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Medicine and Prayer

The sports medicine clinic was widely known and on the cutting edge of the medical field as it related to athletes. On a single day in 1968, the doctor performed nine surgeries. Eight of those were college athletes suffering from torn ACL’s mostly, but also going under the knife for other sports related injuries.

The other surgery was also performed on an athlete. He was not in college, not even in high school. He had injured his right knee in junior high school, first in football and then in basketball. The young boy/man wore a cast for several months as he did rehab, trying to strengthen the muscles and tendons in his damaged knee.
Finally, with all options exhausted, he underwent surgery. His kneecap was temporarily removed, a broken bone fragment under the kneecap was taken out, tendons were repositioned, ligaments tightened, and the kneecap was put back in place. The surgery took four hours. The scar was nine inches long.

The teenager, too young to drive, was in the hospital for a week. He took morphine for the pain. His doctor worked with him for the next year to bring him back to a healthy state. The doctor’s name was Jack Hughston, who became a sports medicine legend.

This week my mother, widely known as “Jobie” will undergo a total hip replacement. She will be 89 years old in April and is an athlete on her own right. Jobie has remained active throughout her life. She has enjoyed tennis, golf, and swimming, and as recently as this summer was swimming several times a day at Compass Lake.

Her hip began to fail as the summer came to an end. Her last trip off the dock, she used a cane; something I had never seen her do. The cartilage continued to disintegrate in her hip, and she embraced her cane, then a walker, and occasionally a wheelchair. The pain overwhelmed her, and she came to her own decision. She could not live like this.

Mother decided to investigate her options. With the help of my sister, she visited several different doctors. Her orthopedic surgeon was encouraging, telling her she was the healthiest 88-year-old he knew. More importantly, she had the right attitude, did not mind rehabilitation exercise, and embraced life looking forward, not backwards.

She will undergo surgery early on Wednesday morning. They expect to have her up taking a few steps sometime after lunch. If all goes well, she will be back at her apartment that afternoon. The hope is the pain will be gone when she wakes up.

The therapist will visit her twice a day. I have no doubt she will do what it takes. She suffered a compound fracture shortly before moving from Bay Point, Florida to Atlanta. She pulled herself from her bedroom to the front entrance with a bone sticking out of her leg. She managed to unlock the door because she did not want the EMT’s to break it down. She put on lipstick as she was being wheeled into the ambulance. She will, indeed, do what it takes.

Fifty-three years ago, I was the teenage boy that had his knee rebuilt. My mother looked after me during that whole ordeal. A lifetime later, I get to repay the favor. Thankfully, medical technology has made enormous advances. Though her hip replacement is a bigger deal than my knee surgery, modern medicine has made it more routine. A week in the hospital versus ten hours. Need I say more?

A half century ago, I felt the prayers of friends and family. Today, I ask you to remember my mother, Jobie Ponder, in your prayers. My Mom is a tower of strength capable of recovering from this ordeal, even at her age. But we both know, she at 88 and me at 66, that prayers are infinitely more powerful than any individual’s personal strength.

The face of medicine has changed dramatically in the five decades between my knee surgery and my mother’s hip replacement. The power of your prayers, however, remains constant then and now.