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I'm With Stupid: Very painful but utterly painless
Almost one-stop shopping on the surgery front
Todd Hartley

I don’t know whether it’s because of Obamacare or some Trumpian effect, or whether this is justification for the way insurance-based health care is bankrupting America or not, and frankly, I don’t give a damn. But I can’t tell you how easy my first experience with major surgery has been.

Actually, yes I can. And I will. 

So I needed major surgery because of a torn quadriceps tendon, which connects the muscles in the front of your thigh to the top of your kneecap. How it happened is the subject of a column that my editor deemed too cringe-inducing to run, so we’ll gloss over it.

But the accident that led to the tear occurred on June 2 and left me needing a rescue by paramedics from the shore of Vallecito Lake in southwest Colorado. They transferred me to Mercy Hospital in Durango, where I was promptly given pain-killing drugs, X-rays (no fractures), a full leg brace, crutches and an ice pack and sent on my way.

Two days later, I had an appointment with a surgeon from Ortho Aspen at the Midvalley Medical Center, which is less than 10 minutes from where I live in Basalt. He scheduled an MRI, which I had in a different building in the Midvalley Medical Center on June 6, and booked me for surgery on June 11 pending the MRI results, which confirmed his diagnosis of a torn quad tendon.

Now, up to that point, the process couldn’t have gone any smoother, or so I thought. From the moment the paramedics got me into the ambulance and gave me a shot of the stuff that killed Prince and Tom Petty, everything had worked exactly the way Republicans claim our health-care system works. Of course, I wasn’t taking into account the cost of it all at that point, but other than the price tag, things had been a breeze leading up to the operation.

My limited experience with two previous minor surgeries years ago had conditioned me to expect an arduous trip to the hospital, where I would be wheeled from room to room and spend many hours waiting for the surgery and recovering from it afterwards. Apparently, I haven’t been paying attention.

Here’s how my surgery went: I got to the Midvalley Surgery Center, which is across the hall from the Ortho Aspen office, at 6:30 a.m for an 8 a.m. operation. They had me put on paper shorts and helped me into a seated-up position in a bed. I was set up with an IV in the back of my hand, and then they shaved my leg and painted it yellow with iodine or something like that. An anesthesiologist put something into the IV, and then a nurse asked if I wanted to play on my phone to kill some time.

I said I’d rather just see if I could meditate and maybe fall asleep, and I closed my eyes and counted my breath: inhale one, exhale two, etc. I got to about eight and opened my eyes, and I was in the exact same position, in the same bed, in the same room, only it was two hours later and my right leg was wrapped in bandages and compression hose, clamped back in the brace and throbbing in pain. 

I pointed the latter part out to a nurse, who administered some kind of nerve blocker, and I was out the door by 11 a.m. It was about as painless as something involving a lot of pain could possibly have been.

The surgeon said I could start physical therapy a week after the operation, and he’d given me a prescription to take with me when I left the Midvalley Surgery Center that morning. 

I’ll give you one guess where the PT place is.

Yes. Seriously. It really is across the hall from both Ortho Aspen and the surgery center. I had to walk all of about 15 feet to book my appointment. It’s almost as if they thought of how they could make things as convenient as possible for patients in Basalt and then designed things that way.

But then, that wouldn’t be the broken American health-care system we all read about, would it? 

I’m not looking to start an argument or defend the insurance industry or anything, but I have to say that I got the kind of care we all wish everyone could get all the time. I don’t know how to make that happen either.


Todd Hartley would blame his dog for the injury, but she feels guilty enough already.