Ramon Revisited

Someone please be kind enough to tell me when my life crossed the line into sit-com territory. Like pornography, I think you’ll know it when you see it. But being in the middle of it, it hasn’t seemed funny at all. It seems arduous and uncomfortable. But if you laugh, I won’t mind.

There’s an essay about Ramon somewhere on this blog. Here.
Just explaining who Ramon is to people who don’t know us is dicey. I had settled on, “My late mother’s husband” after much consideration. “My mother’s husband” doesn’t work, because he is really “my mother’s widower”, but that doesn’t just roll of the tongue either. Stepfather doesn’t work at all for me, although he doesn’t bat an eye when telling people I am his daughter. I think that makes him a much more generous soul than I. I’m sure I think about it way too much.

So now that you know who he is to me, you’ll understand why I am even involved with this guy at all. He lives in my mom’s house with my brother, a fiftyish woman friend of the family, and an engineering student from Benin, Africa who is renting a room.

Ramon had polio when he was younger. It left him with one leg about 4 inches shorter than the other and very attrophied. I swear to you I think I heard the surgeon refer to his femur as “avian”. This Leg Lenghth Discrepancy (look it up) is causing him much trouble at this stage of his life. His back and hips are paying a dear price for his ability to walk on two feet.

So he has decided to have surgery to lengthen his shorter leg. The surgery is rare and barbaric. If you want to see an idea of how it is done, you can go to this link or this link

If you’d rather not see a picture, here is what happens. There are three sets of flat metal rings, like on Saturn, only much closer. The rings have small holes all the way around them for long threaded bolts to go through. Two rings on the top of the femur and one down closer to the knee. Running between these is a set of long threaded bolts with nuts on them. The rings are actually fixed, surgically to his femure with pins (think hinge-pins rather than either sewing pins or bowling pins). They go through his skin to the bone. The bone is cut during surgery, not cut all the way through, but all the way around to make it weak enough to break.

The rings are gradually separated, along with them the two halves of the femur, by way of either a set of small computerized motors turning the bolts very slowly over a period of days or a set of manual struts that are turned by hand. The bottom line here is that the leg has to break eventually, and in fact, repeatedly, in order to heal longer than it started.

Got that? Sound like a good idea? I think I might just ask them to cut my leg off and give me a longer prosthetic leg. But I’m remembering to give thanks that I don’t have to make such a choice.

In any case, the machines were installed on the rings, which were installed on his thigh and into his femur. But Ramon has very strong bones, even if they are avian. And the machine didn’t work. I was somehow convinced to take Ramon to the orthopedic hospital/ clinic so they could see why he was in so much pain and also check on his leg, to see if it had broken yet (they didn’t know until they xrayed him).

My brother who has no experience in the arena of home health care, except for when my mom was dying, has been pretty much in charge of Ramon’s care. And he has risen to the challenge. What do families do if they don’t have stay-at-home moms or unemployed parolees to do this kind of thing?

Patrick has been doing some research and he is very gung-ho about an idea he heard about that will help sliding Ramon into the back seat of the car much easier. He heard that if you put a plastic garbage bag on the seat, it makes it much easier to slide them in. Good plan. When I see the bag all spread out on the leather seat, I have my doubts, but between the bag, the TV pillow, bed pillow and the blankets, there isn’t much room, but we get Ramon in.

God bless my brother, he asks, “You alright, Ramon?” nice and loud. You never know what else can go wrong after surgery, Ramon might have gone deaf. He closes the door slowly and gently all but the last 3 inches, which he eyeballs to make sure it doesn’t jam Ramon’s leg. The thing is, it’s only the last inch which matters. And he eyeballed it wrong.

That gentle hip-check to the door drove some metal implement against some bone surface and Ramon sucked his breath in through his teeth. “I fine.”
The leg wasn’t broken, his pin-sites (where the pin goes through all the meat into the bone) were infected and he was in incredible pain. The machine on his leg had been beeping an alarm for the past 12 hours. Our main goal for the visit was to check on the infection, get the xray and help figure out his pain meds.

Can I just pull back here, from the time when Ramon and I are in the examining room? And tell you that I had a not good feeling about this surgery from the time Ramon first discussed it.

I guess I first felt unease when I investigated the doctor who would perform the surgery. I saw that he was an orthopaedic surgeon. Not an orthopedic surgeon. Orthopaedic. We live in Minnesota, the doctor is not British. On a certain bitchy level, when I saw that spelling, I had the same reaction I have when I see a middle aged guy in a corvette convertible.

I put it out of my mind.

My other bias came from never having heard of the hospital in my life. No one I knew had heard of it. No one. I started to wonder if that’s because they recently changed it from “Big Willy’s Leg Emporium” to the stately sounding (I made this up to stay out of trouble, but you get the idea) “Symphony Hospital”.


2 thoughts on “Ramon Revisited

  1. emily says:

    oh, god. i already knew how they lengthened a person’s leg, but your description of the process makes me want to hold my hands over my ears (erm, eyes?) and sing mary had a little lamb. plus i’ve met ramon, and somehow that makes it all the more vivid. is ramon a catholic? i could go say a rosary for him and maybe i’d feel better.

  2. I think at this point, he’s a non-believer. Raised Catholic, A Rosary would be appreciated, especially if notice of it came in a card for him.
    He’s lonely and a bunch of us are sort of traumatized by the idea of another hospital bed and patient in my mom’s house so soon. We’ve brought meals, visited, but not stayed long. His family is in Mexico, it’s hard being Ramon…


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