November 24, 2016
Questions have been asked, so here’s an update to our normally sailing and travel-oriented blog:
As mentioned previously, Serafina has been left on her own on the dock in Licata, Sicily, while Birgit and Syd have travelled to the US for a variety of errands that have piled up after over two years travelling on Serafina. These have included getting a renewed vessel document for Serafina, making sure that Birgit’s “green card” remains valid, doing various banking and bureaucratic things that are hard to do from Italy. The bonus has been wonderful visits with friends, and other Northwest treats like IPAs, our favorite sushi/sashimi spot, great Mexican food, and, very soon, a feast on Dungeness crab – the world’s finest seafood (in our ever humble opinion).
Then, there has been my hip replacement surgery, done on November 15 – or nine days ago. First of all, there have been major advancements in both the surgical techniques and the replacement joint itself. Anyone who is thinking about having this done needs to check out the “anterior” approach. It’s relatively new, and older surgeons who have resisted re-training are still doing the older, much more invasive method of cutting through muscles on the side or rear of the hip. Recovery is longer with the older method, and there are more restrictions on movement in the few months of recovery following the surgery – because dislocating the new joint is easier with the older approach.
Anyway, my surgeon used the anterior approach, and the surgery took a grand total of 35 minutes. It’s still a lot of cutting, sawing and pounding to put the new joint together, but I walked out of the hospital on crutches the same day as the surgery. There have been no problems, no infection, and the nice narcotic pain medications were no longer needed after the first couple days.
It takes some time for things to settle down after that much disruption, but the recovery is well under way, staples out, and goals are being set (such as managing to walk to the nearest tavern). It takes a couple months for the new joint to really settle in, and the instructions for now are: walk, walk, walk, first with crutches, then a cane, then with nothing (hopefully soon).
There are certainly many problems associated with aging bodies for which medicine does yet not have a “magic bullet,” but I feel very fortunate to live in a time when it is possible to remain physically active and flexible through one’s later years, thanks to joint replacement. All it takes is access to good medical care… For all the bad things said, justifiably, about health care in the US, this procedure was quick, friendly, professional and utterly without drama or stress. No one has mentioned money yet, which seems out of character for our profit-oriented world, but amazingly the US has a quite workable system of “socialized medicine” for older people – Medicare – that works smoothly and efficiently so far. We’ll see what happens to it in the coming months.
On the downside of being back in the US, there has been sticker-shock at the price of everything from food to housing to restaurant meals, the traffic and the re-entry into anxiety-driven consumerism. And, we were here for the election, which promises real battles ahead if Trump follows through on his campaign rhetoric. But it’s well past time for some good fights over women’s rights, respect for immigrants, and the basic responsibilities of a government to its citizens and to the world. We’ve already seen some important signs of a fighting spirit, young people marching in the streets, and we expect to see much more of this in the coming years.