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Straight from the hip

Dotti's Hip Replacement Story

Hammer and Tongs
    By Al Coon
      Written September 12th, 2011 the day of the second surgery.

The day began for me with an early false start, when Dotti woke me up at about 1:30am to say that our Internet was down. With an already truncated sleep schedule for the night, this was not happy news. The alarm was going to go off at 4am, and that was going to be early for me. However, Dotti wanted to pay some bills online before her surgery, so they wouldn't be popping up during her recovery. Unfortunately, Comcast had pulled their system down for maintenance and after checking things out, I told Dotti that she would have to wait until it came back up. In the meantime I went back to bed to grab that last two hours of sleep. Dotti, on the other hand, stayed up all night.

Once I got up, we set about getting ready for our date with destiny at the hospital. We scrubbed Dotti's skin on the area where the surgery was going to be cutting, with some liquid germ killer the doctor prescribed, got dressed, double checked that the car was packed correctly and headed for the hospital. We walked inside and got checked in, and sat down, waiting for them to call Dotti back to get prepped.

What I found this time was that I was comparing last time with this time, and looking for differences. This time Jim and Tammy arrived before Dotti was taken back, and LeRoy arrived after they did. This time LeRoy came back with me to see Dotti when she was prepped and waiting for surgery.

We liked the anesthesiologist, a fellow New Yorker with Dotti. He helped keep things light and the rest of the staff that came in did as well. The orthopedic surgeon came in and he was light spirited and made us all feel even more confident that it was all going to go well.

LeRoy stepped out for a couple of minutes at the end and gave Dotti and I some time, before she was to go. It was nice seeing Dotti light spirited and joking in the prep room, and the last few minutes I had alone with her were very special. She has had a lot of surgeries over the years, but she has an inner strength that rises up to face them each time and she comes up swinging on the other side almost every time. The one exception was in 1990, when her gall bladder surgery turned complicated. But that is another story, and in the end, she beat that one too.

Well, it was time. They wheeled her away, and I watched as they went through one set of double doors and continued down the hall until the gurney turned off to the left and I saw the little blue hair cap on Dotti's head disappear around the corner.

I hate that feeling. I really hate that feeling. Over and over again I have seen them wheel Dotti away to a room set aside for operations and such, from Honolulu, Hawaii, to El Paso, Texas, from Beverly, Massachusetts to Portland, Oregon. Now twice in 3 months I have stood and watched my Dotti be wheeled off here in Spokane. It doesn't matter where it happens, it is dark, and painful. Did I mention that I hate it?

When I got back to the waiting area Tammy and Jim were visiting with LeRoy and I joined them again. The wait had begun. It felt a bit like a DVD movie where the action was moving along without sound, and actions were unnaturally fast or slow. A walk down to the Starbucks coffee stand, and discussions, wherein perhaps, unlike Lewis Carol's Walrus and Carpenter, we did not speak of "shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—Of cabbages—and kings—And why the sea is boiling hot—And whether pigs have wings," we did speak of many things— of books, Cochlear Implants and technological advances in many fields, with much of that verbal terrain hidden in the fog of forgetfulness and distraction as my mind moved up to the clock on the wall, and thoughts of what my poor Dotti was going through at that moment.

And then it happened, my pager sounded. There it was on my belt, my old nemesis. I had told the others why I hated pagers from my last job, and now, looking down at my belt, I realized that it was my friend for today, because I had been spending every moment since Dotti's head, with her little blue cap, had disappeared around that corner eagerly wishing for that pager to sound, and to call me to the news of how it went. I may be 60, but I moved pretty quickly to the desk, carrying the pager. No doubt I had a stupid grin on my face, but they still took me in hand, and walked me around to the room.

For the third time I was in the room. The room is where I first met the doctor I was waiting to see again, and for the moment, he was the most important person in the world, because he was surrogate messenger, bearing news about the center of my universe, my Dotti. I sat down, and the lady closed the door to leave me with my thoughts. I looked around the small room. I put my hands on the cool wooden surface of the table. I noticed the phone and its wire running down to the socket in the wall. I saw the yellow phone book beneath the phone. The other door was still slightly open, the one where I knew the doctor would be coming through at some point in time. I recognized the hall outside this time, because we had been there with Dotti's twin sister the other day, going to the lab for pre-surgery tests. My world was getting smaller it seemed. And it was collapsing into a fine hot point at that moment, with Dotti at its focus.

I leaned back in my chair, was everything okay? Last time there was more bleeding than they had expected. Would something go wrong this time too? No! It couldn't have. The light fixture in the ceiling suddenly grabbed my attention. Two 48" florescent tubes were covered with a curved fogged plastic shield on the bottom with their tops feeding light in a metal reflector on either side, with each being shaped just like the plastic cover, but vertically reversed in orientation to bounce the light down upon my worried face. I studied it, pouring my attention upon anything to keep the demons of worry at bay. She was okay, she had to be okay.

