I returned to work on Monday, December 2, after a month’s hiatus.

On Tuesday, October 29, I joined an ever-growing club of Americans with titanium knees. My journey to this point probably began when I was around 12 years old.

Like many families of the era, we heated our home using a Warm Morning stove. Wood and coal had to be brought in daily to fuel the fire, and it was my job to see that these supplies were provided.

Our woodpile was located between our home and the chicken house, and after school (We never missed at NGS—Mr. Vinson didn’t believe in snow days!), my afternoon chores included loading the wheelbarrow and bringing the wood to the house.

On this particular afternoon, the temperatures stood near zero. A heavy snowfall a day or two before left us with about an inch or so of ice on the ground, plus the snow on top of that. My route to the house included a slight incline, and as I pushed the wheelbarrow up this rise, both my feet suddenly slipped backwards and I crashed to the ground—hard—on my knees. I can still remember the pain.

Anyway, my doctors tell me that might very well have planted the seed for today’s situation.

I won’t bore you with the details of my many visits to various doctors over the past five years or so. I lost track of the scans, tests, and x-rays, plus the shots into the knee and into the hip. Up until last May, nothing showed up. One doctor even said, “Sometimes a person has pain and there’s no explanation for it.” Hmmmmm.

But last May, after “one more MRI,” Dr. Sherrell at KOC announced, “Well, it lit up like a Christmas tree!” Among other things, he said, “You have a pothole in the cartilage behind your kneecap.”

He then proceeded to outline plans for surgery. After he finished, I announced, “I can’t be bothered with that right now!”

He responded, “Well, it’s totally optional.”

“I know, but I must explain. Our high school class (the illustrious CCHS Class of 1969) is planning our 50-year reunion for Aug. 17, and I wrote the letters last winter. In the letters, I said, ‘And whatever you do, DON’T schedule knee replacement surgery for this summer!’”

After Dr. Sherrell quit laughing, he said, “Here’s my card. Why don’t you just call me when you’re ready?”

Like most everything I do, I went into the surgery in an optimistic manner. I’m a firm believer in laughter. The surgery went extremely well, and, as usual, I’ve learned a lot.

For example, I learned many people delight in sharing horror stories about surgeries and procedures that “went bad.” I lost count of the Aunt Bertha’s and Uncle Homer’s who never walked again after “that butcher of a doctor cut on him/her!”

I also learned that it takes more than knee surgery to impress my grandson. On the day after my surgery, while I was still in the hospital, Kay took a picture of my knee to send Amber and Connor. A large, padded bandage covered my incision. When we Facetimed that night, Connor put his face right up to the screen to see “D’s knee” and was rather disappointed. I guess because no bones were sticking out and no remnants of gore and blood showed, he felt like all the to-do about my surgery was overrated.

I learned that hospital food can be tasty. After having “nothing by mouth” since midnight before my surgery, which was performed mid-day, I was near collapse from hunger when I was returned to my room in early afternoon. Lunch had already been served, but an angel of a nurse said, “I’ll see if I can get you a hamburger from the kitchen.”

Said hamburger arrived shortly and I don’t think anything I’ve had from Fox & Hounds or Lois’s can ever compare. In retrospect, the bun was cold and the meat was dry, but, oh, it was so tasty!

I’ve learned that I can survive therapy.

Before my discharge from the hospital, those eight of us who had received new knees the day before walked (yes---walked) to the communal lounge for our first therapy session. Of course, we were well medicated, but we all managed to execute the steps and maneuvers our therapists required.

I’ve learned that I have many, many dear and true friends. I won’t try to name them all—space doesn’t permit and you know who you are. After returning home, Kay and I didn’t have to worry about food for several days. Everything from soups to ribs to homemade pimiento cheese arrived, along with homemade breads, brownies, and fudge. An entire meal was delivered one night!

I began my journey to recovery at VIP Therapy the day after I returned home. Thank you, Terry Frankford, and later, Selena Basinger, for helping me get to Kay’s car and into VIP those first couple of days.

I’ve learned that, as a retired teacher, I have former students who stand ready and willing to take care of me. At VIP, two of my main therapists are Chad Norton and Jenny Zmich. They are so kind, yet they don’t cut me the slightest bit of slack. I’m making great progress. Was cleared to drive shortly after my third week and to return to work “when I felt like it.”

I’ve graduated to a cane now and am using one that belonged to my Granddaddy O’Neil, who died in 1946. Just goes to prove that you should never throw anything away—you never know when you’ll need it.

And speaking of canes, I’ve learned that people I meet react differently to those of us hobbling along. Some (few) give looks of disgust. They might as well just ask, “Why don’t you just die and be done with it?”

Others turn their heads, as though my condition is contagious. It’s not—trust me.

Still others feel the need, as I’ve already mentioned, to share horror stories about people I don’t know. Others probe for every little detail. Others have sense enough to say little.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that when I enter a business, quite often it’s the young people who will hold the door!

I’ve learned that it’s easier to lose 20 pounds than I thought.

All you need to do is have a doctor take a chainsaw and cut out your knee, then replace those old bones and cartilage with feather-light titanium and plastic. Piece of cake.

I’ve learned again that humor will pretty much get me through any situation. When one of my Sunday school friends checked on me, I answered, “Well, the old fart didn’t die!”

Seriously, I’m glad to be back at work, catching up on the news and looking forward to another edition of Let the Stories Be Told early next year.

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