My friend Louise had knee replacement surgery on Monday, and I spent most of the day in the hospital, there to support her and to relay messages to her adult kids. I’m going to stay with her for several days when she gets home from the hospital, either Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.
Medicare, apparently, views knee replacement as a 23 hour 59 minute hospital stay — although the patient who is not ready can be kept longer. That means one day longer, assuming there are no complications, not a lot longer.
Being the support person is a lot of sitting around waiting and then, when the person is moved to her room, helping sort out the unfamiliar setting. I had lots of time to compare and contrast this experience with being at Hospital Dr. Arnulfo Arias in Panama, when I was there for Minga. Our hospitals are high tech and gleaming, with tight protocols and procedures for infection control. The charity hospital in Panama City is a wreck, pretty much. That said, Minga never got an infection for the whole year she went there three times a week to receive dialysis. I find that remarkable. There was one bathroom along that long corridor for all the family members to use, with a single toilet and a sink that didn’t work — no place to even wash your hands.
The hospital where Louise had her surgery does a lot of joint replacements, and they clearly have it down to a science. I was impressed. It’s like stepping onto a conveyer belt optimized for the procedure, although they do try to make it as easy as possible for the patient to adapt to the system. An old man came in with his wife, she the patient, clearly cognitively impaired and identified as medically unable to complete the paperwork and sign the release. I thought how frightening it must be every step of the way if you can’t remember why you’re in this strange setting and what is going to happen and why.
Louise, happily, had a much smoother path. She and I wondered aloud what used to happen when surgeries like this were less available and less good. I think people stopped moving, because it hurt too much, and their overall health quickly declined. We haven’t figure out how to replace cells worn out by age, but we have replacing worn out joints down to a science. I expect Louise to be fully back up and running in a couple of weeks — running figuratively, not literally. 🙂