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A new kind of brake job (10/01/2006)
By Frances Edstrom

When odd things happen to me, I wonder how they will fit into the anthology of my life's stories. You know, the ones you start and your husband and kids give you either the "Oh, I love this story" look or the "Yeah, yeah, haven't we heard this five million times already?"

So, before I get to the five million mark, let me say you are only my second audience (that I know of " remember, I was on drugs) for this oddity.

There I was, in a drug-induced semi-slumber in my hospital room, when two very young, very attractive young women came in, both wearing dark pants and polo shirts, one carrying a tool chest. Now, when you think of it, an orthopedic surgeon isn't much different from a lot of workmen, and their tools have a lot in common, too. It took me a moment to translate the situation from medical to more mundane, helped out by one of the young women, who introduced herself and her companion as engineers with a medical manufacturing company. "We've come to change the brakes on your bed," she said.

That sounded painless, especially when she said they'd undertake the operation on my bed without any disturbance to me. And with that, she opened the panel at the end of the bed, and raised it up into the clouds at the top of my room. They both disappeared under the bed with drills and a great racket ensued.

The girls were recent engineering graduates and worked for the company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They had driven from there, a ten-hour trip, which they described as one of the most boring in their experience. I had to agree, as driving through Chicago and on into Wisconsin on I-90 is probably the reason our part of the country gets as little tourism as it does. They couldn't have chosen a more monotonous landscape to drive through. I tried to tell them how beautiful Winona is, but I wasn't meeting with much enthusiasm from down under the bed.

So pretty soon, Shelby and Tina resurfaced, brought my bed down to a manageable level, packed up their tools and moved on to the next room. It wasn't until they were gone that I thought of all the important questions, including, "Are the mechanical records of bed brakes something a health-care consumer should be concerned about?"

Then I fell asleep.

I have a new hip, and everything looks wonderful for a great future. Except for the fact that I am in a hip brace for the next six weeks, and don't have any clothes that will fit over it, my life is progressing to normal with all due speed.

And what do I have after all these months of medical care, in addition to a new hip that I hope will spend a significant amount of time being my buddy? I must be one of a very small percentage of people who've had the brakes changed on their beds. 


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