The Bionic Woman

Today, my wife goes in for knee-replacement surgery. She essentially has no cartilage in either knee and walking has been quite painful for some time. To do the replacement, doctors have imaged both of her knees and are building custom implants. I’m told the surgery will only take about an hour and recovery time should be relatively fast.

All this brings to mind the 1977 TV series, The Bionic Woman, in which professional tennis player Jamie Sommers is seriously injured in a skydiving accident and has her legs and right arm replaced with mechanical prostheses that effectively give her the super powers of increased strength and speed. It doesn’t sound like Kumie will get super powers beyond those she already possesses, namely sending cancer packing a few years ago and putting up with me, among others.

What truly amazes me is how far medical technology has come in my lifetime. I gather the success rate of this kind of knee surgery is high. When I was a child, the only treatment for people with this kind of damage was pain management. There’s a good chance that if Kumie were born a few decades earlier, she would have been confined to a wheelchair in later life. At this point, there’s a good chance she’ll maintain full mobility for years to come.

By the same token, I’ve seen dramatic improvements in arthritis treatment since I was diagnosed in the early 1990s. At that time, I fully expected the arthritis to progress until I could no longer walk and possibly have serious problems using my hands. Medications developed in the later 2000s not only impeded arthritis, but seem to have sent it into remission. I’m now pain-free without the use of any medication.

Of course, we’re facing this major surgery at a time when the senate is debating federal funding for healthcare. As with most Americans, I’m following this debate with interest. I’m incredibly fortunate to work for a company that provides good health insurance. However, as an astronomer, whose long term job funding is always uncertain and as a writer, whose funding is even more uncertain, this debate takes on even more personal meaning.

As far as I’m concerned, it benefits a country to have a population in good health. I don’t mind the idea of paying an extra tax if it means doctors and researchers get paid, and everyone has access to the benefits of that research and reasonable medical care. It’s apparent the Affordable Care Act has problems. Like many Americans, I’m frustrated by the emotional tirades in Congress. The legitimate issues with the ACA need to be resolved through a thoughtful, careful examination of the system. I just hope our senators and representatives can grow up enough to do that. If not, I hope Americans will hold them accountable at the polls.

In the meantime, especially if you missed it when I first shared it, you can learn more about my wife and I by reading a special feature that appeared in our alumni magazine at: http://www.nmt.edu/images/stories/advancement_office/website/GoldPanSummer-S17.pdf. If you want to take Kumie’s admonition to “Buy Dave’s books” to heart, you can learn more about my fiction at http://www.davidleesummers.com. It’s the kind of thing that helps us save up for the proverbial rainy day, and given the way things are going, we may need it! (And besides, you’ll get some cool reading in the bargain.)

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