Peaceable Man Files Issue #9: A Trip to the Body Parts Store
Random musings on my gypsy existence at my cabin in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and wherever else life takes me.
On Monday, I go into the hospital to have my arthritic left hip replaced.
I’ve been putting it off for months—years, more like it—telling myself it wasn’t so bad, that I could put up with the aches and pains and limitations. But lately, the pain has been close to unbearable. I can barely put any weight on the leg. My hip throbs at night, making it hard to sleep. Simple things that I used to do without thought—like bending over to tie my shoes, or sitting down on a chair, or taking a brisk walk with the dog—I now do gritting my teeth.
It’s not just the left hip that hurts, either. It’s my lower back, my hamstrings, my right knee. The body is an amazingly fine-tuned machine, crafted by a master machinist, and one when part is weak, the other parts do their best to compensate, but then the whole operation gets thrown out of balance.
Even worse than the pain is not being able to do things I enjoy. Like hiking or biking or working in the garden or wading a river while fly fishing. Life without the simple pleasures that give us joy can become a grind and that’s where I’m at. It’s like being made a prisoner by accretion. Each day, you do less and less. Inch by inch, your world closes in and becomes constricted.
Why live like this when there’s an alternative? From everything I hear and read, a hip replacement as it’s performed today is as close as you can come to a surgical walk in the park. Because it’s done with minimally invasive techniques, no muscles will be cut in the surgery and I will be up and walking the same day.
At any rate, there’s no choice in the matter. You reach a point where the risk-reward ratio of surgery tilts clearly toward the side of action. It must be done.
So marks a new chapter in my long and checkered history of surgeries. Up to this point, all the countless procedures I’ve had done in my life have been matters of clear necessity. Hand surgery when I was nineteen (construction accident). Knee surgery when I was thirty-four (meniscus tear). Abdomen surgery when I was thirty-eight (hernia). Leg surgery when I was forty-five (skiing accident). Colon resection surgery when I was fifty-three (cancer).
This will be the first time I actually will be getting something replaced in my body. My left hip joint, worn down by arthritis and all those years of basketball and running, will be replaced by a state-of-the-art joint made of titanium and cobalt chrome attached to a ceramic head.
My left hip will be made new, and I will be given a new lease on life, able (in time) to take up my beloved activities again with no limitations except to stop running, since it would prematurely wear out my new joint. No sacrifice there—I’ve never been particularly fond of running anyway.
It’s amazing, when you stop to think about it. And that’s exactly what I am doing this weekend—reminding myself to take a moment and give thanks for my blessings. We are truly blessed to live in an age when such medical procedures can be done, routinely and safely.
It’s safe to say that I am alive today because of these medical miracles. On Monday, I will be smiling at my doctor and the medical team surrounding him—all of them. Thanking them for giving me a new lease on life. They are modern miracle workers.
I will also be giving thanks to my old left hip. It’s given me sixty-plus wonderful years of exploring this earth. How many tens of thousands of miles we’ve walked together!
Thank you, hip. You’ve done your job and done it well. Now it’s off to the body parts store. I have a feeling I’ll be making more stops there in the years ahead.
May all of you have a peaceful week filled with blessings.