Town Crier: Jan. 27, 2011
by Clarke Davis
The first day of the first big snow Marveta was scheduled for a knee replacement, so we got a room in Topeka the night before and borrowed our son’s 4-wheel drive.
I chose to read Ian Frazier’s new book about his travels crossing Siberia, a place I always equated with frigid cold. The 9,000-mile trip by car took over five weeks but was completed in August and early September. He describes dusty roads and rivers and lakes warm enough to bathe in.
The trip started on the west side and ended on the east side on the coast of the Sea of Japan. It was September 11, 2001, and he got a text message from his family stating, “We are all right.” He would soon learn the details and would have to wait several days before he could fly out of Vladivostok for South Korea and then make connections home.
The theme of cold winters continued one day as I accompanied Marveta and other grimacing, walker-pushing, titanium-loaded cripples to their dining hall. We sat with a large fellow whose coldest winter was in Korea during the war. He had enlisted in the Kansas Army National Guard when he was 16. At the age of 17 he was in the war theater. At the age of 18 he received a notice to appear before his draft board.
He wrote to the draft board to inform the members he would appear if his company commander saw fit to release him.
Knee-replacement people are for the most part older, but little else distinguishes them as a group. People of all races, all income levels, all political persuasions, and religious affiliations have knees that wear out. So meal time is kind of like attending a Rotary Club meeting where everyone behaves, compliments and sympathizes with each other, and never broaches politics or religion.
It was inauguration week in Topeka but it was never mentioned among the hobblers. Why suggest it was a good thing, or a bad thing, and risk a face full of mashed potatoes in an otherwise congenial setting.
By late the second day, these otherwise proud and independent types, some who had born children and were no doubt titans of whatever world they inhabited, began to move a little more quickly, a little more independently, and the belts around their waists that nurses held onto began to disappear.
One of the excellent caregivers in that joint replacement center was Danny Ruff from Ozawkie, who simply exemplified the best in patient dedication and caring. He is also a medical technician on the staff of the Jefferson County Ambulance Service.
All dressed alike in gray shorts and T-shirts that said “Property of Stormont-Vail HealthCare,” I suggested the patients looked more like inmates, hobbled so they couldn’t escape.
Had one tried to escape, I think he could have made it. I saw the hospital security officer, Bill Uhner of Valley Falls, in the basement one morning when I went to breakfast. I don’t know what his security concerns were at that time, but I’m guessing that his repelling up to the third floor would have given one of these limpers a good head start.
Titanium was discovered as an element in 1791 and named for the Titans of Greek mythology. Its positive aspects would fill half a book, but it was discovered accidentally in experiments with animals that it is the one metal that the body will not reject. Called “biocompatible,” bone will actually adhere or grow onto the metal rather than reject it as it does other foreign material.
Recuperation and therapy are going well and Marveta sends her love and thanks to all her well-wishers.
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