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Dorothy Wilhelm: Colored lights in the toilet are one way to know who’s your buddy

Contributing writer

June 03, 2017 8:56 PM

The light in the toilet turned red. This was startling and somewhat off-putting. Then the light turned a nice frosty blue as if the cast of “Frozen” might be staging a mini production down there. When it turned green, I edged toward the door.

There’s nothing like colored lights in the toilet to make you forget what you came for.

The colored light festival came from Number Four Son and is thoughtfully designed to help me hit the target when I’m forced to make a midnight dash for that homely receptacle after coming back from the hospital.

This support and encouragement from friends and family comes because of my hip replacement surgery, scheduled to take place later this week. I’m glad. This business of going through life with just one serviceable hip is putting a serious dent in my already tenuous social life. It causes all sorts of problems.

I was late for church on Sunday. Fact is, I’m late for everything most days. It really isn’t my fault. It’s because of the thick support panty hose, apparently hand-knit in the Black Forest by the elves, that are my required foundation.

It takes anywhere between 20 minutes and two hours to inch them on, using rubber gloves and wriggling in an alarming way. Too much information?

Dorothy Wilhelm

For a long time, the hose were all the help I needed. But earlier this year a stern warning came from my physical therapist. I must carry a cane at all times — and use it.

With a noteworthy lack of enthusiasm, I ordered a brightly colored folding cane. When it was delivered, I left the box out on the porch for two days, but nobody would steal it, despite encouraging lighting and arrows painted on the wall.

For a year now, I’ve tried every possible remedy, so now it’s time for the Anterior Solution. Dr. Robert Yancey will build me a brand new hip that will match the one he replaced for me eight years ago on the other side.

Surgeons perform 332,000 total hip replacements in the United States every year but even so, Dr. Yancey is remarkable. He was the first physician in the Northwest to introduce the revolutionary anterior (from the front) approach to hip surgery, He now does 200 anterior replacements a year.

Because this operation is less invasive and involves far less damage to muscle and nerve, recovery is generally much faster than with the more conventional posterior approach.

With my last hip replacement I was driving again in two weeks. A friend who had the same surgery with Dr. Yancey was teaching tai chi again, in less than two weeks. I kept thinking she’d have to sit down, but she never did.

“Dr. Yancey works from the heart and genuinely cares,” says Kathleen McDaniel, a physician’s assistant who has been a vital member of Dr. Yancey’s health-care team for a decade.

So I’m all set. My bag is packed and my Buddy List is in place. This list is the inspiration of my elder daughter, to ensure I have help and support during recovery.

It’s an inspired idea that anyone can use. The plan is to determine how many days extra help might be needed and call on a different friend for each day. “Are you my buddy?” I ask.

Each buddy is scheduled for two hours on a specific day to come and spend time with the recovering patient (that would be me), freeing the caregiver (one of my offspring) to run errands or do necessary chores.

The buddy may take the patient to a medical appointment, or shopping, but often we just sit together and enjoy a visit that usually neither of us would have time for.

When crisis strikes, it’s hard to articulate what help is needed. But two hours on a definite date is very manageable. I’ve even had requests for repeat engagements.

People often express doubt that they could locate 14 or more buddies, but my buddies come from church, tai chi, urban sketchers and other groups. It’s surprising what resources we have to draw on.

So when we meet again, I will be a truly bionic woman. The light is green. Are you my buddy?

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.

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