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First ever overnight hospital stay in 80 years was worth my time and tears

By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times

It was supposed to be as brief as a one-night hospital visit after my total knee replacement but it actually lasted three and one-half days and I’m glad that it did.

In my new status as an 80-year-old, I admit that I had some concerns about spending a night or two or three in a noisy, sometimes frantic, and seemingly always crowded tiny space.

I wasn’t looking forward to being poked, prodded, and constantly interrogated by tired, overworked, and underappreciated hospital staff members but it turned out to be an uplifting experience that ended on a tender note in the middle of the night.

I lost count of the number of times I had to tell someone my birthdate and my name but, in all honesty, it was comforting to know these kindly healthcare professionals were making sure that I was getting exactly what I needed and that the correct knee would be replaced.

But the entire experience was not without its scary moments, especially for my family members who, like me, had never heard of something called post-operative delirium.

Likely triggered by sleep deprivation, my first-ever experience with general anesthesia, and the pain relievers I was taking, I became confused and argumentative and imagined the hospital was actually my home.

I apologize to all who witnessed Ole Papaw’s goofiness, especially a couple of my grandchildren. We’ve since exchanged hugs and “I love you” messages to set the record straight.

However, my most memorable experience happened at the end of my stay in the pre-dawn hours when I overheard an elderly man in conversation with his older brother now facing a life-threatening illness.

I’ve lived most of my life in East Kentucky and I am well aware of how often we men are reluctant to express our true emotions, especially to other male relatives. In calm, loving words, the younger man convinced his “big brother” to consider other living arrangements instead of being alone.

Recalling the loss of my older brother just a year ago, I couldn’t help adding my own tears to those of the brothers nearby.

(Contact Keith at keithkappes@gmail.com.)

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