Laid Up

I wonder what the criteria are these days for an overnight stay in the hospital. They must be high. Many years back my wife had a hysterectomy and to save money the HMO sent her home the same day. She gritted her teeth and wailed all the way home from her many jostling sutures. It seems just about everything is being done outpatient these days, but if it is helping to control health care costs, it is hard for me to tell.

My relatively minor surgery yesterday certainly did not qualify for a hospital stay, which is just as well. I am more comfortable at home anyhow and Georgetown University Hospital is so far away from where I live. It took close to two hours just to drive there from our house near Dulles Airport. Much of that time was wasted creeping onto the ramps for the Dulles Toll Road and then trying to merge onto the traffic. It’s insane but just to make it more annoying they upped the tolls with the start of the new year. The Silver Line is going in, Metro’s latest controversial extension that will go through Tyson’s Corner and eventually to Dulles Airport and beyond. Money has to come from somewhere, so it comes from commuters on the toll road that have no other alternative. I am grateful I have to navigate the traffic on it so infrequently.

Parking at Georgetown University Hospital is always a hassle, but fortunately, my surgery was not. They must have finished patients ahead of me early. I had barely walked in the door and they were moving me back. I had doctors and nurses competing for my attention. They even skipped the traditional gurney ride into the operating room. My surgeon, anxious to get the procedure done with, had me walk into the operating room where the anesthesiologist hurried with my IV. One moment I was looking at the bright lights on the ceiling and suddenly it was ninety minutes later and I was in recovery. Huge bandages now cover my right foot and leg. Somewhere under all that dressing is a three-inch scar near my ankle where the tarsal nerve repair was done. Somewhere on my leg are three other incisions that helped release the pressure on those nerves. By 2 p.m. I was in crutches and on my way home.

Given a choice in the future, I would definitely consider Georgetown University Hospital again. The whole experience felt much faster and more professional than other hospitals we have used. The staff was excellent from the moment I arrived until the moment I left. I could not have asked for more professionalism and courtesy. Some years back after some back surgery, Reston Hospital wanted to give my wife some crutches, for which they wanted to bill her $200. What an outrage! Reston Hospital is a for profit hospital partially owned by Senator Bill Frist, one of the major stockholder of HCA. Georgetown, as a non-profit Catholic hospital (as well as a teaching hospital) charged me $44 for the crutches with no markup. It will take a while to see what my net bill will be but I suspect it will be lower than if I had the procedure performed locally.

Anyhow, I am home, and home is where I will stay for three weeks or so. My leg is bandaged in such a way that driving is impossible. Fortunately, I am reasonably mobile. I use crutches but due to all the gauze covering it, I can put some weight on the right leg. Nor really is there any pain. Yesterday I felt only numbness. It is clear that the surgeon wants the sutures to stay in place because the foot is wrapped so tightly that the whole foot feels numb, and it was the numbness (and pain) that I was trying to get rid of. At least one is down.

Home is where you heart is supposed to be but in truth, I am not much of a homebody. This means that three weeks at home will be something of a minor trial for me. I dread retirement because I feel like I need a place to go to during the day. For as long as I can remember it was always work or school. Even if I was having a stay-cation, should I feel the need to escape there was always the car. As I heal, I may be able to hobble around in my crutches up and down the block. This will be the extent that I will be leaving home.

To fill up the time I will first keep the foot propped up most of the day. Long naps do not seem necessary. I have a stack of DVDs I can work my way through, and there are books to read. There is also the web to surf, but for me surfing the web is always more fun after I have dodged and parried with the real world the rest of the day. Thanks to 21st century technology, I can effectively do 90% of my work at home, at least for a few weeks. So I plan to resume working next week, although my kitchen table is a poor substitute for the office. It has no becalming view of the Shenandoah Mountains, nor the convenience of the cafeteria and snack bars, nor the social life one can find in the office.

Somewhat begrudgingly, I think what I will miss most of all these three weeks at home is my office social life. I am no social butterfly. There have been consecutive days when the only one I spoke to was the guy who removes my trash. Still, it is nice to interact with people other than my immediate family. Here I have my wife who for a while will have to cater to me and who is always nice to have around, but she is a well-known commodity. There is also my daughter who sleeps during the day and who generally ignores me anyhow. There is also one friendly cat. To the extent I have a social life these next few weeks, it will be with my cat.

