Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Vacation Alternative

I just got a reminder from Ed Wall to get off my butt and blog about something. Trouble is - my thinking has been limited to recovering from a full knee replacement, which I had done last week. Due to swelling, I’m not supposed to sit for long, so messing with the computer has been put on hold. But maybe I’ll give you a quick overview of the process.

If you can’t afford a European cruise this year and if you have Medicare, consider spending a couple of days in the luxury of a modern hospital. The amenities are endless.

You have your very own catheter and how many times have you wished you had one of these at three in the morning or during a long flight in a crowed airplane? Rather than climb over strangers to get to the head, you could simply smile, and dose off to sleep.

You also get an IV system with a spider-web of tubes, endless blood tests, thermometers and blood pressure checks. You even have your own plastic bracelet as a reminder of who you are. This is like the boarding pass on a cruise ship. Very fashionable.

The free robes are great. You wear them backwards, so that your butt can provide a welcoming vertical smile to spectators carrying flowers down the hospital corridors.

If you are a good patient, you may be rewarded with a stethoscope. Everyone seems to be wearing one of these things. They come in handy. At a nice restaurant, if you are wearing a stethoscope, the waiter will usually bring you extra bread.

And the hospital staff is always there to serve you. They are particularly active at night. You are required to “rest” and get as much sleep as you can, but this is a trick. As soon as you drift off to sleep, an orderly or nurse, who has been hiding just outside the door, will come in, check the IV, take your temperature and when it’s been determined that you are fully awake, the nurse will slip out of the room and tell you to get some rest.

After you settle down, another nurse watches as your eyes flutter. When you get back to sleep and begin to dream of a European cruise, the lights pop on again, and in trots someone else with a tray of ominous-looking tools. The nurse or “technician” reads from a chart and begins another process to confirm that you haven’t died yet.

This process continues through the night and you get used to it. I guess I’m a little less comfortable when a young man with a twinkle in his eye wants to check my catheter.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  My right knee left me only one option. That is, unless I wanted to continue to limp and watch my leg bow more and more.

In Quincy we are limited to what is available with regard to professional services.  The orthopedic surgeon hits Quincy once a week, but fortunately he is very good at knees, hips and other orthopedic problems. I think he’s also a part-time building contractor, as I’ll explain later.

I wanted to be awake through the entire operation, so I was given an epidural, or whatever they call it. They had a sheet blocking my view, so I couldn’t see what was happening, but man, I heard everything.

Lots of sawing, tugging, filing and hammering. Not “tap, tap, tap” hammering.  I’m talking about applying a framing hammer as a cathartic device for anger management. Since I didn’t feel it and they piped in good music from the ‘50s and ‘60s, I was actually relaxed and could have gone to sleep despite the noise.

The procedure itself is brutal. Basically the leg bones are cut off above and below the knee and, after some carpentry, the metal parts are hammered into the bone, stuffed back in, etc., etc.

After a couple of hours and still numb from the waist down, I was wheeled to my luxurious stateroom. I knew that I was required to be able to walk with a walker and be off IV pain medication, morphine drip, etc. before I could leave, so I got up as soon as I could and practiced with the walker. No problem. I could handle that part fine the first day.

The only other qualification was to be off  IV pain medication. This was no problem either, because they forgot to put me on the stuff. The doc was a little upset by that and there were additional mistakes, but I was fine. I guess I didn’t need it. So I was out of the resort in two days. Frankly, the surgery is the easy part.

A hospital vacation doesn’t require knee surgery. Most of us have had our own personal preferences for various hospital stays, but if hip or knee replacement is something you would love to add to your resume, you’d better hurry.  Hip and knee replacement surgery for older people may be on the chopping block under Obama care, from what I've read.

A hospital respite is just an idea for an alternative vacation, but you may prefer the Bahamas.


  1. Great stuff, Ralph. Next time have a rear view photo so we can actually see how nice the hospital gowns fit!

    I bet you will be up to your old standards in raquetball pretty soon!

  2. Ed - Thanks for reminding me that I have a blog.

  3. You got your knee done already? Man, you don't waste any time, do you? Hope ur better soon, bro.

  4. Rog -

    I was beginning to limp like Walter Brennon, so I got it over with.