THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (October 26, 2020)
I apologize in advance to my 12 loyal readers; I might not be writing this report next week. In the 27 years since I began writing it weekly, I have missed only a few articles, usually for reasons out of my control. Tomorrow, I will be undergoing hip replacement surgery and I anticipate that I might need some time to recuperate. I suppose it is appropriate that, as I usher in my 66th year, concurrently, my body is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. In fact, this hip degeneration has been getting worse for well over a year, but I was in denial and was procrastinating. Shortly before the pandemic closed things down, I was finally about to throw in the towel and put myself on a list for a hip replacement, but then everything got delayed for 5+ months. In that time, the joint pain became exponentially worse, especially walking on the irregular terrain that surrounds our house, and I began to limp noticeably. Friends called attention to the change in my gait, but I was unaware just how obvious it had become. As of this writing, I am having trouble walking without a cane. When I went in for the initial meeting with the orthopaedic surgeon who had seen my X-rays, he was concerned enough to prioritize my surgery and put me at the top of his list for upcoming procedures. As a primary caregiver, I have denied this problem for too long. As we approach winter, perhaps the timing isn’t great, but the good news is that to be homebound is the new norm these days.
Due to the ongoing and escalating COVID-19 cases, this is an odd time to be going into a hospital for surgery, and as a result, I admit that I am a bit nervous. Then again, it couldn’t be nearly as dangerous as attending a President Rump rally. I asked one of the nurses charged with my pre-admission assessment if she was concerned about an outbreak in the hospital and she said that, in her opinion, attention to hygiene in the hospital was much better than usual. Protocols already in place are being more strictly enforced. The anesthesiologist with whom I spoke informed me that I will not be put under a general anesthetic. Instead, they will give me an epidural to numb my mid-section, and some Propofol to relax me. Yes, that’s Propofol, the drug that the late, legendary pop star Michael Jackson was using irresponsibly to help him sleep. Learning that I will not be put to sleep for the procedure, I asked the anesthesiologist if that meant I will be awake during the surgery, and he said something like: “You may feel some tugging and pulling, but you’ll be floating, so you won’t care.” Apparently, recovery times are vastly improved when the patient does not undergo a general anesthetic, and I’m all for that. I just hope I don’t hear any sawing. I think she was kidding, but Shauna said she wants me to save the old hip bone, and I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps she wants me to make another lamp or make a paperweight out of it or something. I once saved a picture of my father’s colon after his colon surgery. It looked a little like the Holland tunnel, if it were decorated by Cristo. Don’t judge me.
Coupled with the obvious existential issues many of us face right now as a species, this latest speed bump finds me reminding myself of my blessings. I am thankful to have been graced with good health for most of my life, and I am even more thankful to have access to this restorative surgery. As I age, I am more mindful of my vulnerability and my need to mind my health. There’s a line in my song “Time We Found” which reads: I used to live my life spontaneously, embellishing my clouded memories ...” It was a veiled reference to the fact that I used to self-medicate regularly. I squandered too much of my time, and did a lot of foolishly dangerous things. I am less inclined to do any of that now. I’ve been a bit discouraged of late, hobbling around like the old man I stubbornly deny I am becoming. These days, (relatively) clear-headed, and fast approaching my golden years, I don’t take the passage of time for granted. I no longer assume I will live a long life. As the above-referenced song suggests, love is the antidote to those concerns. Thankfully, I have an abundance of love in my life. I hope this surgery allows me to be hip pain free and ambulate freely again, but regardless of the outcome, I realized we’re all on the same train. I’m not the conductor, but the trick is to enjoy the ride.
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED