Well, COVID-19 has put a short-term end to my travel, at least my adventures by air. So far, trips to Mexico, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, and Belgium have been postponed. Our Great Lakes cruise scheduled for June has also been delayed one year, we think. So, The Traveling Dean Emeritus will now focus on car trips. I won’t share my jaunts to fill up my gas tank and such, but I will write about outings that are unusual or odd, especially in this time of social distancing and home bound life.
I have Dupuytren’s contracture, also known as Viking Disease. While the term Dupuytren’s contracture has a mysterious, perhaps fanciful, ring to it, I prefer calling it Viking Disease because of the travel and discovery thoughts that jump into my head when I say or think the word Viking. They had good boats too. My disease is not contagious so if you see me don’t be alarmed, any more than usual. Unless you look at my left hand you won’t even know that anything is awry. If you look at my hand, palm up, you will see a lump and are likely to think that I am in pain. I am not. But, because my hand has gotten worse over the last three years and I exacerbate the lump by riding both stationary and wheels-free bicycles. I thought that I should have a specialist take a look.
Tom Ferlic, MD, is a hand, wrist, and elbow specialist here in Omaha. He is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon. For many years Tom has helped athletes, musicians, and just plain folks like me deal with ailments of these body parts. I have a history with Dr. Ferlic. In 1994, he helped me recover from a dislocation of my right index finger, suffered while playing flag football. Perhaps 45-year-old people should not play flag football, especially on teams populated mostly by young men in their 20s. The dislocation was painful. My finger was pointing west when it should have been directed north, an ugly sight. I snapped it back in place, but I thought that there was some damage. So, I went to see Dr. Tom and he got me back to normal. Today, I hardly know that my finger once stuck out sideways.
Dr. Tom and I crossed paths again in 2006. This time it was a bicycle accident that brought us together. I had broken my femoral neck, right leg, in a crash on a wet bridge and needed surgery. After a couple of phone calls, Dr. Tom got me into Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital, the best place to go around here when repairs of this type are needed. Dr. Tom did not do the surgery, but he did get me into the place and hooked up with Jim Canady. Dr. Jim did the cutting, although they really don’t cut much anymore. He put three lag bolts (pins) into my leg to hold the parts together until I healed. Nearly fifteen years later, I am still riding my bike and plan to ride for at least another 15 years. Thanks, Tom and Jim.
I was able to snag an appointment for my Viking Disease consultation for a date just a few days after I called. This is where the story becomes a bit odd. I’ve driven to clinics, hospitals, and dentist offices my entire adult life. Normally, I simply drive up, park the car, and walk right in. Not so in the time of COVID-19. When I drove to Nebraska Orthopedic this time, I encountered a road block. This was not a Broderick Crawford highway patrol-like road block with sirens screaming and weapons drawn, but a health professionals in masks stopping all cars road block. A man and a woman, health professionals I presume, gave me the slow your roll, look at my hand, look and signal as I went to make my final turn into the parking lot. I stopped the car and rolled down my window. The woman of the pair approached me and asked why I was there. I told her that I had an appointment with Dr. Ferlic. She asked me a second question. Did I have flu-like symptoms. No, I responded. Then she asked me about my recent travel. Had I been out of the U.S. in the last 14 days. No. Had I flown domestically in the last 14 days. Yes, was my response. Then she asked me to put on a mask, not the Mardi Gras style, before I entered the building. I said that I would and she proceeded to hand me a mask. I declined the offer because I already had some masks in the car, those that I had purchased two years earlier prior to a trip to China which at that time had severe smog alerts in several cities.
Even on March 16, 2020 in the fourth month of the COVID-19 crisis, showing up to an orthopedic appointment in a light blue surgical mask will attract more than a few interested glances. I quickly observed that Janet and I were the only persons in the waiting room wearing masks. I walked up to the intake desk and quickly informed the staff person there that I was wearing a mask because fewer than 14 days ago I had returned to Omaha via airline flight. She smiled, probably relieved that I did not tell her that I had flu-like symptoms (I didn’t). We sat down in a place where we could practice as much social distancing as one can in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Once we sat down, we knew that no one would cozy up anywhere near us. Finally, a woman several feet away asked us, “Are you that couple I heard about on the news?” I wasn’t sure to whom she was referring, but knew we had not been featured on the 6 pm news the previous night. We calmly responded no to her question and she smiled and looked away. Soon after, I was called back to Dr. Tom’s exam room and he confirmed that that I had Viking Disease. An appointment will be scheduled for a collagenase injection, with one more appointment to follow where he will manipulate my hand, crack it, and get me ready for another riding season. It was good to return to my car and remove our masks.
Just one more short addition here. All of our grocery stores in Omaha, just like other places, have recalibrated their hours of operation. They need extra hours to deep clean stores and restock shelves. They also need to be prepared for the next idiot who comes in and wants to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper. One of the stores that we frequent, HyVee, is now open from 8 am to 8 pm. In addition, they have added another shopping hour. I call it Geezer Hour. From 7 am to 8 am persons 60 years old and older (e.g., Janet and me) plus some other exceptions can shop minus the crazed hordes that might show up starting at 8 am. Well, we arrived at one of the HyVee stores in Omaha at 7:20 am this morning to join our fellow geezers for a calm shopping moment. The HyVee staff was excellent and the fellow shoppers I encountered were social distance friendly, just don’t get too close. Upon entry, we all scrubbed our carts with sanitizer wipes handed to us by HyVee staff (nice). I saw only two of my fellow shoppers with masks. I left mine in the car. The store had a picked over look, with many partial sections of shelves mostly empty. Remember, some folks just need 30 cans of Bush’s beans or enough HyVee pasta to feed the whole neighborhood, two or three times. My, we are strange creatures. I saw no geezers who were shopping in the bulk mode (good for us). Maybe their freezers and shelves were already full. A number of them had toilet paper in their shopping carts, but not more than eight or ten rolls. What is it about our fixation with toilet paper?