The door opened, and in walked the messenger, the one I had been waiting to see for more than two hours. He sat down, smiled, and said it went perfectly. No complications, no problems, perfect. "Do you have any questions," he asked?

I know I babbled something, expressing thanks and my relief. I might have drooled on my chest and never noticed it at that point. The only way I know that I didn't was that my chest was dry when I left the room. But as he turned to leave, I did manage to gather my wits about me for one question, one that I knew Dotti would want the answer to, "Will there be any precautions or restrictions?" He smiled, shook his head, and said, "Nope." And he was gone.

I don't remember much of the walk back to the others. I imagine my feet hit the floor with each step. The laws of physics within a gravitational field demanded it. But I might as well have been flying. The surgeries are both done. We can start working towards a full recovery finally, after more than a year of suffering and struggling with pain and the crippling arthritis in Dotti's hips. The door is finally standing open, the door of opportunity for a healthy active life. Light is pouring through, as the doctor broke the last lock holding it closed. I felt like I was floating, and it is amazing that I didn't have to use my hands to keep me from banging against the ceiling, I was so happy.

Jim and Tammy had some errands to run and they headed out, carrying my thanks with them for being there to help me through it. LeRoy was waiting for Rachel to arrive, because she had an appointment with a doctor there concerning her pregnancy and the status of our little granddaughter. He was with me for most of the time Dotti was in the recovery room. When Rachel arrived she came in and I got a hug before she and LeRoy headed off to the doctor's office. Since I had the pager still, I decided to run to the gift shop. Catherine, Dotti's sister, had left some money with me, because she wanted to make sure that Dotti had some flowers and a balloon from her when she got out of surgery. I added a few dollars myself and we jointly got Dotti a nice bouquet of flowers, a large balloon, and a cute stuffed dog, later dubbed, "Killer." (I accidently ended up leaving my insulated coffee cup on a shelf in the gift shop, but the nice people set it aside for me, and I was able to retrieve it later in the day.)

As Fate would have it, as I was leaving the gift shop, the pager went off. The waiting room was on the other end of the hospital, so I hurried all the way over there, carrying my bundle of treasures for Dotti. (The bouquet was in a surprisingly heavy glass vase. I had no idea how long I would be carrying it, and by the time I set it down in Dotti's room, it felt very, very good to be rid of the load. But then, her smile wiped all of that away instantly.)

I turned in my pager, and they exchanged Dotti's room number for it, and I was on a mission to return to the gift shop—well, to the elevators right beside the gift shop. Another long dash across the hospital, bearing my gifts and my satchel with my Nook and Xoom, etc., which I hardly had looked at in the waiting room. As I reached the elevator, thankfully there was a man who had hit the up button, and who kindly pushed the 4 button for me once we were inside the elevator, before he went back to sending a text message on his phone.

I arrived on Dotti's floor and looked at the signs on the wall to see where her room was. As I was looking a gurney came by, and there was the most beautiful face I have ever seen there before me, my Dotti was on the gurney! And there was her little blue hat. She was back; I had her back! I don't know how, but I somehow managed to not drop that vase when I saw her.

The older lady running the back of the gurney snapped at me to wait until they got her "moved in." By that time I needed a place to put that vase, and there I was cooling my heels in the hall as the two gurney jockeys were joking and moving things around. Alas, my patience was wearing mighty thin by the time they slowly made a path for me. I finally pushed by them to set the vase down, and then my general attitude improved concerning the less than helpful lady.

Whether it was yin and yang playing out, or something else, I don't know, but the ornery one was replaced by a very nice nurse, who was to be watching over Dotti for the next few hours.

Dotti trying to wake up
Sept. 12, 2011
As usual, if you click on any of the thumbnails you will see a larger view of the images. In this case you will see how tired Dotti looked. She was tired the last time after leaving the recovery room, but she snapped out of it very quickly once she finally woke up. This time it was very different. She slept and would wake up for only a moment. Then her eyes would droop closed and she would be asleep again.
Fortunately, she was answering all the questions correctly, as to her name, what day it was, and where she was, but it was a struggle I could tell. As the hours went by, she would start to draw on her breathing assistant, for breath, or maybe two, and then she was back asleep again. It worried me, only because of how different this was from the last recovery.

Also, Dotti did take a bit of a shine to "Killer," and gave it an AKA of "Baby Henry" because years ago LeRoy had gone out and bought her a huge stuffed dog, about the size of a real life Saint Bernard, and it looked a bit like Killer.

