A Hip Story

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  • When I was in the seventh grade, I hurt my hip playing unorganized football. Since I was one of the few fat kids in the neighborhood, they’d give me the ball, and all the kids would jump on my back, and I would carry the pile toward the end zone. I was the William “The Refrigerator” Perry of my day.

    One day, this Fridge malfunctioned.

    The medical term for my condition was called slipped emphasis. In actuality, my ball and socket joint had slipped out of place. To correct it, I had to stay in the hospital for 13 weeks in a full body cast that went from my toes to my chest. The only two holes in it were there to allow me to take care my “business.”

    Thirteen weeks of this for anybody would be brutal, but for a hyper seventh grader? Let’s just say I was miserable.

    The doctors predicted that I would have arthritis at an early age because eventually the bones of the hip joint would fuse. And so it has. The bone on bone has been very painful for a very long time. In fact, it’s been this bad for maybe 15 to 20 years.

    With exercise and diet, I have been able to live with it, to the amazement of many. When doctors today see my X-ray, they ask how I functioned this long without hip replacement surgery or drugs.

    Coincidentally, my 13 weeks of being incapacitated as a kid happened during this time of year. That meant that my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent in this plastered cast.

    It got to the point where I had to take matters into my own hands by trying to escape from the hospital. While I was lying on a gurney so that they could change my bed, I managed to roll myself down the hall and out the door of the ER. It was cold, and the sheet covering my butt had blown off. I didn’t get very far – plus, I had no place to go.

    It was very sad.

    Even sadder was Christmas Day. Pops arranged for the local funeral home to bring me home in … yeah, the back of a hearse. When I got home, I was placed on the floor between the Christmas tree and the dinner table. It was the worst Christmas ever.

    I missed a lot of school, so much that I should have repeated the grade. But since Lionel Richie was one of my best friends, and his mother was our teacher, and our mothers were close, she passed me. Besides, Lionel wasn’t any smarter than me and hadn’t missed any days in school. She couldn’t hold me back and not him. So we both went to the next grade.

    One good thing did happen as a result of my condition: It kept me out of the military draft. If not for my condition, I would have gone to Viet Nam. Remember the draft lottery? My birthday fell in the top third.

    Everyone says I’ll be as good as new after the surgery. It’s hard to imagine with the constant pain I’m in. But the person who encouraged me more than any doctor was Morris Day of the Time. Morris had a total hip replacement operation two or three years ago.

    We traded war stories about our condition backstage at the Soul Train Awards. “You’ll be just fine after surgery, he said. “In fact, I’ll show you what you will be able to do. Watch me tonight.”

    The house announcer said, “And now, the original members of The Time!” Morris checked himself in the mirror, let out one of his patented yells, did a James Brown slide to the center of the stage and held court.

    My last day on the air will be Thursday, Dec. 8, and my hip surgery will take place on Friday, Dec. 9th. After the operation, I travel to Jamaica to recover and rehab for two weeks at an awesome private villa, surrounded by family, friends and a physical therapist. I’ll be back in the big chair on Monday, Jan. 2. I will be on a walker for a while, and then a cane. After about six weeks, I’ll be ready to party full tilt.

    Skip Murphy will be in the big chair, with Sybil and J., while I’m gone. Treat him well!

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