My experiences with Dr. Ure and the staff at Mercy Hospital Mt. Shasta were really wonderful considering my trip to Mt. Shasta was NOT a vacation but an adventure in major surgery. Dr. Ure is a very fine surgeon and a warm and approachable person. He’s experienced (more than 300 resurfacing procedures) and trained with Dr. Amstutz and Dr. McMinn. His office staff is warm, friendly, caring, AND expert in closing deals with insurance companies and making patients comfortable. And then there is the hospital. It just won the highest award in patient care and satisfaction from Catholic Healthcare West which is the organization that administers all the Catholic hospitals pretty much this side of the Missouri River (I might be exaggerating but not by much). It’s a tiny hospital — around 20 beds — in a very small community (3000 people). My surgery was January 5, 2007, two days before my 55th birthday.
The care I got was unparalleled in anything I’ve read on surface hippy, except, possibly, Dr. De Smet’s Villa. I had a double room to myself as one of the many precautions they take with orthopedic surgery patients to protect against infection. I more or less had the nursing staff to myself as well. My questions were answered completely and with great care. The nursing staff is made up of experienced people who like what they are doing. All of my nurses had a sense of humor which made a big difference in my experience.
The hospital offers a one day training class for patients on what to expect before, during and after surgery, including training for caregivers. Besides this, the hospital has recently held an intensive in-service on the topic of hip resurfacing and how care for a hip-resurfacing patient might differ from that of a patient with knee surgery or a THR.
Being in a small hospital has the advantage of allowing each patient to be a PERSON. Here are a couple very beautiful examples. One of the common side-effects of the anesthesia is vomiting and it definitely hit me hard (projectile style, Exorcist style, you know) and so I just gave up trying even to eat. However, I had written “cookies” on my card for the kitchen where it said, “Favorite food?” and I woke up from a nap my third day to two homemade oatmeal cookies and a carton of milk. My birthday was the day I took my first real walk on my crutches — the physical therapist, Paul Schwartz, asked me how I liked my birthday present. When I looked at him, my eyes filled up with tears. His did too. To walk without pain was the greatest present imaginable. He gave me another present — a book about the history of Mt. Shasta. That day, also, Dr. Ure came in to change the dressing and told me happy birthday with a bottle of champagne.
Because I’m not the kind of person who has “nighties” I had to get something to wear in the hospital — I bought something in a rose colored satin, a knee length robe that buttoned up the front for my walks in the hallway. I ended up loving that robe because it was slippery and made it easy for me to move up and down in my bed. I never would have thought of that…
I stayed three days in the hospital because I wanted to and because I was pretty nauseated until the third day. The day I was discharged, the occupational therapist came in and taught me how to use my sock-putter-onner (great device — the person who invented it should get an award) and how to put on pants without violating the 90 degree rule. Using the grabber didn’t require any particular instruction. I definitely recommend taking both grabber and sock-putter-onner with you. Any little bit of autonomy helps…
The hotel where you can stay in Mt. Shasta is the Tree House Best Western and they offer a very deep discount for people who are there for surgery. The hotel is very nice, refrigerator and coffee machine in the room and the rooms are large and comfortable — most important, the bathroom is easy to negotiate with a walker. I took my raised toilet seat with me — not the most fun thing to travel with but it made life a lot easier in those intimate and uncomfortable areas… The other thing I took with me which was very important was a set of forearm crutches. They are not standard issue at Mercy Mt. Shasta and while I used the underarm crutches they sent me home with, I stopped using them when I felt I had sufficient balance and ability to move on my own without leaning on something. I also took a walker with me and that was a very good decision. A walker is a cumbersome thing, but it is so much easier to navigate with for the first few days after surgery.
Dr. Ure’s instructions for me for my recovering were simple yet profound, “Do whatever you need to do to live your life.” Well, that expands as one recovers, but when I did ONLY what I needed to do to live my life I was fine; when I tried doing more, I was usually in a little pain or became very tired. When my hip was x-rayed in Mt. Shasta seven months after the surgery, Dr. Ure pronounced it “beautiful” and said “That’s good, solid strong bone in there now. You can run if you want.” The irony is that in repairing my hip, he also straightened my leg so I have had to re-learn how to run with two straight legs, both pointing forward. The OA in my hip had made my right foot point outward and led to undue stress on my knee, but the process was so slow, I hadn’t even noticed.
Now another magic facet of the experience is Mt. Shasta. I’m sure you’ve heard of all the cosmic power it is supposed to have – personally, I think all mountains share that power and the healing power of any mountain is its beauty and its endurance, its implacability and its changeability, but that mountain is spectacular. I was able to look at it from my hospital room and that was glorious.
The town itself is in a depressed economic zone and you can feel that up there, but there are beautiful restaurants with excellent food all across the spectrum. The restaurant in the Tree House gives you free breakfast every day; dinner isn’t that great. The place to eat is Piemonts which has been there since the ’40’s. It’s Italian, served home-style, famous for its generous steak portions but I had ravioli that was exactly like that made by my first mother in law who was from Calabria. I couldn’t believe it when I bit into it. The Mexican restaurant (the big one) is part of a chain, indifferent food and worse service, but the LOCAL restaurants are very good. There are two very nice health food stores up there, also, one across the street from the Tree House where there is also a good grocery store. Prices are much cheaper than in most other parts of California.
Mt. Shasta is a small town and no planes fly into it. Easiest is flying into Redding and renting a (large) car for the hour drive to Mt. Shasta. I live two days away from Mt. Shasta, and we decided to drive up because we had to take all of this stuff. We did this in our tiny Scion. We made it home OK, but it was a hard trip for me because I couldn’t elevate my foot at all which meant that when we stopped the first night my foot was so swollen that my toes felt they had tight rubber bands wound around them. The second day I kept my leg iced and it helped a lot.
I went back to Mt. Shasta in August 2007 because I was invited by Catholic Healthcare West to do a video interview about my experiences there. I was the poster child for the satisfied patient. Wonderful, wonderful experience that, as well. I got to spend a little time with Dr. Ure without being in excruciating pain and found out more about what a nice man he is. He loves the outdoors, runs and hikes on the innumerable trails up there. He is a low-key, warm and very kind person. I had a conversation with him of the nature that I seldom have with anyone and that about the sheer pleasure of running on trails. We had a conversation about that before my surgery when I “interviewed” him on the phone and that was a big reason for my choosing him. You want a doctor who understands you. I found that in Dr. Ure, and, what’s more, I am trying very hard to find a way to move up to Mt. Shasta. It’s exactly the place I want to live.