Speaking of LeRoy, he later dropped by with Rachel and treat from Dairy Queen, and Dotti suddenly came alive. She was laughing and perky and nearly seemed like her old self. I perked up myself because Rachel had bought a burger and fries for me, and I hadn't eaten for nearly 12 hours. Still, once things settle down again, Dotti started falling asleep in the middle of things. After LeRoy and Rachel left, she was asleep again. She had been up all night the night before surgery and I was hoping that was all it was.

When the physical therapist came in, I though there is no way she is going to be doing much walking in her state. But I was wrong! Dotti's eyes came open and she was ready to give it a try!

The therapist and I headed over to the PT room and grabbed a chair like Dotti used last time, and then, once we got Dotti safely on her feet, I followed along behind the procession with the chair in case it would be required. As it turned out, I was just decoration, because Dotti walked all the way out and all the way back, and didn't sit down until she was back in the room!

If you remember from last time (see The Knife), Dotti walked out of her room and to the next door, before sitting down and being pushed back into the room. That is really old news now, because Dotti went way past that record for day one! She was very careful to step gently on the new hip at first, but then moved into a slow but consistent, "heal to toe" stride. She walked across the room, out the door, and past the first room and the second, all the way to the nurse's station. She was jokingly threatening to run the nurse over who was at a computer doing chart work in the hall as she came along.

When I took this picture, Dotti had just turned around. I had slid the chair back mostly out of her way, into a cross hallway, while I took the shot.

Here she is, heading back into the room, with physical therapist Karianne at her side. Both of them are smiling, and they left a lot of smiling nurses along the route as well. Dotti can do that a group of people very easily. She does that with me all the time. Smile Also, Karianne was a really nice lady, who is having a son around Christmas. (Of course Glenn was due on December 17, and didn't get here until January 7, so you never know.)

Seeing Dotti moving and smiling reminded me of what we are aiming for in the future. Just looking back over the past few years, I know we have it in us! Dotti worked a miracle in 1998. She did it on her own, and lost over 100 pounds. I was supportive, but I had no idea what was going on until it was over. But when she got to goal, she was amazing!

Dotti was active and willing to go out and do things. We played racquetball a lot, and she loved it, as did I.
She not only looked awesome, but she felt good as well. She was filled with energy and ready to do things at the drop of a hat. This is what we are going to get back. We may be older, but we are not dead, and we are going to prove that to ourselves and to the world.

We are going to get back on the hiking trails, and burn up the miles, walking by the rivers and waterfalls of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Dotti loves to hike. It was her idea to use Multnomah Fall as our first date, and we climbed clear to the top. Her heart is good and it is right for this task. We are going to do it!

Looking out over the Portland area behind Dotti, who was standing on the top of Larch Mountain that day, reminds us that we can be active, and we love it when we are! We are going to be that way again, and we will be starting right now! We aren't ready for Larch Mountain just yet, but we will be!

And, as we were here with our son LeRoy, we will be climbing to the top of Multnomah Falls again before long! Our past is also going to be our future, the good parts of it, that we choose to embrace.

We have never climbed to the top of Mount St. Helens, but we have gone to Windy Ridge and looked her over. Going up these stairs was quite a little walk, but Dotti and I did it, and we will be doing it again soon! I believe that.

And we will be making another video like this one, where Dotti will be showing her spunk after fighting through a tough climb once again!

And this time, we won't just be looking at Mount St. Helens behind us, as we did in this picture of Dotti at the top of those stairs. This time we are going to be at the top of the crater, the peak of the mountain and we will be looking back the point where we were standing for this picture. This is our dream; to recapture our health, our vigor and joy in the out of doors, with the trails under our feet and the sky, whether blue and shiny or gray and raining, above us and fresh air surrounding us and filling our lungs.

In the meantime... We have to get through the recovery period coming up. While Dotti was walking, our niece Misty showed up for a visit and she brought gifts as well. Her balloon is in the foreground, as Dotti is smiling from her sheet covered chair. As with her last visit, Dotti left the bed on her first walk and she never returned to it. She prefers staying in the chair and that is her aim this time as well. The bed off to the right in this picture, becomes a storage area for things, and that is handy too.
And here is our Misty! I will close with this photo, since she is so sweet, and a high note to end this day's activities upon.
I left shortly after Misty did, because I was very tired, hungry and I need to do this update. Day one is over for me. After I left, Jim and Tammy came back to visit with Dotti and she told me that she really enjoyed the visit. Dotti is wide awake and returned to normal, and our feet are set on the long road to 100% recovery. But somehow that road seems far shorter than it did yesterday. And that is a good thing!

Let's Do It Again   /   Hammer and Tongs   /   One Tired Step

Part One: Straight From The Hip