“It really hurts,” I said to my wife as my knee buckled under me.

“Good,” said Mary Ellen.

That’s not the kind of support you expect from your spouse.  It’s bad enough I have virtually no support from my knee, which is why I’m getting a new one next week. Unlike a heart or kidney, you do not get someone else’s knee: it pretty much comes in a box like a pair of shoes from Amazon Prime. You just have to pray it’s going to fit. And there’s a lousy return policy.

Now let me explain my wife’s apparent lack of sympathy. Every time I’ve had a couple of pain-free days, I’ve started to question whether I really need this operation. This drives Mary Ellen nuts. When we go on vacation, my wife wants to hike all morning and go to museums in the afternoon, and I usually hurt too much to tag along. To end this agony, I’ll need a new knee.  To avoid going shopping, I’ll need a new excuse.

And I have another issue.  I have never spent a night in a hospital in my life, and I’m afraid I will get very antsy and impatient until I get to go home. I’ve stopped going to the Minute Clinic at CVS because the last time I was there, it took them twice as long to treat me as the name suggests.

Mary Ellen and I arrived at the surgical center for a pre-op class and were directed down a corridor that said JOINT HEALTH.  I’m a big advocate of medical marijuana, so this was a good start. Kimberly, the RN conducting the class, wanted each of the attendees to know that no matter which surgeon was performing our operation, he was the very best. There were six of us having this procedure­—all with different docs—so it was pretty obvious that five of us were being hoodwinked. The previous week, Dr.  Estes told me he had done 1,700 knee operations. That made me feel better, but I’ve done 7,800 TV shows and I still mess up more than half the time.

Kimberly  taught us several exercises and carefully went over guidelines we had to follow prior to surgery. I always have trouble concentrating, but I remembered her saying no alcohol four hours prior to surgery. Despite my love for beer, that seemed manageable. My wife claimed she said four weeks.  I went with Mary Ellen’s recollection because she’s a better listener, and that’s why I wanted her with me through the entire orientation. When I went in for my EKG, the nurse told Mary Ellen she need not accompany me during the procedure, “unless you’d get a kick out of watching me rip the adhesive pads off your husband’s hairy chest.”

The last stop during the pre-op visit was the hospitalist, the physician who looks at all your medications to help avoid any complications with the anesthesia. The nurse referred to him as “our very own medicine man,” which made me so nervous my knees started to shake. That made my bad knee really hurt—which is why when we left the hospital, Mary Ellen was feeling pretty good about everything.


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