Monday, August 23, 2010

It's a New Hip, Officer, Not a Weapon

Dear Blog-reading Friends,

Glory be ~ it's been waaay too long since I've posted regularly! A blog should be updated weekly, you know, that's the rule of thumb. Unless. . . unless ~ and I'm making this part up ~ unless a person is recovering from hip replacement surgery. Which I AM! And dear reader, you've been waiting oh-so-patiently for the scintillating details (as if) and I thank you a thousand times over because blog-reader stats are as high as ever. Not that I'm into checking on that very often. Certainly no more than hourly. Oh, but I jest. . .

Surgery's nothing to laugh about, but let me tell you, dear friends, that I'm all smiles. Bottom line, five-plus weeks after surgery, I've been walking without a cane for 2 weeks. Even more impressive, I haven't needed a single pain pill since surgery. No pain ~ ever! That's thanks to Dr Mack Lancaster, super-star orthopedic surgeon with Baylor Hospital, Dallas.

Dr Mack, as his fans call him, has a new-fangled approach to hip replacement. His technique makes it almost like a party. Almost.

Here's Dr Mack with a typical replacement joint of titanium and ceramic. Just between the two of us, I'd been hoping for a joint that would cause minimum fuss at airport security. But alas, with these long-lasting replacement parts, I'm looking at a lifetime of being thoroughly frisked at airports. Get used to it, girlfriend.

Dr Mack is legendary: He does 350 to 400 hip replacements a year. His minimally invasive approach separates muscle rather than cutting through it. That approach makes for quick recovery. And quick recovery works for me.

Meet Pamela Gamble, Physician's Assistant:

Twelve days post-op, I had an appointment with Pamela Gamble, PA. She's always right there, in the middle of the action, helping out with surgery too. I liked Ms Gamble just fine until she told me exactly what I did not want to hear.

Okay if I get back to running?

Noooo. Not unless you want to go through all this again in 10 to 12 years. And only if you're being chased by a bear. And no trampolines either.

So that's that. Not that I'm surprised. But still. . .

Then Ms Gamble shared with me this fetching photo, a glamour shot, in a way.

This x-ray, 12 days post-op, is what convinced me that surgery really did happen. That the whole experience was more than Baylor Hospital's throwing me a party with flowers, cards and lots of attention. Not that I'm complaining, you understand. . .

Oh, let's rewind a bit. On the third day after surgery, I got to go home. Actually, I went to Fred and Carol's home. This wonderful family was the core of the Get-Eileen-Well team.

I've known Carol since our undergrad days when we were barely acquaintances. She was a summa-cumma type ~ that's how I like to refer to those academic superstars ~ and 35 years later, her smarts are intact. Carol knew instinctively what I'd need for recovery at home long before I'd even thought of it. But anyway, here we are at Baylor Hospital, Dallas, the evening of surgery.

Carol hired dear Katherine, a nursing student on vacation, who helped several hours a day for the first two weeks. Katherine was a God-send. She read to me while I did those all-important but ho-hum post-op exercises, ran errands - including running hither and yon to get the handicapped parking permit, chauffeured me to church, ironed my clothes and lots more.

Meet Shannon, Physical Therapist:

Shannon and his wife Jill are physical therapists who make house calls. Shannon came three times a week for two weeks, checked on my progress and taught me skills such as how to walk with a walker and then with a cane and later how to manage a flight of steps. But it was Jill, bless her heart, who added two exercises ~ the clam and the bridge ~ to the hospital's list of 15-some exercises to be done at least twice daily. That Jill is merciless, I'm telling you. ;)

But it was worth it. You're a super star, one of the therapists proclaimed, at the end of our two weeks together. Oh yippee, an A+.

Rewinding a bit more, my hospital stay was not without entertainment. Exhibit one: Bob McAffee and George Miller from Prestoncrest Church of Christ, my beloved sponsoring congregation. I'm indebted to Bob and George for bringing me many gifts, in a way. Bob gave me keys to the church van. And then George gave me a 4-footed cane, a walker, a bathtub bench and lots more. All these gifts I've had to give back, of course. But still, how many people get to use their boss's bedside potty? If that doesn't inspire loyalty, what will?

Lucky me, more visitors! There's dear Karen, left, who brought a stack of magazines and books. And then Steve and Stephanie, with son Sergei. This dear family has invited me to stay in their guest bedroom and be Aunt Eileen to Sergei, their bundle-of-energy imported last summer from Ukraine.

Oh and there's Caroline, left. She and Carol smuggled into the hospital a Mint-Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Now that's dedication. And then there's wonderful Robert and D.G., who used to go by Don until he decided to get all fancy and go by his initials. I answer to DG too, he's one of my missions heroes at Prestoncrest.

The walls of Dr Mack's office are adorned with speed skaters, ice skaters and such. And as much as I admire folks who can skate and envy folks who can run ~ even when no bear's involved ~ I'm beyond grateful to be walking without pain. I.Can.Walk! I hope that I'll always be grateful for the gift of mobility and never take it for granted. And the day will come ~ of this I'm quite confident ~ the day will come I will be able to walk f-a-s-t! Not today. Not tomorrow. But someday. Hip, hip, hooray!

Thank you to Dr Mack and his top-notch crew at Orthopedic Associates of Dallas!

How about you, dear blog reader, any experience with hip replacement? Any experience fussing with airport security about embedded metal parts? Expect that I'll have some new stories to share on this topic in the very near future. ;)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Soviets Send Dogs into Space: Fifty Years Ago Today

On this day in 1960, Belka and Strelka ~ that is Whitey and Arrow ~ were sent into orbit as the first Soviet space travelers to return safely to earth. Another story entirely is how one of Strelka's descendants got into the White House as Caroline Kennedy's pet.

Belka and Strelka closely followed in the pawprints of Little Laika, who had made history as the first Soviet space martyr. And then following spring, Yuri Gagarin became the first cosmonaut, in April 1961. Gagarin quipped that he didn't know who he was: the first human or the last dog in space. Thanks to Russia Today for this fascinating video about today's heroes, Belka and Strelka.

A salute to Kyle at Windows to Russia for his great post on the story.