So it was with some trepidation that today I visited my orthopedic surgeon on the first anniversary of my total knee replacement. His staff first took x-rays of the knee from varied angles. Although I had been walking pain-free, I feared the imaging would reveal some defect that might even require follow-up surgery. Thank goodness, that nightmare did not materialize. Far from it: the doctor had a visiting medical student from an area university, and pointed out features of my new knee that he called "excellent" and even "perfect." With my permission, he invited her to hold my knee while I flexed it, in order to see what great flexion it had. (Rarely does an old man object to a pretty young woman touching his knee.) The orthopedist's closing comment was that I need not make any more appointments with him unless I am having problems. And to cap it all off, he said he expected my bionic knee to last at least 15 years.
Wow! To a guy in his 70s, thinking ahead 15 years is a luxury, but also a mental exercise that could better be accomplished with a crystal ball. Such a run would take me to age 88. Will I last as long as my artificial knee? I have played the same futuristic game with my aortic valve-and-root replacement device. In choosing the Medtronic Freestyle stentless porcine model, I found from my research that it might last 15 to 20 years, best case scenario (though of course there are no warranties). I now have had a little more than nine good years with it (having celebrated my re-birthday last February). So if I get to the big 8-oh, I might face some heavy-duty surgeries, if I am in good enough condition at that time to be a candidate for the OR.
All this is extra motivation to try to stay as fit as possible by watching the weight and exercising daily. However, I have never been one to obsess about longevity, especially after having come to terms with my mortality before my open-heart surgery. Ultimately, it is all in the hands of the good Lord above.
We should just try to live the fullest and best lives we can while on this Earth, meanwhile being the best stewards and servants that we possibly can be. There are times we can draw on our experiences to offer the young guidance that might steer them from trouble. Opportunities for us to volunteer our services abound. We can read to the grandkids and tell them stories. We can be assistant coaches, tutors, and babysitters. We can be mentors to our fellow seniors and visit them when they need us in the hospital. We should go forward with a grateful heart, and all the more so when we are fortunate enough to have been given, physically, a new heart and new wheels in our golden years.
© Robert G. Holland 2014