A tragically hip replacement

It means doing battle with the heath-care industry during recovery and greeting annoyingly cheerful pedestrians during rehab.
Crosscut archive image.

An X-ray of a replacement hip, but not the one Steve has. (Wikipedia)

It means doing battle with the heath-care industry during recovery and greeting annoyingly cheerful pedestrians during rehab.

I had my right hip replaced a few weeks ago. (I made it rounder to impart a slight flair to a double-vented jacket.)

I had a great surgeon and a caring, concerned hospital staff.

Every few hours, a hospital staff member would check my vital signs. I was grateful until I realized that they all worked for the credit department.

"High blood pressure and an erratic pulse are highly correlated with slow pay," one staffer confided. "No blood pressure and no pulse is even a bigger problem," he continued. "Collecting co-pay from an estate is problematic. If someone is dying, our job is to get him out of the hospital and replace him with a paying customer, what we in trade call 'a live one.'"

"I'm a live one! Do you take American Express?" I shouted.

"I'll take your word for that," he responded. "Once we develop a DNA marker for creditworthiness, this whole business will be simpler."

After passing a credit check every three hours, a representative from legal would ask me to sign a long form.

"I just signed one of those three hours ago," I complained.

"This one is an unconditional release for anything that happened within the last three hours, including changes in case law."

"What if I don't sign?"

"You have an IV going in and a catheter and wound drain going out."


"Management is always looking for more efficiencies. In your case, we could eliminate the middleman."

"I'm a live one!" I yelled. "Where do I sign?"

For tolerating credit and legal, I was rewarded with drugs and food.

I was thrilled when I learned I had been prescribed Oxycodone, the drug of choice for celebrities like Rush Limbaugh. I expected a great high.

Was I disappointed. Oxycodone is just one more proof that everything has gone to hell since I turned 30. Music has degenerated from the Jefferson Airplane and Credence Clearwater Revival to Jay-Z and 50 Cent. For movies, we get Lethal Weapon IV and Spiderman 3 in place of Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider. And instead of hashish and LSD, we have Oxycodone, whose principal side effects are drowsiness, constipation, loss of appetite, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, and sweating.

In the good old days, my roommates, upon awakening, would shout, "Why isn't anybody rolling?" I imagine Rush and his crowd in a similarly celebratory atmosphere today:

Rush: "Dropped Oxy last night. Man, am I constipated."

Wynona: "I did Oxy myself. What a trip! Dizziness, sweats, headaches, dry mouth, the whole thing."

Rush: "Far out!"

Lindsay: "I am going to do Oxy after lunch. Get real drowsy and drool up a storm."

Rush: "Outasight. Now it's time for my daily diatribe against the liberal hippies because they get all the good dope."

I was happily surprised that the hospital food, offered a la carte, reached the level of a passable fast-food outlet.

How did the kitchen escape the hospital lawyers? I had to initial my own hip prior to surgery, but could order food orally, with no documentation. My food was delivered without nutritional warning and listing of transfat content. I think I'll sue.

The hospital did warn that I should limit alcohol to four ounces of wine daily. A model patient, I limited my intake of cheap, inferior wines to less than four ounces a day. (In fact, I have observed this limit for decades.)

When applied to higher quality wines, I assumed the hospital's hard rule became a flexible guideline.

Once home, I begin prescribed daily walks. This being Seattle, everyone politely greeted me with, "Hello, How are you?"

"How am I? I'm on crutches, you moron," I would say to myself.

As an experiment, I began to offer a series of responses that ranged from low to moderate on the irony scale:

  • "I'm doing fine, as you can see."
  • "Great. These crutches are so much fun I may keep using them after I have healed."
  • "Great. October in Seattle is almost perfect for hip pain."
  • "I feel great. Don't be fooled by the crutches. They're part of my Halloween outfit."

The response was always the same – a pleasant smile. The level of irony prompted no discernable differences.

I am now pursuing the theory that most Seattleites are closet Oxy addicts, which has caused permanent damage to their ironic sensibilities.


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