It turns out knee replacements are like tires. They wear out and need to be replaced in turn every decade or so. Everybody thought that was the problem, right until the surgeons opened her up to take out the old titanium, and they found the massive infection.
Through months of intravenous antibiotics and white blood cell counts and having a temporary rod where a hinge ought to be, Mom was the only patient without dementia in the nursing center where she waited until her new hardware could be installed. For neighbors she had the wailing woman next door, the man who yelled for help all day in the common room, and the lady who called the police and demanded they take her home…wherever that was. Mom still had her usual nutty brilliance, made perhaps slightly more nutty than usual by a steady regimen of oxycontin and her fellow inmates’ karaoke nights.
Let’s set aside that some of her nurses wanted to save my mother’s soul and brought her books about Jesus. If I spent my workdays surrounded by the tragic effects of dementia… well, there’s no sense speculating, because I know I couldn’t hack the job those ladies do with such grace and compassion. My imagined salvations are different from theirs, but goodness knows I imagined them as hard as I could when I passed through the common room on my visits.
Someone fire up a 3D printer and run off a batch of neurons, quick! Somebody needs to come up with cyborg parts to do for all those people what the lovely new titanium-and-concrete hinge does for my mother.
She’s got her passport ready for world travel, and medical documentation to show every time her cyborg parts set off an airport’s metal detector. The new knee, and all its adjacent original material, are certified as stairs-worthy by the physical therapists.
Everything’s suddenly possible again.