Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 23, 2014

Hip, hip hooray! Total hip replacement restores newsman’s pain-free walking

— — Don’t ask me. I really don’t know what happened. I remember working until about 9:30 p.m. on Sunday night, May 4, getting up the next morning and going to Bluefield Regional Medical Center then walking three miles early in the morning before I came back to work on Friday, June 20. All the stuff in between is kind of a blur, although I do remember watching a few Pirates’ baseball games, many episodes of “Bones,” and breaking the rail support on the stairway in our house.

Oh yeah, I also remember the incredible patience that my wife showed to me during the first few days after my total hip surgery. I came into the operating room at about 8:30 a.m., and the next thing I heard was Evonda telling me that it was 2:30 p.m., and she needed to get something to eat. If other stuff happened during those hours, you would have to ask her about it. It was weird because I was awake through both of my heart surgeries, but truly knocked out for my total hip.

After I came to, I really wanted to keep my wits about me, so I didn’t request any pain medicine except one pill to help me sleep. When Evonda went to get something to eat, Phyllis Prout helped me walk about 20-25 feet. Dr. Walid Azzo told me I would be up walking after my surgery, but after being out of it for so long, I really couldn’t believe that I could walk at all. Before noon the next morning, I walked 75 feet, then up and down a set of steps in the BRMC Physical Therapy Department, prompting Carol Brooks to tell me I could go home.

I had worked with Phyllis and Carol in 1983-’84 when I was the communications coordinator at the old Bluefield Community Hospital. That was what I was doing when I took a photo of a cement truck and some laborers working to expand the Cherry Street entrance. I took the picture from the prospective of the truck’s taillight and the late Pat Cecil submitted the photo to the Daily Telegraph. For some reason, the Associated Press picked up the photo, sent me a check for $10 and I was hooked.

I had confidence in Dr. Azzo’s skills as a surgeon, but I didn’t say much about my surgery before I went off. I’ve been a pretty high-risk patient since Dec. 17, 1966, when I wrecked my Vespa motor scooter, split my right kneecap in half, broke my left hand, my right cheek bone and suffered a severe concussion — my third after having two previous concussions — one each in football and basketball. In addition to my injury-prone self, my dad died of complications due to his heart, my mom suffered a paralyzing stroke while my maternal uncle along with my sister and brother all died of cancer.

With all that in mind, I didn’t want to tempt fate. As it turned out, Evonda had the strength she needed to help me when I was helpless, Dr. Azzo had the skills to repair my damaged hip, his nurse Heather reassured me that the changes I was noticing were normal while Judy, Dr. Azzo’s secretary, tolerated all my questions about the paperwork involved. Heather, Judy and everyone at Dr. Azzo’s office were good to me.

My publisher Randy Mooney, called to check on me a few times. I was impressed that he took time to just talk with me, and didn’t rush me off the phone even though I rattled on and on about the minutia of my life in a reclining chair. Everyone — Samantha, Susie, Charles, Greg, Jamie, Anne, Amy, Barbara, Brian, Tom, Bob and Jackie — in the newsroom worked hard to make sure I got the post operative rest I needed, and my pal, Andy Patton, kept me supplied with all the newsroom gossip I needed to pull me through.

I had to stop three times during my first short walk inside the Mercer Mall with Evonda holding my arm, but after a few days, I could make a complete three-quarter mile circuit of the interior circumference of the mall under my own power. My first solo trip inside the mall proved to be the most humbling. I made it all the way around to the entrance to Belk’s with my left shoe untied. I humbly explained my predicament to a kind person I met on my path. She was opening the store, and I asked if she could tie my shoe. She didn’t hesitate, and helped without question.

For several months prior to my surgery, the arthritic hip that gave out on me last year brought tears to my eyes every week when I tried to climb the stairway in our home. My left hip had caught the brunt of jumping out of tractor-trailers with a useless right knee. Maybe I could have gotten more use out of it if I had been more careful, but that’s not my way.

Although I didn’t write about my troubles, word got around in the community and I rode the strength of countless prayers as I learned how to walk again. I made it to several prayer lists and I received more get-well cards than I could ever imagine. God granted me smooth sailing on my path to recovery, and for that, as well as for all the blessings He has given to me — such an unworthy soul — I am eternally grateful.

I’ll try to write about trucks next week.

Bill Archer is senior editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at barcher@bdtonline.com.

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