Dell tries on a new hip

Dell Franklin

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


It’s not easy to come to terms with your physical and emotional health when you try and put on your shorts in the morning after getting out of bed and you find yourself shoving your left foot through the opening of your right pant leg — so that you have two legs in the same hole — and start to list to the side and collapse on your bed because your right hip has given out and your dog winces and cowers as you scream out in agony and grit your teeth in frustration.

It came to this before I finally broke down at 78, after 65 years of beating myself to death on athletic courts and fields, and decided to get a new right hip.

The sight of a man this age walking a 15-year-old brown Lab in town was starting to become a sad laughingstock, a pathetic spectacle.

And I couldn’t play tennis. Or basketball. And I had to be careful how I moved on the street or in the kitchen or anywhere to avoid bone hitting on bone and pinching a nearby nerve and buckling up and screaming.

When the young surgeon showed me an x-ray revealing I had no cartilage left in my right hip, I was stunned into reality.

There is no complaining. You play you pay, and are thankful you lasted as long as you have, and had as much fun as you did, and are even more thankful modern medicine will keep you from ending up a cripple in a wheelchair.

I had a great doctor, and my only worry was finding somebody to take care of my dog the few days of recovery where I wasn’t able to walk him myself.

The worst part of the surgery? The inability to sleep even an hour or two a night because I was unable to sleep on either side due to a mangled left shoulder that also needs to be replaced.

Some nights there was no sleep at all. It was a weird feeling. Reading did no good. I tried gobs of Melatonin and CBN extract and felt agitated and frustrated. And at times, after over  two weeks with no more than an hour of sleep a night, thought I was descending into madness.

My days were spent in a stupor, on a recliner, listening to sports talk shows, unable to finish crossword puzzles that were once a breeze, fogging out while reading the morning LA Times and snapping awake half an hour later in an even deeper stupor, my legs numb, slack-mouthed and drooling, in a buzzing daze.

I wanted to write, but a brutally sleep-deprived human can barely walk his dog to the seawall and back, and at the seawall, with the elderly wall gang, I became quiet and dull and detached, lacking any semblance of my usual story telling, socially commenting self.

Meanwhile, though, the healing process of my hip was spectacular! Besides the lingering inflammation of the area where the surgeon cut through muscle into my anterior, sawed out some bone, drilled holes, injected a new hip and ball in socket, and sewed me up, the debilitating, crippling pain was gone.

I thought to myself, my father, a professional athlete, who died too young, would have suffered worse had me lived long enough; and nothing would have helped him (no joint replacements in his day), and like most athletes in his World War II era, he would have lived his later years out in agony, more or less restricted to his home, on a walker mostly likely but hopefully a cane.

The entire procedure took two hours early in the morning and the doctors, and nurses were magnificent. I was home later that afternoon — although I live alone because they felt with a neighbor or two looking in on me, I would do fine.

The opioids? I was off them the second day. Pain pills. Off them in two days. Why? I want to feel my progress. The pain was manageable; it was little to pay for the miracle that had occurred.

I wanted to write about this miracle, but, as I’ve said, the sleep-deprived mind was out of order. But, starting two nights ago, after three and a half weeks, with a little less pain, I started sleeping on my right side and filched a few hours of sleep, fell off, slept some more, and am starting to catch up.

I have been riding the exercise bike 30 minutes a day for two weeks. I find myself moving around freely without a limp. I’m starting to complete crossword puzzles. I’ll be playing tennis in four weeks.

Somebody said, “You should try pickle ball. It’s perfect for people with new joints.”

That’ll be the day. When modern medicine is miraculous, it only inspires me to be the same. Such is the age we live in. And for that, our thankfulness is unfathomable.