I was on the team in school, and was astonished when I broke out in a mild sweat. The team used me for dramatic finishes. I just burned rubber that last 50 yards, not surprising.
“You shall NOT walk without me ever again.” Sometimes Ron says these adorable things. I will honor his wishes, and I am so looking forward to getting into the pool and swim laps again soon as the incision heals, because in there it is safe, just me and the pristine warm water, and I will be a happy little fish. My “BigBrotherBigSister” last week asked me to be a bridesmaid for her wedding in Texas so I have to leave Ron behind and be able to walk in a dignified and matronly way (through Airport Security) and “down The Isle” in about 7 months. What a delight.
Husband Ron as Major Domo/Caregiver is like having a distracted macho sumo wrestler with hobbit feet attending me but he is handling the whole house including pets, food, cleaning, chauffeuring and waiting on me, and running his business as well—so impressively adjustable, except that first day when he put my hospital socks in the freezer. He is my one and only, my partnah, here 24/7 except a few hours on Saturday for Farmer’s Market, but my neighbors are angels all the time and so kind and helpful. I am grateful. Next issue more about heroes I think. Montana is full of them I promise you.