Change Of Pace

SteeleHow to enjoy a knee operation ... not!

July 9, 2008

I know there are too many organ recitals, as we ancient and honorable retirees meet and greet one another, exchanging news of our latest operations and ailments, or sharing discovery of a new, cheaper generic for Viagra, or explaining how to use Cialis if you don’t own a bathtub. But the saga of my wife’s recent knee replacement and physical therapy are grist for the recital mill – so those contemplating knee replacements will breathe easier or skip it altogether based on my carefully documented, but reliably inaccurate description of the episode.

While waiting in various hospital wards, you have a rare opportunity to express inane or quasi-sedated conversation. My wife attributed her bad knees to high school athletics. Trying to inject a little light-hearted humor, I asked if she was a junior Sumo wrestler? She said no, but one more smart remark and I could look forward to a Sumo throw to the ground followed by her sitting on my head until I apologized with a promise of a pearl necklace. I think she came up with the pearl because one of the male nurses was wearing a pearl earring.

We talked about the size and shape of the new knee. Since she knew more than I did, I asked, “Do they have male and female knees for different genders? How do you tell if it’s a female knee?” “See if it bitches,” she said very adroitly. “OK, one for you,” I responded, making a big “one” with my index finger.

“What if it’s a male knee?”
“That’s easy. It’ll have a BB brain.”
“And a BB brain, what’s that?” I asked suspiciously.
“Well, if you talk to a male knee it will only talk about Beer and Boobs, or Booze and Baseball. And did I mention Bird Brain?”

That conversation took place in the pre-op ward as they were prepping her for surgery, so she may have been doped up. Doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses kept asking her funny questions like, “What are we doing with you today? Which knee are we operating on?” Finally the surgeon came in and drew a target on her left knee with an indelible marker. My daughter who works in a hospital in Maine told me to ask every one before they touched my wife if they’d washed their hands. Which, I think is why they kept asking, “Isn’t it time for your husband to leave?” Fortunately, no one invited me into the operating room to supervise.

After the operation and an hour recuperating in the recovery room, they asked me to follow the big-wheeled thing she was lying on to her hospital room. She was great, they reassured me, while she slept, still under sedation. I was relived to see her and grateful she never said anything bad about me while she was under sedation. She did yell one four letter word beginning with the letter “S” and may have been referring to me or an old dog we once owned who walked into the house all muddy after a rain and shook all over the kitchen. Or maybe it was what she said the last time she found out she was pregnant again. I knew she was still out of it when she yelled the “S” word, because instinctively I said “Yes dear” and she didn’t respond.

Well, maybe I’ll reveal more intelligent medical secrets in the next chapter. I’m still recovering. Until then, keep taking your medicine before it takes you. And make yourself useful by asking everyone if they’ve washed their hands.

God Bless America

Great American comebacks

When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.
He answered by saying, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders.
The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
It became very quiet in the room.

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.
During a break one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?"
A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day; they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?"
Once again, dead silence.

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.
Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, "Whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English." He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?"
Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German."
You could have heard a pin drop.

A group of Americans, retired teachers, recently went to France on a tour. Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on. "You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked sarcastically. Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously. "Then you should know enough to have your passport ready."
The American said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."
"Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France!"
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, "'Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in '44 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find any Frenchmen to show it to."