THE HIP CLASS
I’d been limping a lot. Crying out when I turned in my sleep. Bobbie seldom harps, but recently “Honey, I love you, but watching you hobble causes me pain. You need a new hip.”
She began sticking bright orange post-its in strategic locations around our house. ‘Please visit a doctor.’ ‘You’re never going to be a tight-rope walker.’ ‘Igor and I agree, you walk like Frankenstein’s monster.’ ‘Do you want to end up in a wheelchair?’ ‘I won’t push you around in a wheelchair.’ I knew these were not idle suggestions or threats.
She was right. I spent several months deciding whether I should go for the operation or continue walking with a hitch in my gait. The deciding factor? A short sojourn to the San Francisco Zoo where a flock of penguins unilaterally decided I was a member of their colony and waddled after me into the parking lot. Zoo security found no humor in the situation.
Before you’re allowed to allow anyone to slice open your buttocks with a scalpel and saw off an important part of your femur bone you must attend a mandatory Hip Class. Bobbie went with me. All surgical procedures would be explained, we were told.
“Don’t you want to be informed?” Bobbie asked. “They’ll tell you about everything they’re going to do to you before, during and after the operation.” I assured her I did not want to know what they were going to do to me before, during and after my operation.
Bobbie thought it was important that we both know what they were going to do to me. I preferred ignorance. Bobbie got on the internet. “The more informed you are,” she admonished, “the more intelligent are the questions you can ask. The more you’ll know about what they are going to do to you, the easier the whole procedure will be.”
I ran her comment through the synapses of my brain. “Why would knowing more make the whole procedure easier?”
And why did I need to know? I needed a surgical team that knew. As far as I knew I didn’t have to pass a test. I didn’t want to know specifics. Hell, I didn’t even want generalities.
At the class, Bobbie insisted that I raise my hand and ask my teacher questions. Dutifully, I raised my hand and asked my teacher a question. “Have you ever had a hip replacement?” Her long, steady frown was my answer. Her glare warned me not to raise my hand anymore and ask asinine questions. I didn’t… at least for a while
I wondered. How had this woman, in a matter of minutes, been able to intimidate a whole room of people. Her eye brows were plucked into perfect V’s and her eye lashes carried an inordinate amount of mascara accentuating deep green eyes, but it had to be something else.
Ten of us squirmed in our hard, steel, putty colored folding chairs. Very uncomfortable furniture for those about to get new hips. Ten of us were getting new hips. The other ten people were our “supporters.” Our operational jock straps so to speak. They would be there to hold on to vital parts and keep a firm grasp on any appendages that might dangle, drop, or sag.
“I am here to inform the class,” shrilled the red haired, slightly balding, slightly overweight, informer. She batoned a warning finger. “Getting a new hip is never easy.” Sage advice from the person who’d never gotten a new hip.
“You,… well half of you are here for a Total Hip Arthroplasty…” She grinned. I swear, she grinned “… and… depending on your surgeon some of you will be having an ANTERIOR ARTHOPLASTY … this term rang a bell ….. an Anterior Arthoplasty was the type of hip operation I was going to have…. She continued….
“After you’re strapped down a trained team of experts will take you by your ankle and bend your leg behind your neck and there will be a humungous SNAP………...and the ball socket is dislodged from you hip bone….”
Okay, in the Informer’s defense, Barb assures me she never said this…. But this is what I heard…. This is mental image I held weeks later while being rolled into the operation room and being greeted by hot lights and waft of antiseptic.
The woman’s voice faded. I turned to Bobbie “I don’t want to be informed anymore, no more,” I whimpered. It sounded like a lyric from a Bob Marley tune.
The woman disappeared… then reappeared pushing a Safeway shopping cart full of artifacts. I asked Bobbie if she thought the Safeway Corporation donated their shopping carts to this class. I was summarily ssssssssssssshed. I wondered how many Safeway Corporation grocery carts have been absconded by the Kaiser Organization.
The items in the cart were a macabre array. Some were vaguely familiar. Others, I remembered first seeing while researching torture implements from the Spanish Inquisition. Tom Miller and I were discussing tattoos and body piercings ……. Ah, But I Digress --- check out: “Hook Aren’t Just for Fishing ,” in this section.
