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Thanks Doc

by Joan Hershberger | February 20, 2021 at 6:00 p.m.

A couple of DIY (do-it-yourself) folks live at our house. Hubby made our bed with lumber, a power saw, nails, glue and varnish. Then I stitched together a quilt, and we sleep comfortably.

Our new house needed landscaping. The DIY man of the house raked the dirt yard flat and free of stones, scattered it evenly with seeds and dug holes for the shrubs and trees.

On birthdays, my mixer appears with flour, sugar, eggs and chocolate powder. In no time a baked cake awaits a simple frosting of four ingredients.

Lately we have learned to do simple sewing machine repairs. I trust my husband with a lot of do-it-yourself projects: roofing, car repairs and more. Despite our determination to fix things ourselves, even we know when to draw the line and call experts.

A few years ago I refused to even consider obliging his requests for me to “just ease into the car yourself” so that he could take me to the hospital after a fall that resulted in compound fractures in my tibia, femur and arm bones. One look at my face, and he knew he had to call 911 then step aside. He could only stare with his mouth open as he saw the finesse of the EMTs quickly picking me up and moving me to the ambulance. He tried to tell them what to do. They ignored him and used their training and experience to do it their way.

Of course, at the hospital, neither of us could access an x-ray machine for a DIY exam, let alone read the x-rays. So, we put aside our DIY inclinations and waited on more knowledgeable, skilled folks. We welcomed the benefit of the surgeon’s years of training to put this Humpty Dumpty woman back together.

Before the tibia break, neither of us would have ever thought of installing a temporary external rod to my leg. I had such a shock waking up and seeing that as we waited for the initial swelling to decrease in order to have surgery to fix the bone internally with plates attached to the bones. I compared it to fixing a split wall stud by nailing it to another piece of wood.

Last year after slipping in mud, I encountered the more common surgery of a hip replacement. In the centuries before modern medicine, similar injuries would have left an individual crippled, in a wheelchair, an amputee or declining health.

Thanks to the doctor who performed the first successful hip replacement surgery using a metal prosthetic in 1940, I can walk and move around. Years of research and development have refined the procedure, reduced the recovery time and increased the longevity of the prosthetic. So many have these prosthetics now that it is almost routine for an orthopedic surgeon. In fact, I had to wait on another person to finish hip replacement surgery before I had mine.

Hip replacement may be “routine” and have clear instructions, but it still is not a DIY project. It takes four years of medical school to grasp the body’s complexities. Surgeons then spend years after that studying, practicing and perfecting their skills under close supervision. Thanks to the years that Dr. Daniels spent developing his skills in orthopedic surgery, I stood up using a walker a mere day or two after I slipped in mud and broke my hip. Sure I shuffled down the hall and had to force myself to pick up the foot and move forward. Still, I walked. I did not remain in the bed.

A shuffling gait is ever so much better than the fate of the folks who endured the same injury before WWII. Kudos to the doctors who learned the skills and persist in doing their best to help patients recover. We can’t be DIY-ers in everything, but we can benefit from our doctor’s skills.

Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”


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