13 September

OK, More Surgery. The Restoration Continues

by Jon Katz

I consider my repeated visits to the hospital in the past year – more than in my entire previous life except for my open heart surgery – to be a matter of restoration more than decay.

My heart is strong,  my diabetes is under control,  my bladder and prostate have made peace with one another, I am about to be sleeping more than I have in years, and in about two weeks, I’ll go back into surgery to get rid of a bone spur that has been plaguing my foot for months.

I guess it’s my own version of Home Improvement. This was a full medical day. It began with news that I have severe sleep apnea (obstruction to breathing) and ended with surgery scheduled for my foot. It will be a busy couple of weeks.

Six months ago, I cut my left big toe, and while it has never been infected or even painful, it wouldn’t quite go away. There was concern it might be related to diabetes, but that turned out not to be true.

Two weeks ago, after some X-rays, Dr. Daly found a bound spur that had been causing the wound to open and keep it from healing fully. Doctors get serious when people with diabetes have foot wounds.

Dr. Daly is impressive, careful, thoughtful, decisive. I get a strong feeling she knows what she is doing, and I trust her. I’m not worried about it.

Many weeks of surgical boots, special antibiotics, thick bandages didn’t do the job. Removing the bone spur will, or so we believe.

Surgery is complex, even for something fairly routine. The doctors worry about my age and my heart. So I have to be “cleared” by my cardiologist and my primary care doctor and get a Covid-19 test again. Because Dr. Daly is booked up way ahead, I was lucky.

They are squeezing me into surgery the first week of October. I’ll be anesthetized for the procedure and have to be pretty still for a few days.

There are good parts to aging, and there are challenging parts. My hackles go up when people say getting old isn’t for the weak. Getting old is for everybody; there are no litmus tests, and it will be as meaningful and positive as I want it to be.

I know the rituals now, the clearances, the tests, the pre-ops and post-ops, the focused doctors, the caring nurses. It doesn’t disrupt my life. It is my life, in many ways.

Whenever I go to a doctor, I have a bag of Amish necklaces and bracelets for the kids and sometimes for their moms. Sometimes I bring bags of oatmeal or molasses cookies.

I see it as a celebration of life.

What I feel isn’t myopia but reality. These procedures are a pain in the ass and sometimes just painful, but they make me stronger, healthier, better.

I won’t speak poorly about surgeries, and I won’t complain about it. I certainly won’t feel sorry for myself. Thanks again, Billy Graham, for urging me to never speak poorly of my life so many years ago. I kept my promise; my life was listening.

In contemporary America, I don’t have to speak poorly of my life. Social media has paved the for everybody to do it.



  1. Jon…
    1. Home Improvement: “This Old House…”

    I’m glad you find diligent health maintenance an acceptable option. Because if you’re like us, there’s more in your future. (It goes with the territory.) These days, it seems a specialist is paired for each malady. There are even specialists within specialties. For example among cardiologists, there are Cardiac Electrophysiologists (Cardiac EPs), who are cardiologists that specialize in electrical activities of the heart. So, we get to know many doctors.

    2. Determinants of Lifetime

    As an engineer, I had the benefit of evaluating different machines and devices for their reliability and expected life. Some of those aspects apply to ourselves.

    Author John M. Barry (“The Great Influenza”) points out that biological systems are not the products of logical design. Yet, our systems do share certain characteristics, including a finite lifetime. (Theoretically, failed machine parts could continually be replaced, but this strategy reaches practical limits.)

    The useful duration of a machine is determined by the soundness of its design, the suitability for its selected application, and the quality of its maintenance.

    Similarly, the lifetime of a biological system is guided by its genetics, its activities, and the care given it. But as with machinery, the most poorly maintained units tend to fail earliest.

  2. “it will be as meaningful and positive as I want it to be” That is the best attitude about aging that I’ve ever read, Jon!

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