In less than three days I will lose my status as a person and once again become a patient.
Becoming a patient ages you faster than Father Time. I will become instantly dependent on people I do not even know to eat, sleep, get well, recover, and turn over in a hard, rubber-covered bed. I will need all the help I can get begging for pain-killers, sipping on ice, peeing, fighting the nightmares and learning how to move and sit and walk all over again.
I am having my left hip replaced. This is a gruesome operation. I will need blood, oxygen and the super-human skill of a surgeon. I have a lot more faith in the surgeon than I do in my courage and recovery abilities.
The last time, about three years ago, I was in the hospital for the right hip. That hip took a long time to fall apart. It took years and many career moves and four children and one marriage and more deaths of loved ones than I can think about. And, I did not know what was going to happen. It was scary, but the fear was buffered by the unknown. Not this time.
No tolerance for pain
This time, I know what to expect. People tell me that should make it better. It doesn't. It makes it worse because I am such a coward, especially about physical pain. I am not much better dealing with emotional pain, either, but the thought of how much pain and suffering I will be experiencing, even in brief doses, cripples me inside and outside. I can't pretend to put up a good, brave front. There is nothing even remotely brave in my entire being
This hip has only taken three years to fall apart. The pieces of me are breaking off like bark from a very old, very bent tree.
As one of the first of the Baby Boomers, I have already lost the battle with time and age and deterioration. Now I am facing what a general might call an "orderly" withdrawal.
In my heart of hearts I know that it will be a head-long retreat, a crazy, screaming rout. A disaster. I know it is coming, but I can't help it.
The only appreciation I have developed is a new and uncanny understanding of how important the hip is to a human being. Tell the truth: who has ever even thought about their hips unless you are facing the imminent removal of yours?
Life without a hip
Yet, you can do almost nothing that does not involve the moving of your hips. You can't sit, walk, run, climb steps, drive a car, stand in place, sweep the front yard, feel comfortable in a chair, get up from the table, move around in bed, hug your wife or child, lift a light bag, or even sit properly on a toilet without using your hips in multiple ways.
That's why it hurts so much when you need a new hip.
I know. I need one.
I will check back every day if I can, to let you know what's happening with the hip and the surgery.
I am doing this to help me keep from going crazy with the fear and anticipation and dread. I am also doing it to share these moments and this experience with my fellow Baby Boomers. All of our clocks are ticking.