Posts Tagged ‘memories of childhood’

My Left Hip

Posted in on November 3rd, 2010 by karendavis – Be the first to comment

Art as Life; Life as Art

#7 from My Left Hip: Art as Life; Life as Art by Karen Davis

It was a shock that the pain was arthritis and that only surgery would help.

Photographing the event, before and after anesthesia brought a feeling of control where there really was none. I photographed the hands of all the players in my hospital stay – from surgeon to blood tech; from occupational therapist to housekeeping.

When I was recovering, I began to sort through the photographs of hands I regularly make – samplings from paintings, sculpture and other media –  when visiting museums.  I found pairings – thus the diptychs and a French-Door artist book were born.

My bum hip reminded me of childhood when my sister’s physical handicaps made me jealous for attention.  The story follows the diptychs.

 

#1 from My Left Hip: Art as Life; Life as Art by Karen Davis

 

 

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old snapshot my sister and me after oxfords

Fallen Arches

When I was eight, I was highly motivated to help the healing profession find something wrong with me.  Years of tagging along to outpatient clinics with my mother and younger sister, Cheryl, disabled from birth, had most likely unleashed this desire.  I finally succeeded when the orthopedic resident at Children’s Hospital in Boston brought my mother into the examining room and, in a quiet voice, said, “Well, the x-rays don’t reveal very much, Mrs. Davis, but it does look as if Karen may have fallen arches.”

Heaven!!

Fantastic!!

He wrote a prescription for arch supports and advised that I wear sturdy oxfords.

Finally!!

Two weeks later, I had arch supports and a new pair of brown Stride Rites.

My exhuberance faded within months as I realized there would be no patent leather Mary Janes for me.  As soon as I grew enough to require a new pair of shoes, I declared myself cured and never looked back…. for more than a half a century!

A Post-Midlife Procedure

Half a century later, the periodic shooting pain in my groin was beginning to intrude on my life.  I assumed the problem was tendons and tried stretching more.  Sometimes the knife-like pain appeared while jogging on the treadmill – sometimes not.   I switched to the recombinant cycle – I took fewer walks – I stretched. Maybe I was pronating. Maybe I needed arch supports.

My internist recommended an orthopedist. I had X-rays and met with the doctor.

“You have arthritis in your left hip.”

“What’s the cure?”

“Hip replacement surgery.”

(Insert expletives here).

I got a second opinion.

“You have arthritis.  The only cure is surgery.  You’re certainly a candidate; but some people prefer to wait – others, not.”

He suggested ibuprofin.

Okay!

“You might try a cane,” he continued.

Oh no!

Does it hurt going up stairs?

No.

Does it hurt lying down?

No.

Within two weeks it hurt on the stairs;  within three, lying down.

I called his office, “How fast can we get this done?”

We set a date five weeks ahead.

I have confidence in the medical profession, but surgery means a loss of control.  You’re in someone else’s hands.  Not just the doctor, but everyone connected to your treatment.

For this reason, I assigned myself a task – something that could  provide me with a sense (false) of control.  I would document my experience with photographs.  If I was to be in the hands of strangers – their hands would be in mine.

On our back deck that warm August evening before surgery, Mark and I shared some wine and I began my project.  The first “subject” was a stainless steel model of an artificial hip – an artifact/paper weight from Mark’s days in MIT’s bio-mechanical lab.

At 6 a.m. the next morning we reported for surgery – my first post-midlife “procedure.”

Everything went well.   The staff – to a person – was kind and helpful.  They were also agreeable photographic subjects.

While I was in the hospital, Mark built a recovery room for me.  I needed to be on the same floor with the bathroom and kitchen for a week or two. He cleared space in my studio and bought a mattress and box-spring. Then he built a twin-size bed – complete with headboard and reading light; purchased and set up a dvd player with surround sound, and positioned my ibook on  a TV table within easy reach.

My recovery went smoothly.

  • Four days in the hospital.
  • Two weeks in my studio (then sold the bed on Craig’s list.)
  • One week with a shower stool.
  • Three weeks with an adaptive toilet seat.
  • Two weeks on crutches.
  • Three weeks with a cane.
  • Eight weeks of special exercises.

I no longer had to weigh the idea of walking to the Square.  No more cane or anxiety about the next sharp pain.  No more distress on stairs. I resumed sound nights of sleep and work outs at the gym, – although getting there enough continues  to be a challenge.

Nowadays, I’m only reminded of my foreign body part at the airport.  My left hip sets off the anti-terrorism alarm.  I’m scanned with a beeping metal detector and patted down as I stand spread eagle, stare off, and pretend no one notices the frisking.

A small price to pay.

McCanns

Posted in on May 29th, 2008 by karendavis – Comments Off on McCanns

Tom Reflected, photograph by Karen DavisWhen we were small, over half a century ago, my younger sister Cheryl played with a set of dolls she called the “McCann Family.” They were a thinly disguised version of our family. Cheryl decided she was “Tom McCann,” the spunky boy doll. I was, “MaryAnn,” the girl doll. At first Tom could stand alone. Later he always lost his balance. Cheryl diagnosed him with Polio. She fitted him with crutches and braces like hers. (Cheryl was born with spina bifida.)

Tom thought Mother and Father disliked having a disabled child. He felt bad about that. One day, Father’s leg fell off. Cheryl taped it back on as a prosthesis. After Father became an amputee, he was a lot more understanding about his son.

The McCann Family, book by Karen DavisWhen Cheryl died in 2006, I inherited the McCann Family. Now I place the four-inch tall dolls on stage and direct their actions. I present these emphatically colored photographs in a large format to bring both the McCanns and memories of childhood to life.

The McCann Family is also a book, 7 inches by 7 inches.  The figures are close to life size, 4 inches.  Click on book for preview.

In 2009, for the McCann Family Portfolio, I received the CPW Artist Fellowship Award juried by Hannah Frieser, Director of Light Work. Juror’s Statement

Dinners Were Tense from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Dinners Were Tense

Mother Works on Tom from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Mother Works on Tom

Close As Children from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Close As Children

Mother is Vigilant from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Mother Is Vigilant

The Ball-Shaped Pain from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
The Ball-Shaped Pain

Tom Reflected from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Tom Reflected

Father Explains from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Father Explains

Mother Can Be Tender from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Mother Can Be Tender

Saturday Mornings from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Saturday Mornings

Family Portrait from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
McCann Family Portrait

Mother Dreams from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Mother Dreams

Tom Walks Alone from The McCann Family by Karen Davis
Tom Walks Alone