It’s Good to Be Hip!
By John F. Rifenberg
Okay, it’s after three o’clock in the afternoon, where is everyone? My hip replacement surgery is supposed to be happening right now. It’s scheduled for three o’clock, recovery room at five o’clock followed by cake and ice cream at seven o’clock. The nurse just came in and said “The doctor is running a little late.”
An idea for another short story; why are doctors always running late? So I’m laying here all cleaned up, needles in both of my arms, no TV or radio just staring at a clock around which the arms are not moving. The same nurse walks by with a cup of coffee and smiling, “It won’t be long now.”
I reply, “I’m not going anywhere.”
My mind starts to wander around and for some reason it goes to the old west. Maybe it’s the meds taking over my body. I feel like I’m the bad guy who is supposed to be hung at high noon. All the townspeople are gathered around the hanging post in the center of town. School has been let out early to show the children what happens to you if you don’t do your homework. A deputy comes into the jail and announces “The hanging is delayed; the rancher with the good hanging rope isn’t here yet.”
The town has literally closed down for the event; people are waiting, starting to complain, and unrest is settling in. It’s a big event for the town and good for the economy. All the diners and taverns are open for lunch. Everyone is ready for the show and the good hanging rope isn’t here.
So I say to the deputy, “Let’s just cancel the event?”
Someone else in the jail answered. “The good hanging rope is on its way. Anyways we can’t cancel- the children are out of school and they have no snow days left.”
This scenario is broken as my nurse who is layered in blue gowns announces. “You’re next.”
Now the race is on. As they push my cart, I hear her say. “It’s been a long day and the doctor is getting tired and cranky.”
I grab the side of the gurney, “What?”
Then she says “I’m the last one left. Everyone else is ready to go home for a cold beer.” Does she realize I’m awake?
All of a sudden I feel like I’m at a car repair shop when it’s time for happy hour. I’m rushed into the operating room where everyone is in a hurry.
There stands a man wearing a dirty shirt that’s tight fitting over his beer belly, with the name Boss on it. He’s wiping his hands with a greasy rag, and talking thru a half -eaten cigar says, “Boys, throw that motor together and get those tires on this baby. It’s time to get our asses home. Who has the keys? Someone kick those tires.”
Then everything goes black.
During the pre-operation meetings, my fine doctor found that my left leg was a half inch to an inch shorter than my other leg. During the operation he would straighten out my leg and make them the same length. He will add the missing inch, I’m not sure how. Now that I think of it, I have something else on my body that’s missing an inch, but that’s a story for another day.
I wake up on the surgical gurney, rolling around in pain. My left knee is on fire and I’m begging for pain relievers. Someone shoots me up with something. I think I see an angel; it’s my bride, Frankie. Somehow we get to our room, which is private and cozy. The nurses then hook me up with IV’s and other machines. Then I’m asked if I’m alright.
“Am I alright?”
We move into a new phase of recovery. It’s now two a.m. and I haven’t eaten or slept in almost 24 hours. I’m having trouble with pain killers. They give me anxiety. Frankie informed me that my medically induced performance was entertaining especially, the grand finale, when I took off all of my clothes. By three o’clock I was naked. My hospital grown was covering my privates. I decide to get out of bed and sit in the recliner, and of course I have to have the door open. I’m getting claustrophobic. But for some reason I am feeling better. I’m not sure how Frankie or the nurses feel. They’re having a meeting to analyze the situation. Sleeping pills are now the solution.
Finally the second day of my hospital stay is here. It feels like the first day lasted about 72 hours. And to my luck, my second day is Valentine’s Day. Frankie and I have already had our Valentine’s Day the weekend before.
My room is near the main nurse’s station, which I love. I want to hear people and feel life. The morning shift comes on duty and a certain aura fills the floor. Slowly at first, then more and more, the flowers and candies begin to arrive for some lucky ladies. Love is in the air or at least happy thoughts. Soon the nurses are offering candies to the patients that can eat them. I’m hoping for booze.
As I go for my forced march that my PT instructor makes me do, I slow my pace near the nurse’s station to listen to the excitement of the voices. The younger ladies are happily planning the evening, what to wear, where they’re going for dinner, plus maybe some romance later. The older nurses are telling stories of the wild experiences of their youth. The room reeked of passion. By the end of the day flowers and candies are everywhere, but, to my dismay, no booze. What’s wrong with this generation?
By now, I have another reaction to my new medication, yes, unfortunately, diarrhea. Another long day and night is ahead for me. I have found that there is no concept of time in a hospital. It’s just like Vegas, where there are no clocks. Except no fun, no winning, no losing (except body parts), no music and no booze. Great!
Toilet paper becomes a key element for my survival at this time. I’m given pills for my diarrhea and something to make me sleep. My body has become a dumping site for all kinds of pills.
After almost spending a week of my life in the hospital or three days in real life, I can go home; if I pass the physical. Finally I’ll be back in my own bathroom! It’s been great here I have young people back in my life; the trouble is they’re walking me to the bathroom. I practice all morning for this physical, all the moves. Thank God, I’m an athlete!
Then in the afternoon all the patients are herded into a large room. It’s called the Replacement Room. Everyone has a new hip, knee, or something that was missing which they had yesterday morning. The average age is about ninety. I feel like a kid in that room. The young man in charge, who is younger than the socks I’m wearing, takes command of the room. He starts walking towards me as if I’m first in line.
Then I have a flash back. It must be the meds again, I’m in boot camp and a tall black Staff Sergeant is standing over me. He is just back from Viet Nam and he’s angry because he left his platoon behind. There’s more war to fight and he’s going back as soon as possible. Now he’s wasting his time with a bunch of soft ass babies. He acts as if the North Vietnamese are about to invade the main land of the United States. My life is in his hands. He talks to me, telling me I don’t look like a soldier. Well, I was drafted, that’s why I don’t look like a soldier. He continues to yell at me about everything. I’m fat, which I’m not. I’m stupid, which I am for being there. I drift back to physical instructor who is critical of my exercises. He asks me if I’m ready to go home. I respond “YES, SIR!” And then I saluted him. ” I yelled this into a room full of retires on meds and missing body parts. Everyone just stared at me in horror.
* * *
It was the longest week of my life and I was there only three days. As I dress with Frankie’s help, I look into the mirror. I look older, grayer and heavier. To my dismay my hair style stayed the same, it’s called early bald, but it has saved me a fortune on combs and expensive hair products. Frankie looks younger, thinner, and beaming with life. I smile at her and she smiles back and says,
“Honey, lets ditch this joint and go home.”