Rosie the Riveter

One of the excellent offerings of the American Library in Paris, is the opportunity to join one or more bookclubs.  I tend to veer towards Mystery Book Clubs.  This year, I decided to challenge myself and joined a Book Club entitled “The Home Front during WWII: USA, France and Germany”.  Our first book was Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman.

The second half of the book centered on the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California.  I found myself reading about my own backyard and a bit embarrassed not to already know this history.  When our Book Club leader, Philippe Melot, learned I had lived in Oakland, he asked if I had visited Rosie the Riveter Nat’l Historical Park.  I had to respond “No”.  I knew that a Rosie memorial statue had gone up a year before I moved to Paris and that was the beginning and end of my knowledge.

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Now I’m on my yearly trip to Oakland.  Yesterday I visited the museum/Nat’l Park.  The website opens with this: “An unusual urban national park, the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park (RORI) is located on the waterfront in Richmond, CA. It is the flagship national park for telling stories of the home front efforts across the United States. Park sites you can visit include the Oil House Visitor Center, the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the historic Ford Assembly plant, Maritime Childcare Center, and more. Visit us and learn!”

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And it took a Frenchman to tell me what an extraordinary museum was less than 15 miles from me!!  He also advised that I look at the website and go when some of the Rosies were there so I could hear their stories.  I chose an afternoon talk by Betty Soskin.  The website said she is so popular that one should arrive an hour early to ensure a seat.  Now 96 years of age, Betty was a young African-American during WWII.  She became a Park Ranger at 85 years of age.  Some people just never stop grabbing opportunities as they pass!!!

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Betty Soskin talking to us Nov. 4, 2017

After I arrived and got my seating ticket, I was shown the theatre room where Betty would talk.  Movies were playing.  I saw one entitled Blossoms and Thorns that told the history of the Japanese-Americans who were sent to camps.  The fear and hate that drove that decision is a lesson we have not learned.  We are doing the exact same thing only the country and religion has changed.  What I find most amazing is that I/we did not learn about these events in High School history classes.  I knew about Mr. Kaiser and was fairly sure that the Kaiser Permanente Health Care plan had something to do with him.  Now I learn that he was the first employer to make sure that men, women and children were insured when they worked for him.  The city of Richmond grew from 23,000 inhabitants to 130, 000 people when the shipyards were working.  Maybe not every adult worked for him but the majority did.

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Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of World War II, representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies.[1][2] These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who joined the military. Rosie the Riveter is used as a symbol of feminism and women’s economic power.” Wikipedia

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Kaiser also went to the South and brought back hundreds of black men from four different states to work for him.  His call to work became a part of the Great Migration of slaves and ex-slaves to the North and West during the first half of the 20th century.

Back to Betty:  Betty’s talk of 30 minutes was mesmerizing.  She talked about the black experience and the female experience of being on the Home Front, being paid to do what up until then, had been men’s jobs.  She has since gone on to outlive two husbands, raised a family, has met Obama twice and become a Park Ranger at the age of 85. “Reflecting on her own role in planning for the Park’s creation, and on how she brought her personal recollections of the conditions for African American women working in that still segregated environment to bear on the planning efforts, she has said that, often, she “was the only person in the room who had any reason to remember that… what gets remembered is a function of who’s in the room doing the remembering.” That is a quote from Wikipedia but she said the exact same thing to us.  

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We Can Do It!” by J. Howard Miller was made as an inspirational image to boost worker morale

 

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Norman Rockwell‘s Saturday Evening Post 1943 cover featuring Rosie the Riveter

If you happen to be in the Bay Area or if you live here and, like me, have not seen this amazing National Park, I encourage you to go.  I was told by a friend that public transportation goes right up the Visitor’s Center.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

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Hip Replacement Surgery–Part 2

I can be honest now, now that it’s all over.  I was terrified.  When I first heard I might need hip replacement surgery, I was a bit cavalier.  Ho hum.  Then I was given a reprieve.  My doctor thought that because my pain wasn’t constant that the problem might not be bone on bone but due to inflammation.  That reprieve lasted until December 18, when the Kaiser surgeon called me and said that the arthritis was bad, advanced and that taking cortisone shots would be a very short lived band-aid.  The surgery was back on.  Only this time, I wasn’t at all cavalier.  I was really scared.

Until I had this operation, I’d never been in a hospital.  I haven’t even had my tonsils out.  When I closed my eyes and tried to visualize what might happen, all I could see was a big knife going into my back side deep.  That’s as far as I could get.  I’d shiver and try to distract myself.

I talked to a lot of people.  99% of my friends raved about total hip replacement surgery telling me that they were walking, dancing, doing yoga so much better than before and had no sign of anything irregular in their hip.  I heard them but I think the information didn’t lodge anywhere important or as one of my parents used to tell me “it went in one ear and out the other”.

Hip replacement surgery has come a long way since doctors first starting researching and experimenting with the possibilities in 1962.  I have titanium in my hip.  Initially it was stainless steel.  The ball part of the titanium is stuck into the hip socket tightly and only loosens up as the bone accepts the implant.  In the past, the replacement could come loose after only 10-12 years and cause more pain.  I’m under the impression this replacement could last the rest of my life.