There are still bills to pay and work for clients on the side to do. That will help. I best double my dosage of Vitamin D because it will be awhile before I will feel the sun shining on my skin again. Being laid up is a part of life, and one I should get used to. It is perhaps something to be welcomed rather than feared. As for being one of life’s trials, it will be a minor one. Come early February, I expect I will be sick of it and will look forward to returning to the office. Until then, I must be a homebody.

Extreme makeover

Being fifty-something like me definitely has some drawbacks. Things I used to take for granted, like going a day without some aches and pains are now exceptions rather than the rule. When you are middle aged, every day you are playing a game of whack-a-mole with your health. Solve one problem and others unexpectedly pop up. In my case, I recently learned I had vein disease (in other words, my varicose veins are becoming a problem), a few neuropathies in my legs and feet, and tarsal tunnel syndrome in at least my right foot. On the good side, I weigh twenty-one pounds less than I did in January, my blood pressure has stabilized and I am hopeful my cholesterol level has dropped to normal levels.

Most likely if you are my age you are also dealing with medical issues. That does not necessarily mean that you have to look your age, particularly if you have $16,000 burning a hole in your pocket. Courtesy of London’s Daily Mail, I learned about the curious case of Janet Cunliffe, age fifty. Janet decided that she wanted to look like her daughter Jane and spent at least ten thousand British pounds to make it a reality. See if you can pick out Janet from this photograph with her daughter.

Janet and Jane Cunliffe
Janet and Jane Cunliffe

If you guessed that daughter Jane, age 28, is the woman on the left (as I did), you would be wrong. Jane is on the right, and mother Janet is on the left. Thanks to this rather extreme case of multiple plastic surgeries spanning more than a decade (as well as a lot of exercise and dieting) Janet actually looks younger than Jane.

Janet does look great but she seems to be a textbook case for why beauty is skin deep. From the Daily Mail story, it sounds like Janet has issues way beyond wanting to look unnaturally young. She divorced one husband then spent eight years in Spain in a dysfunctional and angry relationship that ultimately went nowhere. Eventually she returned to Great Britain into the welcoming arms of, well, not a husband or ex-husband, but her daughter Jane, who put her up and became something like her best friend.

In those distant pre-plastic surgery days, Janet used to be a redhead. Like many women pushing forty, she had sagging boobs, droopy eyelids and wore a size fourteen dress. All those trips to plastic surgeons resulted in the removal of puffy eyelids, uplifted and enlarged 34-DD breasts, a nose job, lips puffed up with collagen as well as blonde hair extensions. Perhaps the new Janet has become the Janet she always imagined herself to be. Perhaps this will allow her to become the attractive, anxiety-free twenty-something woman she wants to be some three decades after the fact.

I don’t think this is going to happen. Like me, she is still a fifty-something adult. If she is fifty, she is likely in the midst of menopause and is dealing with other medical issues that great plastic surgery cannot cure, like age spots. Selective skin bleaching might help with the age spots, but it will not fool a suitor for long. Last I heard, there was no plastic surgery for the bane of aging women: sagging necks. However, her plastic surgery, in addition to costing lost of money, has resulted in at least one complication. One breast implant ruptured. Janet though saw the incident as an opportunity to go from a pair of 34-C’s to a dynamic duo of uplifted 34-DD’s. It also meant she had to shell out another twenty five hundred pounds.

On the plus side, Janet now weighs a lot less than she used to, is eating healthy food and claims to feel better about herself. Perhaps by doing so she can retard many of the effects us middle-aged adults have to contend with. Beauty though is skin deep, which means ultimately she inhabits a middle-aged body like me. If she is not dealing with various aches and pains like I am, I would be surprised. She is chasing the illusion of immortality and youth, but an illusion it remains. Instead, she is setting herself up for more falls and grief.

I assume Janet wants to look younger in order to attract a suitable mate, someone who is less angry than her last boyfriend or better than her first husband. Janet should be careful though because she is likely to get a man attracted to the body she projects, which may be far removed from the man she actually wants.

Call me cynical or envious, but I cannot help but wonder if Janet would have been better off spending those ten thousand pounds on a good psychotherapist instead. She started her body sculpting adventure a decade ago. Had she invested the money in a psychotherapist instead, she might now be celebrating her tenth anniversary with a man who truly does cater to her physical and emotional needs. I suspect she would have gotten much better value for her money.