We were up at 5:00 this morning watching River Monsters, a TV show about fishing that looks like National Geographic but sounds like Twilight Zone. Pain medication has warped our body clocks. I’ve lost a day. My partner’s knee replacement surgery was Tuesday. He was in by 8:00 am and home by 4:00 pm. It was drive thru surgery and the pace added some drama to our lives.
Monday night the hospital called to say all their beds were full of sudden illness emergencies, presumably flu/Covid/RSV, and they would not have a bed for him. So, his choice was to postpone the surgery for a second time or have it as an outpatient and go home the same day. We chose the outpatient option, got a crash course in care and meds from the nurses and physical therapists in the recovery room, and a couple hours later we were on our own with his new knee. I haven’t been this exhausted in years.
Tuesday blurred into Wednesday and I’m a day short this week, writing my usual Wednesday post on Thursday. This morning with his walker he did two laps around his boat in the garage and spent some time with his tools trying to MacGyver a way to attach his cane to his walker with a plastic bottle. It was a failed experiment, but I consider the initiative a very good sign. We can manage this.
Our gratitude for healthcare and the people who deliver it is beyond words. A team of dozens put us through a weeks-long, well-designed, templated process that began with an education class for patients and caregivers, shepherded us through interviews, pre-surgery check-ups and lab work, then managed us through the actual joint replacement on Tuesday. His new knee comes with a user manual, physical therapy sessions, and a follow-up appointment with the surgeon in two weeks. We are thankful for the individuals, the institutions that trained them, the schools that taught them, and the technology innovations that make solutions like joint replacement accessible to everyday people like us.
Millions of Americans have had knee replacements, and we’ve benefitted from their experience as it has informed the science and services. This feedback loop between recipients and providers is what makes healthcare a system. But society has a role to play in choosing who has access to the system. My partner and I could not afford the healthcare we are receiving if we had to pay for private health insurance, or if we had to pay providers directly for the actual costs. Medicare, a government program, enables our access to quality healthcare. At a time when many are cynical and disillusioned by government, Medicare is a good example of how together we co-create a system that works for us.