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John Nippolt
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Let me tell you about my operation
            Every so often I catch myself thinking how young I feel both in mind and body, and then I walk by a mirror. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by that reflective reality check anymore. The sobering effect it has on me after taking a good look at the weathered species I’ve become makes me wonder at myself. Why do I have this penchant, this “on-going lust” for youthfulness, and then wear it on such an old sleeve?
          Other than the mirror, the only thing to offer me an honest report on my health and well-being is my body. Isn’t it funny how the increase in age is normally accompanied by an increase in the number of aches and pains one feels?
          I am not surprised now, when I recall those certain phrases overheard in my youth, repeated again and again by the elder members of my family. They must of known I thought they were kidding: “Where the hell are the golden days?” and “It ain’t all it’s made out to be.” This one is my favorite; “Just you wait!”
          Well, I waited and we are here. You can laugh, but it is no laughing matter. As the jokes go, it’s always those old folks who are sitting around talking about their surgeries yet the operations and their results are so wondrous these days who wouldn’t want to talk about them. Then again the recovery for certain types of surgery demands you to forget rather than remember.
          Both my wife and I have had the time-honored rotator-cuff operations and we can exchange laughs about our mutual miseries, commiserating over them while sharing a warm cup of soup. It’s not always this easy. Not so long ago my wife missed two of nights sleep due to some extreme pain she was suffering in her right leg. She explained that she experienced pain that came in surges and that also caused numbness in her foot, calf, and the side of her right leg. The pain left as unexpectedly as it appeared. Two weeks later it came back to stay.
          To my way of thinking, there is nothing worse than having to witness a loved one suffer. If you are like me, you would wish that you could carry that painful hardship rather than see the one you love bearing such a burden.
We had some leftover painkillers (generic vicoden) in the medicine cabinet but they worked to no avail. Whatever was causing my wife such serious issues had to be dealt with.
          The doctor told us it was probably her sciatic nerve. Stupid me! I hadn’t remembered that humdinger of a nerve since my physical anatomy classes. The sciatic nerve is in that bundle of nerves that run down the center of the spinal column and then travels from the spine down both legs. Any spinal deterioration, disc displacement, or bone spur growths that lean on or pinch the sciatic nerve can cause sciatica. Although I had never heard of sciatica (diagnosed as the problem my wife was suffering from) I learned it was a common ailment among older people and many suffered from it in their backs and legs. Welcome to my world.
          An X-ray proved the doctor was right and appointments for physical therapy were going to be needed. Surgery was mentioned but seemed to be a land off in the distance, a place we would not visit. That view changed overnight. My wife suffered extreme, violent pain, without letup for the next two weeks. During that time a stronger medicine for pain relief was prescribed (2 Percocet every 4 hours). After an MRI we knew physical therapy was out of the question and my wife was sent to a very fine surgeon, one whose reputation for successful back surgery preceded him.
          Hindsight told me the worst thing about this whole situation was the mind-set my wife got into because of the medication she needed to take to relieve her from the terrible pain. Normally an up-lifting and positive person, she became somewhat afraid and negative about the outcome of the surgery.
          As we neared the day of her surgery I remembered that she was taking medication that is a heavy depressant. I reminded her that she was taking very strong downers and then she remembered it too. We agreed that was probably the cause for her worry. Just as I thought it would, the operation went smooth, lasted only two hours, and after a couple more hours for observation we went home. Aside from moderate discomfort for that first two days after her operation, my wife healed quickly and now, two weeks later, her pain is completely gone including the numbness in her leg and foot.
          I wrote this because I felt I should let those of you who are near me in age (I am a young 64 year old; see, I did it again) might want to know about this sciatica thing and that surgery might be the best way to go for repairing this ailment. You are all probably way ahead of me on this one.