Our informer, who I now believed was a graduate of the Nurse Ratchet School of Nursing, reached into the cart and pulled out a packet with half a dozen syringes. When I was a kid we called these shots. Shots included big blunt needles. I could never become addicted to heroin; I hate needles. I thought I’d said that to myself, but apparently I blurted it out loud. There were a few grunts of agreement from the assembled and another glare from The Informer.
I doubt Ratchet ever rehearsed her spiel. Since WE who were about to get new hips had to attend a hip class; why not a college class for potential Hip & Knee class instructors? With special emphasis on congeniality.
Her opening salvo, though to the point, seemed harsh and insensitive. She extracted a syringe from the twelve-pack, held it aloft, paced back and forth before her captive audience and said, “Now, after your operation you’ll be injecting these little devils…twice a day…into your stomach.” I swear she grinned. “Do any of you have a problem with sticking a 37 inch long needle into your abdomen?”
This sounded like great fun. Actually she didn’t mention the size of the needle I just stuck it in here for the record and I may have exaggerated the length.
Pacing dramatically, Ratchet plucked the small plastic condom off the tip of the needle, pushed the plunger and a strong stream of liquid squirted from the end. She watched until the syringe depleted; then spun to the class and in a drill sergeant voice declared, “Needle disposal is of the utmost importance. Do we all understand?” Ten heads nodded in unison. “Good. Very good.”
I really didn’t get it. I turned to the guy behind me. “Think she’s afraid we’re going to save all those cool needles and shoot up heroin with our friends at our next cocktail party?”
The guy behind me laughed. “Man, you folks must throw some good parties. When this is all over, be sure to invite us.” Bobbie elbowed me back to attention.
Gathering steam the Informer continued the class with explanations of the catheter. I was informed that someone I’d never met would be inserting this up the urine channel of my penis into my bladder. I broke my vow. I raised my hand. The Informer gave me a reluctant nod. I explained that I was rather shy and asked innocently if there was any possibility that the sticker-inner could be the same person as the puller-outer. She gave me a look of disdain and turned to Bobbie. “Is he always like this?” Bobbie nodded with chagrin. Traitor.
Ratchet enthusiastically brandished a shiny, chrome bed pan . “The bed pan has more than its obvious use.” She sidled to the far side of the room. “It’s also quite useful for emergency oral use. “ This mental image did not bode well with my stomach. She continued, “Morphine can cause unexpected waves of nausea.” She stuck her head in the pan to show us how to stick our heads into a bed pan. She gave us a few good retches for emphasis.
“Adele should sound so good,” I laughed. So did the guy behind me. Ratchet’s head exploded out of the bed pan like a Jack-in-the-box and gave us THE GLARE.
It took several long minutes for her to regain her composure and then she breezed through “IMPORTANT” information on pre- and post-operational exercises. She held out a pair of ugly white knee socks guaranteeing that they would halt the spread of varicose veins and blood clots. The socks were obviously too late for a woman to my right and she wasn’t even there for an operation.
Next out of the Safeway cart came a two foot long triangular piece of dull purple Styrofoam. She held it above her head like a weight lifter with a bar-bell. “This is a leg separator. After your surgery your legs should be spread apart as much as possible."
I turned to the man behind me. I was starting to like this guy. I whispered, “Bet you’d never hear a Nun telling that to a class of high school kids.” He snorted and roared with laughter. “Would you like to share that one with the entire class, Mr. Funny Man?” Ratchet asked.
My head snapped around like a taut rubber band. Another pregnant pause, THE GLARE and then she pulled out a Grabber. I wanted out of there. She showed us how to manipulate the claw-like contraption. It’s used for picking up discarded briefs and sox. But the way she wielded it, it looked like something out of her S & M catalogue. And I felt she would enjoy S&M-ing me.
The Informer pushed a walker across the room, showed us how to fold and unfold it. We all had a chance to hobble across the room with different length crutches. Then finally….. “And if there are no further questions?”
I was up. I made it halfway to the exit when Ratchet caught up with me. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Mr Spottler.”
“It’s pronounced, Spolter.”
“Yes, Mr. Spotteler. I’m looking forward to seeing you again.”
I was puzzled. “Why?”
“I’m the nurse in charge of post-op therapy.” She grinned. “It’s my job to continue to keep you informed.”