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An X-ray showing a right hip (left of image) has been replaced, with the ball of this ball-and-socket joint replaced by a metal head that is set in the femur and the socket replaced by a white plastic cup (clear in this X-ray). from wikipedia

I had this surgery February 23rd.  I was released to my friends’ home February 24th.  I couldn’t go to my home because of so many steps.  On March 5th, I left my friends’ house and came to my own home.  I thought the 45 stairs going up to my front door would take me 30 minutes to climb.  It took me 5 minutes.  It was easy.  I followed instructions and used a crutch.  California stairs, as opposed to New York stairs, are not high and much longer.  That’s my observation anyway.  I didn’t have to lift either leg very high.  I was so excited.

The next day, a Physical Therapist came to my home and told me I should start using a cane.  He said I was walking well.  I was given exercises to do three times a day.  Today, I can walk around my house without even using the cane.  I go slow and step carefully.  I have to go up and down 10 stairs to go to the bathroom.  Easy peasy!

Today I have two big problems:  The first is trying to respond to all the people who have cared enough to write me an e-mail and ask after my recovery.  I tire easily and it’s hard to keep up with the correspondence.  This is what a friend of mine would call a luxury problem.

The second challenge is balancing out activity-meaning my leg and foot are towards the ground: I’m walking or sitting at the computer, making a meal with rest–meaning my leg is elevated and above my heart.  Each day I feel different but I have learned to follow directions and I err on the side of caution.

I’ve seen three different PTs and each one says that this operation is one of the best inventions of the 20th century.  I now agree.  Two months ago, I was checking on my will and my living will.  I was scared and non-believing of all these other folk who related tremendous success.  And here I am today, feeling in great spirits, pleased as punch with my progress and looking forward to my return to Paris!

I also have a lot of gratitude to the friends who have brought me over prepared food so I wouldn’t have to stand too long to make meals. To those who have driven me to stores or gone to the Library for me.  Especially to my friend Susan who flew out here from Arizona to help me transition from chez Koch to chez Sara.  She was a hard task master but I listened.  I hope I don’t have to have another surgery to remember how precious all these friendships are.  You know who you are.

A bientôt,

Sara

Making an informed decision

At some point in my thirties, I flew to Princeton from my home in California to visit my mother.  She was still teaching at Rutgers University Medical School.  For the first and last time, she tried to fix me up on a blind date with one of her medical students.  I don’t remember his name but I do remember it was the first time I heard the moniker ‘MDeity’. It was a moment when something fell into place.  “That’s exactly it” I thought.  It’s a fight to get oneself on equal footing and give and ask information.

I was told on December 19th that I needed hip replacement surgery, that the alternatives that had been suggested would only put off the inevitable and not be very helpful.  Since that day, I have received no other information.  Last Friday after a week and a half of trying to reach his assistant, the surgeon himself confirmed February 13th as the date I would have the surgery.

Over the three day weekend, I chatted up many people and the first question they asked me was “Will it be posterior or anterior surgery?” Huh?  Do I have a choice? or is it made for me?  Today is January 17 and I still haven’t met the doctor.  I have been trying to put together a network of support for myself and I have no information and have just found out there are two kinds of surgery.

I am very anxious, I will admit it.  Being able to meet with a doctor, bringing in a list of questions helps me quiet the scary voices.  And for the most part that has been my experience.  I belong to Kaiser Permanente and they have excellent physicians and surgeons and I’ve always felt treated as if I were an intelligent woman.  So what is going on?  I wanted to throw a temper tantrum in my living room as if I were five years old.  Instead, I called a friend and complained.  It did feel better.  Then I spent the next hour and a half on the computer reading about the two different kinds of hip replacement surgery.  I had to sort through the advertisements disguised as informative articles.  During which time, I was informed by e-mail that I had an appointment tomorrow with the orthopedist.  He only does posterior surgery.  If I want the anterior surgery, he has to refer me to someone.

I now know what the bones in the hip look like.  I know the part that will be replaced and I learned about the muscles that get cut and repaired (that’s where most of the pain comes from in the healing process) and the other long, ropey looking parts of me that the orthopedist has to push to the side to get to the hip.

Maybe I should have done this reading sooner.  I want to know exactly what will be happening to me.  I also have to do a lot of work.  My home has 55 stairs up to the front door.  I cannot come home to my house.  So I asked some friends, whose children are long gone, if they would accept me as a house guest/patient.  They have two small stairs to their front door!  I have to have people who will shop for me, cook for me, visit me, cheer me up.  I’ve been busy and, I realized, assuming I’d be meeting with the orthopedist and getting information from him that I know nothing about.

I am convinced it’s my job, and your job, to not let physicians get put into the MDeity role. We all have to do our homework.  But something else is happening also.  Doctors are given X amount of time to be with their patients.  They all have an enormous load.  I think what happened was a lack of time.  I fell through the cracks. And that caused me to feel extremely anxious, under-valued, even invisible so that my normal pre-operation anxiety blew up into fear and anger.

At my age, I probably can look forward to more than a yearly physical.  Shit happens and the older we are, the more shit happens!  We have to stay informed so that we don’t get abused in any way but also to make very good use of the time given us by overworked doctors.  I will arrive at my appointment with my long list of questions, I will act like an intelligent woman who deserves respect and I hope I make an informed decision between the two types of surgery.   Wish me luck.

A bientôt,

Sara

Interesting reading:  http://jaykrusemd.com/hip-surgery/posterior-anterior-total-hip-replacement.php